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Thread: Guilty secrets: books we SAY we've read...but haven't

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Default Guilty secrets: books we SAY we've read...but haven't

    "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." Ring any bells? How about: "The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats." Many will not have read the novel from which these are among the opening lines - but nearly half of us are happy to lie and say we have, a survey reveals today.

    George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four comes top in a poll of the UK's guilty reading secrets. Asked if they had ever claimed to read a book when they had not, 65% of respondents said yes and 42% said they had falsely claimed to have read Orwell's classic in order to impress. This is followed by Tolstoy's War and Peace (31%), James Joyce's Ulysses (25%) and the Bible (24%).

    The poll, conducted to tie in with World Book Day today, also reveals that many of us are impatient readers - we skip to the end - and are not particularly bothered about how we treat the actual book - we turn the page to keep our place.

    While 33% say they have never lied, a clear majority have. The writer Francesca Simon, creator of the Horrid Henry children's books, believes it is possible to get sucked into making false claims. She recalled an Oxford don asking her if she knew the works of Italo Calvino. "I said that I'd heard of him and she started questioning me over which books I had read and I couldn't get out of it. It felt lamer to then say 'yes I've heard of him'. Like saying 'yes, I've heard of Shakespeare'. I think she just thought I was stupid."

    When asked to name the writers they really enjoyed, 61% of people ticked JK Rowling and 32% John Grisham.

    For anyone who has received a book as a gift with an ever-so-slightly thumbed feel to it, your suspicions are probably correct. A total of 48% of people admit buying a book for someone else and reading it first, something Simon happily admitted. "But I'm the daintiest reader in the world. No one can ever tell."

    The days of embossed leather bookmarks are of course long gone and 62% of people in the poll admitted they turn the corner of the page to keep their place. "I consider that mutilation," said Simon. "I would never do that, what's wrong with using bookmarks - tickets, pieces of paper?"

    Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, admitted he had bent the truth. "My first degree was in theology, I got a 2:1 at Durham. I'm embarrassed to say I never finished the Old Testament."

    The results are based on 1,342 responses to a survey on the World Book Day website, and Douglas said that in many ways the results were reassuring. "It shows that reading has a huge cultural value in terms of the way we present ourselves as intelligent and engaged people."

    He said he was far from surprised at the turning down of pages or the 14% of people who admit writing in a library book. "I used to be a librarian and I can tell you books come back in the most horrendous condition. Turning down corners is better than surgical stockings hanging out of Tolstoy."

    Of course lying about books you have read can be better than admitting to the books you have not. In David Lodge's novel Changing Places two academics play a game called Humiliation, in which the winner is the one with the most shameful admission. The obnoxious American Howard Ringbaum is initially reticent but throws himself into it, admitting to not having read Hamlet.

    He wins the game but loses his job.Our guilty secrets: the books we only say we've read | Books | The Guardian
    I've read War and Peace and 1984 but never read Ulysses and only bits and pieces of the bible. Anyone ready to confess to having said you read some famous book but haven't?

    And I can't believe people admit to reading John Grisham.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Elite Member Beeyotch's Avatar
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    I've read 1984 but it must've been too long ago because I don't remember that opening line.

    I, along with the majority of my senior English Lit class, lied about reading Dickens' Bleak House. Somehow managed to write essays on it, but never really read it except for small passages and Cliffs Notes. Because my god that shit was boring and seriously dragged.

    It wasn't me being anti-literary either, because I enjoyed to one degree or another (and actually read) all the other books we did that year. We had a kick-ass teacher too--taught me to love James Joyce--but even he couldn't save Bleak House from being regarded as an exercise in torture by practically the entire class.
    In David Lodge's novel Changing Places two academics play a game called Humiliation, in which the winner is the one with the most shameful admission. The obnoxious American Howard Ringbaum is initially reticent but throws himself into it, admitting to not having read Hamlet.

    He wins the game but loses his job.
    This is pretty funny. I've read Hamlet, but I haven't read Changing Places. I think it's silly to lie about books you haven't read. Plus I'd think you'd be easily found out.

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    Silver Member Ahti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buttmunch View Post
    Anyone ready to confess to having said you read some famous book but haven't?
    No, there is nothing embarrassing in not having read any classics.

    They forced us to read all the classic books in school, I learned to like some like catcher in the rye, my love for herman hesse started because we were forced to read demian etc. Nineteen eighty-four was a really sad book, I remember it because I had to write about it without having any time to prepare myself in anyway for the essay, I was so nervous that the whole moment stuck to my head forever.

    I should have read some dostojevski in school, but I somehow got out of it, but then I met my boyfriend who loves russian literature and he asked me to read some russian classics and they were actually really funny, entertaining and made for a great read.

    I had one really bad experience in school and that was when they made us read a book called the unknown soldier, which is a finnish classic, and my god it was boring, after that I have had a fear for finnish literature.

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    There's a whole raft of "classic" books I should probably have read by now but none of them interest me in the slightest so I haven't bothered. I don't feel guilty.
    How can you trust anything that bleeds for 3 days every month but doesn't die?

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    Elite Member darksithbunny's Avatar
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    I had to read 1984 in high school. It was on the list of required reading to graduate.

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    I have never read any of those books in their entirety, the only one I've read parts of is the Bible.

    My class in high school got skipped around a lot because they weren't sure what they were going to do with the Accelerated/Gifted/AP programs. A lot of the classics got skipped over in all those transitions because teachers assumed we had previously read them. Every student in regular lit in high school read both War & Peace and 1984 by the end of sophomore year, it was never even considered for the people they kept hopping around.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    'changing places' is awesome.

    Quote Originally Posted by A*O View Post
    There's a whole raft of "classic" books I should probably have read by now but none of them interest me in the slightest so I haven't bothered. I don't feel guilty.
    agree.
    i went to high school in french so most of the classics i read were in that language. english classics i read on my own. i had really good teachers that taught me to enjoy a lot of them, but i admit that there are some authors i never warmed up to and i am not ashamed to say i dislike them, even if some people look at you funny for admitting it.
    i fucking hated 'madame bovary' for instance. and i hate émile zola as well. had to read 'germinal' and about 3 others all through school and i'm sorry but it's boring shit.
    just because it's 'classic' doesn't mean you have to like it. just like with everything else, there are some that i have absolutely loved, and others that just aren't for me.
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

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    Elite Member cmmdee's Avatar
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    Have never read 1984.

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    I tried to read Ulysses and thought it was pretentious nonsense with no grammar.

    I have read 1984 a few times and thoroughly enjoyed it. The only Dickens I have read to the end is A Tale of Two Cities. The rest of his books I have never been able to get through. I find his writing laborious to get through.

    I do not understand why people would lie about reading a book. There is no shame in admitting a classic is not your cup of tea.

    Sputnik I will join you in the Madame Bovary hate. I got to page 50 and thought that is 1 hour of my life I won't get back.

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    I don't think I've lied about any books in a social setting - I'd think you could be easily found out, plus if you haven't read it you can ask the people you're chatting with if it's worth it, etc.

    I've definitely "quietly pretended" to have read some of the assigned works in school that I never did get around to - didn't bother reading Death of a Salesman, even skimming A Separate Peace made me want to stick a hot poker through my ear and into my brain - and we never seemed to be tested on them to the extent that bullshitting couldn't pull us through.
    If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.

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    Super Moderator NoDayButToday's Avatar
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    OMG, A Separate Peace made me want to drop out of accelerated english entirely. It was the first book they threw at us freshman year and I had a very "if it's gonna be 4 years of books like this book, fuck this" attitude. I quickly grabbed Cliff's Notes for that one. To this day, A Separate Peace and Scarlett Letter are the only 2 books I was assigned that I had to read Cliff's Notes/SparkNotes for.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anne2007 View Post
    Sputnik I will join you in the Madame Bovary hate. I got to page 50 and thought that is 1 hour of my life I won't get back.
    lucky. i actually had to read the whole thing because my lit teacher was insane and i had to write like 4 essays and pass one very tough oral exam on the damn thing, and she could tell in a second if you hadn't read it.

    one classic i absolutely adored reading in school was the dangerous liaisons. such a great book.
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoDayButToday View Post
    OMG, A Separate Peace made me want to drop out of accelerated english entirely.
    It is absolutely one of the worst classics ever. My poor god daughter had it assigned a couple of years back, and couldn't get through it either.

    I loved 1984. I even re-read every few years.

    It took me a few tries to get though Ulysses.....it wasn't worth it. Every year here in NY they have a day where for 24 straight hours there are readings of it. I can't believe they bother.
    All of God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Loved 1984-an easy read.
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    I should have read some dostojevski in school, but I somehow got out of it, but then I met my boyfriend who loves russian literature and he asked me to read some russian classics and they were actually really funny, entertaining and made for a great read

    I love Russian literature. Try Gogol. He's bloody hilarious.
    I think Dickens is so hard to read because a lot of it was written as serials, eked out episode by episode so every bloody chapter is like a cliff hanger. Oliver Twist was a tough one due to reading it while pregnant with one of the heathens...I could not stand the fact that Oliver just kept getting bad breaks and finally put it down.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

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