Friday, April 3, 2009

Books People Lie About

“And, after all, what is a lie? Tis but the truth in masquerade.” – Lord Byron

An article in the, Two-thirds lie about reading a book, said that two-thirds of the people surveyed by an anonymous questionnaire admitted to declaring that they’ve read a book they haven’t actually read.

The number one book in the top ten books people lie about surprised me. The book is 1984 by George Orwell. If you are going to stretch the truth about your reading selections, I can almost understand such entries as the number 2 and 3 books listed which are War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and Ulysses by James Joyce. But there’s something a bit ironic, and…well, wrong to lie about reading the Bible (#4 on the list).

Two of the reasons people stretch the truth about their reading habits were the desire to appear more sexually attractive and to impress people (particularly potential partners).

Another article in the same publication, Why bluffing about books is a civilized art, defended the practice by saying, “That's the thing about great books: most deserve their reputation. Just as hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, pretending to have read important books is more or less to take your hat off to their merits.” The article ends by saying, “But the great thing about knowing that there are books that you ought to have read is that one day you get round to reading them. It usually turns out they're worth it.”

Pierre Bayard has written a book titled, How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, which leads me to believe that the number of people stretching the truth may be greater than the two-thirds discovered by the survey. Mr. Bayard, a French university literature professor, recommends bluffing freely and has divided his book into three sections; unfamiliar books, books that have been glanced at and books that have been read and forgotten. According to the article, “…These are coping strategies for a culture which has certain canonical texts which, as Bayard claims, ‘it's practically forbidden not to have read’…”

Have you ever exaggerated your reading list to include books you felt you should have read but haven’t gotten around to yet? If so, why?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Lord Byron,, survey, Tags: lying, Bible, 1984, Tags: Tolstoy, James Joyce,


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Actually, I've never done that! I have read the Bible, but the other top books I will freely admit that I have not. Besides, what if the person with whom you are talking HAS read the book and wants to discuss it?!

I don't lie about movies, either - and I have never seen Gone With The Wind.

L. Diane Wolfe

Anonymous said...

I'm only guilty of saying I've read a book that I started reading but didn't read the whole thing. Read enough to get the gist but never got around to finishing it. Very interesting topic and phenomenon - I'm surprised to hear the bible is so high on that list - having read the bible is supposed to make you appear more sexy and attractive? LOL

People are funny. :)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Fun topic- I may have lied a time or two when my daughter was in highschool and talking about some literary work would say, "You've read this, right?"

At which point I would answer, "Sure." Maybe...once...a long time ago... ;)

Maryann Miller said...

Interesting blog, Jane. I had no idea so many people lied about this. I've always been afraid to lie about reading a particular book for fear the other person will then ask me something about the story and I will have no clue. :-)

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