This week I read an interesting article in The Telegraph that discussed books Britons most often lied about. Surprisingly, the book lied about the most is Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (You can read the original article here.) Others included on the list were 1984 by George Orwell; Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings; and War and Peace and Anna Karenina, both by Leo Tolstoy.
The idea of lying about books that we’ve read absolutely fascinates me. I would agree that a well-read person is more attractive to me. But rather than presenting me with a list of books you’ve supposedly read, I would like to sit and discuss the books that you have read. Book discussion is the aspect I find most attractive. Reading books shouldn’t be about achieving the most impressive read list – it should be about the conversations that books foster.
However I can see that certain classics would be hard to ignore, especially ones that everyone supposedly reads as a child – like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. For example, in school I assume everyone studied at least one Shakespeare play – it’s part of the high school curriculum here. Yet I know that which play they studied varies by school, so while I may assume everyone has read a Shakespeare play, I can’t assume they’ve all read the same ones as me.
Interestingly enough, people assume that I am a lot better read than I am. I took English Literature in university, and when I talk about classes such as my Jane Austen class, people naturally assume I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s work. Well…no. (I was supposed to…) I also took classes on Virginia Woolf and Edgar Allan Poe, to name a few others. But that doesn’t mean I’ve read everything by them.
In fact, even just mentioning my English degree, people assume I’ve read most of the classics. But there are so many authors I’ve never touched, such as Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, or Louisa May Alcott. And you know what? I’m not ashamed to admit I haven’t read them. I don’t think it makes someone less of a reader when they haven’t read certain classics. I also don’t think it makes me more impressive that I have read certain ones. I’ve read Frankenstein three times. Does that really make a difference?
It is a simple fact that there are a lot of books in the world. It’s okay to admit that you haven’t read something. And if you would rather watch a tv or movie adaptation than read the original work, that’s okay too. You watch the movie, and I’ll read the book, and we can still sit around and discuss the story.
Just don’t forget to bring the popcorn.