1. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Books People Pretend to Read

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Lemex, Jan 22, 2014.

    One of my friends on Facebook recently posted a link to a story on The Guardian website about the top ten books people like to pretend they have read. I must admit, I found it a very interesting read. I know people who I know have lied (sometimes to me) about the books they have read. I know someone who claimed to have read the entirety of The Divine Comedy, and yet they somehow couldn't remember the names of the two companions of the pilgrim Dante. That is barely unique among the people I know or have met, but it does stick out for me.

    Apparently this was a habit so popular someone bothered to write about it, publish it in a major newspaper, and even compile a few lists across the internet of titles people claim to have read. In America it seems people like to say they have read Adam Smith, and Moby Dick, and this is different to the usual books that are claimed here in the United Kingdom. The reason for that seems to me quite obvious to be honest. However, it does seem there are some writers shared across the pond, as the same names seem to keep coming up: Tolkien, James Joyce, Ayn Rand, Marcel Proust, and Leo Tolstoy are all writers people apparently like to say they have read but in fact have not.

    Here's The Guardian's full list:

    1. "Nineteen Eighty-Four" by George Orwell

    2. "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy

    3. "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens

    4. "The Catcher in the Rye" by JD Salinger

    5. "A Passage to India" by EM Forster

    6. "Lord of the Rings" by JRR Tolkien

    7. "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

    8. "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    9. "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen

    10. "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

    How many have you read?
     
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  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I received a metal bookmark with '50 books to read before I die' engraved on it. So I'm going to admit I am not at all well-read, but I'm hoping to get there in due time. I do think there are a couple more books people have stated they've read and haven't: The Bible and any of Shakespeare's plays. I've found the latter writer to be terribly misquoted by some of the people I know. o_O

    EDIT: And in fact, the former title has been more than horrendously misquoted as well.
     
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  3. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lord of The Rings is more a lifestyle choice. Some think the war is over, but once upon a time there were stiffs who read LOTR and listened to heavy metal music like Judas Priest, and then there were other people - like cool people like me. Never trust anybody over 40 who has read LotR.
     
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  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ahem.

    I not only read it, I read it DURING my high school graduation week (in 1967, you do the math, I can't bear to), and nearly missed the damn ceremony—they were approaching Mt Doom, and I had to go off to collect a diploma in some silly gown with a cardboard square on my head. Unreal.

    Judas Priest? That's what my Dad used to say when he broke a cup, or hit his thumb with a hammer.

    And you trust me? Don't you? DON'T YOU???? :confused:
     
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  5. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm talking about after the war

    - it may have been different in Canada, Jan but on the streets of London when I kicked off that whole punk rock thing, that was my experience - and consequent wisdom.

    Also, there might be other women who have read it, I just don't know...but definitely, crusty headbangers have always been a problem for me
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    REALLY read? 6

    Pretended to read? 1 (1984, I got bored partway through, and saw the play instead! I did force myself to actually read On Wigan Pier, though. Does that count? Can we substitute?)

    Would like to read? 2

    Can't be arsed? 1
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You're just a baby...punk rock...geez...

    Okay, I admit to being a crusty heidbanger...
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  8. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    We were force-fed 1984...in 1984 - so much time I have wasted on that arid man, read absolutely everything, criminal.

    Pride and Prejudice is good to read as a yute - surprised me. Catcher in the Rye, of course. Really only 3 + a couple of half reads: Tolstoy, Dostyrusky, Dickens
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Catcher in the Rye was making its round of my circle the year after LOTR. I read it then. It was okay. Got fed up with Holden, though. I'm older now. Should probably read it again.
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I've read 6 of the books listed. I've never pretended to read a book because I don't see the point in it. I think people brag about reading books like War and Peace or In Search of Lost Time just because of how long they are (the former is 580k words; the latter is over 1.26 million words). People probably lie about the shorter books to seem cultured.

    I'm very surprised that Ulysses isn't on that list, by the way. I'm sure some of you know what I'm talking about.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've read 6 of them as well.
     
  12. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    You have to be 17, hang on...I have an email - proably a publisher
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I actually thought Ulysses was pretty interesting. On the other hand, I gave up on Finnegan's Wake very quickly.
     
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  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Hmm... are you lying about having read Ulysses? :p
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    1984 - I've read it. The 20 pages of philosophy right before the climax BOMBED the book for me. Couldn't care less about the characters after the philosophy because it was so damn boring it took me something like a month to get through those 20 pages, by which time all enthusiasm I had for the book was lost. Why did Orwell have to ruin his book like that? Why? The philosophy was beautifully and poignantly presented within the story itself and then it's like WHAM I'm gonna whack you around the head with my big boulder of philosophy in case you missed it!

    To Kill a Mockingbird - technically, yes. We read it together in class during our GCSE (I was 15 or 16). The teacher read the entire book out loud to us. I wrote a few essays on it. But I've never read it for myself. So technically, yes, but personally, I'd say I have "kind of" read it because I don't feel like I've really absorbed the book as I would have if I'd read it by myself. I still intend to do so.

    Lord of the Rings and Crime and Punishment - I tried, I really tried. But no. I know they're classics and all, and as for LOTR I loved the movies, but seriously, they're such waffly books I couldn't stand either of them. I managed about 100 pages of both books before I gave up. LOTR because the meandering detail gave me a headache and bored me stiff. Crime and Punishment because, once again, it's the philosophy that killed it for me. I wanted a story, what I got was a book of philosophy. If I wanted pure philosophy, I'd have gone for non-fiction, not fiction. I remember being so bored and telling myself, "Just read till the end of the paragraph, just the end of the paragraph, you can do this." 3 pages later, there's still no end in sight. I was ready to pull my hair out, thinking frantically to myself, "Where the hell is the end of the paragraph!?" I counted on one occasion because I couldn't take it anymore - it was 5 pages. There was a single paragraph that was FIVE PAGES LONG!! Later I asked my friend, had the guy never heard of something called paragraphs!?

    Not read any of the others, although I do want to read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre at some point, and maybe Catcher and the Rye.

    I don't get why people would pretend to have read a book when they haven't though? I've never met anyone like that, but then again, I'm the sort who people usually tell the truth to, because my own blunders are so obvious lol and I make no attempt at hiding them :D
     
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  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Heh. No, but it has been more than 20 years, so if I were to be grilled on it by a student of literature, I'm not sure how good my performance would be.

    I'm inclined to distrust anyone who says they read and comprehended Finnegan's Wake :)
     
  17. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've read four - Jane Eyre, 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye. I've possibly read Great Expectations. Back when I was fourteen I was on a kick of reading Books turned into Movies so I might've read it but if I did I don't remember it.
     
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  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Crime and Punishment is good, but by way of contrast The Brothers Karamazov is great. That's the one a person should read if they're only going to do one Dostoevsky.
     
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  19. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've actually read 7, miscalculated
     
  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I was meant to read that too - I bought the book but never opened it. Is it as philosophical and meandering as Crime and Punishment though? I don't do well with philosophy, and I don't do well with stories without a plot either.
     
  21. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I absolutely agree with you on this. Saying you understand what's going on in Finnegan's Wake is like claiming you saw the face of Jesus on a chicken nugget.

    @Mckk, The Brothers Karamazov is probably the most philosophical of his works. There are several passages where the characters are just having philosophical conversations with each other.
     
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  22. Mackers
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    Mackers Contributing Member

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    The only two I have fully read on that list is 1984 and Catcher in the Rye, both of which I found to be straight-forward reads?

    I attempted Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment but stopped reading after 250 pages or so because the style of writing (19th Century) bored the tits off me. I appreciate that the book has deep meaning and carries a profound message so I should probably attempt it again.

    Also interesting you should mention the Divine Comedy, Lemex. I picked it up in Easons for £2.00 because I know how much you rave about it lol, and wanted to see what it was like. But I couldn't get into it for the same reasons as Crime and Punishment (Swap 19th Century for middle ages).

    I guess I have a very low threshold or patience that is a pre-requisite for old works if they are to be seen in context and thus appreciated fully.

    Joyce, now there's a different ball game altogether...I have set about reading Ulysses no less than three times now - I am about a third of the way through and I fail every time. People like to say they have read Ulysses because of the obvious prestige attached to the book. Some may even go one further and suggest it's not a difficult read, but that's bullshit. People who say this say it to display the same superiority they like to display when they list all the other fancy high-brow books they've read.
     
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  23. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Haha, I smiled at this. I guess, yeah, if there was ever anything that is acquired taste it is epic poetry, and Dante is chief among those. Still, I love me some Dante. :D
     
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  24. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does it count if you own them?
     
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  25. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    only half a point
     
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