Literary Fib List

Round about this time each year we start to hear a lot of holiday carols with words like naughty and nice, and small children everywhere start to worry about Santa’s verdict on their recent behavior.

Woman with book.And while most folks don’t usually think of book lovers as being a dangerous bunch (except for a few persistent stereotypes such as the whole naughty librarian phenomenon, which we all find very entertaining) it turns out they could, in fact, be harboring some dark secrets, as revealed by a study that just recently came to my attention.

As summarized in this article and this article, the study compiled results from 1,342 responses to a survey on the World Book Day website. The responses revealed that when it comes to whether respondents had read some classic books, THEY LIED… Or at least, a lot of them did.

According to the results, 65% reported that they had claimed to have read a particular book, when, in fact, they had not. The top 5 on the “literary fib list” were:

19841. Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell (42 percent pretended to have read it) Maybe this is because even those who haven’t read it feel like they have; references to Big Brother abound in today’s discussions of surveillance, brainwashing, and manufactured news.

War and Peace2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (31 percent) But, can you blame them? This epic, often called the greatest novel ever written, is made up of 700 pages of Napoleonic wars, philosophy, and Russians.

Ulysses3. Ulysses by James Joyce (25 percent) Another ambitious read, this time featuring the thoughts, emotions, memories, humour, and vulgarity that make up a day in the lives of turn-of-the-century Dubliners.

Bible4. The Holy Bible  (24 percent) Though it has a foundational place in the make-up of much of the western world, how many know first-hand what it actually says?

Madame Bovary5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (16 percent) A scandalous classic  — especially when it was published in 1857! — chockfull of extra-marital exploits and reckless spending.

Some may ask: why would one lie about such a thing? It seems as though a common reason is to impress, or even save face in front of, someone else; be it friend, boss, or potential romantic partner.  One article mentioned that these results are actually reassuring, in that it means that “reading has a huge cultural value in terms of the way we present ourselves as intelligent and engaged people.” Do you agree?

Woman readingAnd now I can suddenly hear you asking me a different question: have I ever said I’d read something when I hadn’t?

I’ll never tell.

What about you?


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