This story is surprising to me. I am not at all surprised that people claim to have read books that they haven't read, but I certainly didn't expect that Nineteen Eighty-Four would be at the top of the list. I mean, it’s not an especially challenging or especially long read, and there are plenty of folks out there — I among them — who have found it pretty darn riveting. Curious.
I wonder what would top an American version of that list: A recent feature on Oprah’s Book Club? Something universally assigned in high school? Would we more want to present ourselves as ambitiously literate — saying that we read Gravity’s Rainbow when, like everyone else, we really didn’t — or would we want to present ourselves as socially normal — saying not only that we read Catcher in the Rye in high school but that it was our favorite book, when in fact we never got past page three?
There’s another side to all this, too: people who deny having read books that they actually love. How many people falsely assert that they have never read a Stephen King or John Grisham novel? I bet more people untruthfully deny having read the Harry Potter books than untruthfully claim that they have.
What about The Lord of the Rings? Are there more people who haven't read it but say that they have or have read it but say that they haven't? Inquiring minds want to know.