Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We Lie About What We Read

A new survey commissioned by the organizers of World Book Day reveals that two-thirds of people have lied about having read a book. Although the survey was based in the UK, I suspect the results apply to the US as well.

As reported in the Telegraph, Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, had this to say about the survey's results: "Research ... 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."

The good news: People still think it's sexy to read books. The bad news: People aren't actually reading the books.

The top 10 books we lie about reading:
  • 1984 by George Orwell (42%)
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (31%)
  • Ulysses by James Joyce (25%)
  • The Bible (24%)
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (16%)
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (15%)
  • Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (14%)
  • In Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust (9%)
  • Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama (6%)
  • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (6%)

Even more frightening is the list of the top 10 authors we actually enjoy reading:

  • J K Rowling (61%)
  • John Grisham (32%)
  • Sophie Kinsella (22%)
  • Jilly Cooper (20%)
  • Mills & Boon (18%)
  • Dick Francis (17%)
  • Robert Harris (16%)
  • Jeffrey Archer (15%)
  • Frederick Forsyth (13%)
  • James Herbert (12%)


L.L. Barkat said...

Perfectly amusing. What does it say when we talk about all the books we've never read and don't plan to? War and Peace will languish on my shelf forever.

(Came over through a Tweet by Daniel Literary, btw.)

Cora Zane said...

It should totally count if we've read the Cliff Notes version. :P

The only book I've read on that list is 1984. Then again, I like dystopian-ish novels. The Handmaid's Tale, a Clockwork Orange. Great stuff!

War and Peace, it's great to set your drink on to keep from getting water rings on the coffee table.

Lee Ann said...

I think I'm one of the few people who isn't ashamed to admit that I prefer pleasure reading over literary reading. I'd much rather curl up with Harry Potter after a long day at work instead of something that's "good for me".

Of the books that we "lie" about reading, three were mandatory reading for college. So, I've read them and have zero recollection of Ulysses, Selfish Gene, and 1984. However, I can tell you that Dumbledore's favorite candy is lemon drops and that Prongs was James Potter's nickname at school.

I read for fun...and I'm proud of it.

Hagelrat said...

I've not read any of those, nor have any desire to. I've never bothered fibbing about my reading habits, partly because I refuse to give in to the looks I sometimes get when I reveal that the many books a year I read are mostly genre fiction.