Literary Liars

Book snobbery in Britain

Tuesday 23 January 2007

A third of British adults have lied about reading a book to appear more intelligent according to a new survey.

A cunning 33 per cent of adults have confessed to reading challenging literature to appear well-read, when in fact they haven’t a clue what the book is about.

But 40 per cent of people said they lied about reading certain books just so they could join in with conversation.

One in ten men said they would fib about reading a certain book to impress the opposite sex according to the poll of over 4000 bookworms conducted by the Museums, Libraries and Archive Council (MLA).

Most people expand on their literary repertoire to impress a new date, 15 per cent have lied about the books they have read to a new colleague and five per cent have told porkies about their reading habits to their employer.

The younger generation is out to impress the most – with more than half of 19 – 21 year olds expanding the truth about the books they read.

But they are also most likely to get caught out – with one in ten 19 – 21 year olds tripping up when quizzed about a book they lied about reading.

But the book we all lie about reading is the bestselling Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien.

The epic trilogy took 11 years to complete and 14 per cent of those who started the book with good intentions never managed to finish it.

John Dolan, Head of Library Policy at the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council said: ”It’s fascinating to see that so many people are trying to impress others with the books they haven’t actually read.

‘’Talking about books and literature is an obvious conversation starter and certain authors and titles often get strangers chatting. Some titles do have a certain kudos and it’s often nice to drop into conversation our knowledge of well-known writers and books.’’

‘’For those wanting to expand their knowledge, libraries offer lots of different ways to engage with books. You can listen to the audio book or explore titles and authors online. Many libraries offer reading recommendations, run author events and other activities, and most have a cosy relaxation area perfect for catching up with the classics. Or you could join a reading group and discover new books in the company of others. Libraries make it easy to read those books you’ve always meant to get around to reading.’’

One in twenty men who took part in the poll said they would lie about reading Harry Potter to give the illusion they’re in touch with the latest trends.

And almost half of respondents said that reading classic titles like Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice makes you appear more intelligent.

Top ten books we lie about reading

1. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R Tolkien
2. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
3. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
4. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus – John Gray
5. 1984 – George Orwell
6. Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone – J.K Rowling
7. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
8. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
9. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
10. Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank

I wouldn’t lie because I’d be too mortified if I were caught! I’ve read no. 6, 8, 9 and 10. You can ask me about them, but if I sound like I’m fibbing, it’s because I can’t recall a lot of things from the last time I’ve read them. I won’t lie about petty things like this.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tina
    Jun 16, 2007 @ 17:42:57

    ive only read 9 and 10. those who lie are not real readers. real readers are proud of what books they have read and would never lie about reading a book they have not read.

    nylusmilk: hmm, never thought of it that way before. you’re quite right, since only poseurs would lie about something like this!


  2. silverneurotic
    Jun 17, 2007 @ 02:09:44

    I could have sworn that you’ve posted that article before…I know I’ve read it before at any rate.

    I think I’d rather have someone lie about reading a book than brag about not reading…to be honest.

    nylusmilk: nope, am pretty sure did not… then again, this is old news (first published in january) so you could’ve easily read this elsewhere.

    well, if you put it that way, then the liar is definitely the lesser of two evils! 🙂


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