Books People Only Pretend to Have Read
Bill Quick

The Top Ten Books People Lie About Reading

I’ve actually read four of these:

Atlas Shrugged.


Democracy In America.

The Prince.

I’ve tried Moby Dick a dozen times and failed.  However, I have read The Scarlet Letter.  Does that count?

Ulysses is a non-starter for me.  I just don’t do avant-garde well.  OTOH, I’ve real almost all of T.S. Eliot, much of it more than once.

I’ve never managed to plow all the way through Les Miserables, and with Dickens, some I’ve read, and some not.  Tale of Two Cities is one of the not.  Both authors do go on sometimes.  At lenght.  Endlessly.

How about you?



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Bill Quick

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


Books People Only Pretend to Have Read — 8 Comments

  1. I’ve read four: Atlas Shrugged, 1984, Wealth of Nations, and Origin of Species. I admit I bogged down halfway through Origin of Species because I had read so much other evolutionary biology by scientists who stood on his shoulders and had the benefit of understanding genetics.

    Tried two more: Tale of Two Cities and Ulysses. Dickens was apparently paid by the word, so I only got about forty pages deep. After a few pages, I put Ulysses in the same category as Jackson Pollack paintings: there is probably some signal in the noise somewhere, but decoding it just isn’t worth the trouble.’

    I’m not sure about so many people claiming to read Atlas Shrugged, though. Most of the people I know who claimed to have read it did understand the basic points.

    Sure, lots of people criticize Atlas Shrugged without reading it or understanding it, but most of those people would not be caught dead admitting that they ever read it.

    Also candidates for the list from my viewpoint: Brave New World, Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, and Catch 22. Plus almost anything by Heinlein is constantly criticized by people who have never read any of his works to completion. The ones who call him fascist are all in that category, as far as I can tell.

  2. I’ve read five of the eleven on the list: Atlas Shrugged, Les Miserables, A Tale of Two Cities, 1984 and The Prince. I have copies of Democracy in America and The Art of War that I do intend to read at some point. I don’t want to read The Wealth of Nations, but I’ll assert that all the other economics books I’ve read make up for it.

    You couldn’t pay me to read Ulysses, though.

    • Perhaps we need a list of “Books everyone should read twice”. Some books are just hard to absorb on one reading. Here are some of my candidates:

      Catch 22


      Stranger in a Strange Land (not my favorite Heinlein, but the hardest to get everything in first reading)

      The Mote in God’s Eye

      Ender’s Game / Ender’s Shadow (you can make one reread a different book!)

      The Bible (even if you are not religious – it’s great and influential literature)

      Connections (James Burke – you’ll never get all the technological historical connections figured out the first time around)

      Winds of War / War and Remembrance

      I’d be interested in other DPer’s candidates for such a list.

  3. 4 & 1/2 & 1/2 Does that = 5?

    Darwin, Dickens, Orwell, and Melville. Maybe 1/2 of Rand and 1/2 of Sun Tzu.

    Dickens, Orwell, and Melville were all assigned reading in high school. Darwin was required in a college class. I have read 1984 more than once.

  4. Damn, “Tale of Two Cities” summer of 1962, I spent three weeks reading the first 1/2 of that damned book. Every night, I would read a while, get bored and then read something else. I remember the the first night of the fourth week. I started reading about 8:00. At 3:00 I had finished the book. It stuck with me for days after that. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Weird month. The Count of Monte Cristo finally got me thinking about something else.
    God, youth is an amazing thing. I wish I could try it again.

  5. I’ve actually read all of them, mostly back in my college days in the far distant past so I won’t lay claim to have understood everything in them or even to have paid attention to every page. Ulysses can be heavy going, and most college students read it for the “good parts”, probably me, too to some extent. Ulysses benefits from reading aloud as does Finnegan’s Wake. I confess that I have started Finnegan’s Wake several times and peter out within a houndred pages or less every time. Maybe when I retire… It does seem to me like many of these books could stand a re-reading as a more, ahem, mature person.