The Guardian recently listed the top ten books people pretend they’ve read.
1. “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell
2. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
3. “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens
4. “The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger
5. “A Passage to India” by EM Forster
6. “Lord of the Rings” by JRR Tolkien
7. “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
8. “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
9. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
10. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
How do you stack up? Read them all? Right.
1, 3, 4, 6, 7 – 50%
I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” in high school and I’ve got an unopened copy of “Catcher in the Rye” on my bookshelf. Other than that, I’m nowhere close to completing that list. I repeat: nowhere close!
You read what is relevant to you. Rick and I are together on this, and I bet we read those five about the same times in our lives. The Russians, Bronte, Austen no longer hold a relevant place in today’s world; even by historical novel standards. Forester is in a place by itself. I read the first forty pages and went back to Victor Hugo. And for my humble opinion – – Gilgamesh is a better tale.
I’m also surprised that they did not include the second most published and second most unread book in the world: the bible – – I don’t care which version. People quote, but never read.
#1 most published, and unread book in the world – – car owner’s manual. 40 millions cars a year, and most cars that still have the book – – it’s still in the wrapper.
Well, something’s wrong somewhere. I’ve read all but one and I’m no pretender. I’ve never had an interest in reading Lord of the Rings.
I have actually read about half of them: 1984, Catcher in the Rye (high school – required), Lord of the Rings, To Kill A Mockingbird (junior high school – required), Crime and Punishment (high school – required, and Pride and Prejudice. It does strike me though, that had they not been required, I probably would not have read three of them. (And, I will confess that having read Pride and Prejudice, I have no interest in reading anything else Jane Austin ever wrote either.
The ones I am surprised are not on the list, however, are Moby Dick (which I have read, by the way) and Les Misrables (which I have not). I seem to routinely encounter people who claim to have read each of these, but who never seem to recall much about them desides their being long.
I’ve read all but #5 and only a portion of #8
Read 9 of them – mostly when I was a teenager. (not going to confess which one I’m missing)
I found this post in one my writer’s forums in LinkedIn…
What a fun thread to contemplate and recall the times.. oh the times!
My sister read nearly everything in the library, so I tended to look for non-ordinary reading choices early on …. sibling rivalry.
Yet, like others have commented here, I was required to read nearly all of these books in high school. The only one not required for reasons I do not recall was Crime and Punishment but I remember trying to catch snippets of it because the male teens around me (when I was a teen) discussed it with much intensity.
I remember the stories of these classics too because my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and my mother, who were either working toward doctorates in literature, linguistics, or mastering some aspect of the English language, took the opportunity to listen to me when I shared my reading assignments.
But as I mentioned, a bit of a rebel was I. So I snuck around with dark comic books hidden in textbooks, racy novels forbidden by my elders shared among the girlfriends, and oddball new science fiction or murder mysteries under my pillow that I stayed up ALL NIGHT to complete.
Life is an adventure regardless the path. The goal is self realization.
Thanks for sharing the article, John.
1.Started it, couldn’t get through it
2. Listened to the Audible version
3. Read it in college
4. Started it–got bored
5. Yes, and I loved it
6. Parts of it–never finished
7. At least four times
10. Between the ages of 12 and 17 I re-read it and re-read it and re-read it—I was into angst back then.
I tried and tried to like Tolkien, but failed miserably. Most of the other books I have read and some I’ve taught at High School level. I found Tolstoy difficult, largely because of the names. I kept forgetting who was who. I think, on balance, people read what appeals to them at certain stages of their lives. I also think it has to reach out to you at some personal level. Dickens I loved ( I’m English), but my husband ( Australian) can’t identify at all.
I read 5 and 7. Saw movies for 3, 7, 9, and 10.
I can honestly say I’ve read all of them – some, such as LOTR, Mockingbird, and P &P many times. I can also honestly say my three older kids have read 7 of them. But then we’re a quirky, weird family 🙂
Read all but two (Forster & Dostoevsky), but then I’m a voracious reader, a writer and had a classic liberal arts education . . . need to add those two to the book pile. And I love Dickens – one of my favorite authors.
I have read six of these (none because they were required at school), and the first two chapters of Crime and Punishment several times. I would try to read it when I was feeling a bit depressed, and by the end of the second chapter, I would have cheered right up because my life was nowhere near as bad as that, chucked the book and went to find something enjoyable to do.
I read Nineteen Eighty-Four years ago and I’m always surprised when people don’t know the reference to Big Brother comes from that book. I watched the movies adapted from Dickens, Lee, Forster, Austen and Bronte, read portions of the books, and studied the SparkNotes. Dostoevsky is sitting on my bookshelf with some other classics (including the ones on this list) that I hope to tackle perhaps as part of a book club or study group. Shamefully, I have to say I’ve only read one book on the list from cover to cover.
Surprised no one added Ullysses (James Joyce) to the list!
I’ve read 6 out of the 10. I avoid lengthy novels with the exception of Dickens. I was forced by the K-12 prison masters to read Catcher in the Rye, simply one of the worst novels of all time. (I’ll take Mickey Spillane any day.)
I’m surprised ‘A Brief History of Time’ didn’t make the list. Lots bought it – few got past the first few pages, but it was prominent on bookshelves and coffee tables.