Lets Be Honest

I read an interesting article recently about books people claim they have read but haven’t. According to the The Guardian, here are the top ten books people say they have read but haven’t:

1 1984 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 Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
8 Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
9 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
10 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I have read 8 out of these 10 books, which begs the question: how did I end up with an English degree without reading The Catcher in the Rye or Pride and Prejudice? This is not a new topic for me–if you’ve been here before, you know I only recently read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time (I know, I know…for shame).

So lets be honest here. Have you ever lied about reading a book to impress someone? Or watched the movie version to make it through a test or have something to talk about at book club? Being a huge reader, I’ll take almost any excuse to read a book. I was the kid who had her summer reading done the first two weeks of the break. When I was dating and felt like things were going well, I asked a magic question: Who is John Galt? I lost many a confused looking boyfriend to that question. One person got it right, and I married him. I take my books seriously.

But even I am guilty of the book lie. Once. I was a senior in high school, and I was overwhelmed by band practice, my AP classes, college applications, you name it. I had a report due on The Great Gatsby, and for the first time in my life, I hadn’t finished the book.

My sweet mother took pity on me. “I read that in high school,” she said. “I think it has a happy ending.”

So I wrote the paper, detailing confidently the first half of the book and finishing with how Gatsby and Daisy lived happily ever after.

The next day, I got my paper back. I got a B, but my teacher had circled the second half of my paper and written, “I think you need to re-read the end of the book.”

I was mortified. I stayed after class and took my paper to her. When she saw me, she looked amused.

“You didn’t read the book,” she said. I nodded.

“Why did you give me a B?” I asked. “I don’t deserve that grade.”

“Maybe not,” she said. “But I like your writing. I especially liked one phrase…” she flipped through my paper to the point where I had started making stuff up. “This transition, right here. I could tell where you stopped reading the book, but you did it with such flair.”

And then, I had written, the proverbial plot thickens.

I have carried that little phrase around with me since then–proof positive that sometimes being confident and wordy can get you out of a sticky situation.

So what’s your dirty little literary secret? Is there a book out there that you’ve always wanted to read but never made it through? Lets be honest.


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