by Michelle Kerns)
'Fess up now: have you really read it?
According to a survey commissioned by the organizers of World Book Day that asked 1,342 people about their guilty reading secrets, over two-thirds of respondents admitted to lying about having read a book. The number one book for fibbing about? George Orwell's 1984.
Mr. Orwell was closely followed in the liar-liar-pants-on-fire list by Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and James Joyce's Ulysses.
Jonathon Douglas, the director of England's National Literacy Trust, says that when it comes to lying about literature, it's all about sex, baby:
Research that we have done suggests that the reason people lied was to make themselves appear more sexually attractive.
People like to be seen to be readers. It makes them look good.
They said they were prepared to lie about what they'd read to impress people, particularly when it came to potential partners.
That certainly jives with an earlier study conducted by Britain's National Year of Reading Organization that found 39% of men surveyed admitted to lying about books they had read in order to impress a date. However, in that study, the book most likely to be lied about was Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom.
Here is the complete list of what books we're lying about reading (and praying that no one we're fibbing to has actually read them):
1. 1984, by George Orwell 42%
2. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy 31%
3. Ulysses, by James Joyce 25%
4. The Bible 24%
5. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert 16%
6. A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking 15%
7. Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie 14%
8. In Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust 9% (Has ANYONE actually read this, other than Proust? I plan to finish this about the same time I lose 20 pounds, completely organize my life, and become an all-around perfect person. Frankly, I'd be flattered if a man thought I was so intelligent he'd find it necessary to lie about reading Proust to impress me.)
9. Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama 6%
10. The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins 6%
If we're not hunkering down with Ulysses (which, for the record, I have read) or A Brief History of Time (which I've never even opened the cover of), what are people reading? The British respondents of this survey said:
1. J K Rowling 61%
2. John Grisham 32%
3. Sophie Kinsella 22%
4. Jilly Cooper 20%
5. Mills & Boon 18%
6. Dick Francis 17%
7. Robert Harris 16%
8. Jeffrey Archer 15%
9. Frederick Forsyth 13%
10. James Herbert 12%
Since this survey was done in England, a number of these authors would be different for an American audience. Substitute, say, Jilly Cooper, Mills & Boon, Dick Francis and James Herbert with Stephen King, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, and Janet Evanovich or Nicholas Sparks and you'd probably nail what Americans are actually reading while they hold forth about Salman Rushdie's brilliance in the copy of Midnight's Children that they've got on their shelf but haven't actually finished (or begun) yet.
I suppose the results of this survey should make me depressed, but I actually find it quite heartening -- people still do think it's a brainy and attractive thing to read! Maybe we're not just a few years away from the death of Western civilization after all.
*Blogger's note: You may be wondering about the list of what authors are actually being read. I happened to find this article and thought it was very interesting. I do not think things like lying change. But this article is from 2009 so that may explain the authors. I do not bring you book new even three days old unless it is really good. I just happened upon this and think that top 10 being lied about will be the same if not close. Either way lying about what you have read is interesting.