Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Not that you would ever lie about having read a book —

But here‘s an entertaining list of the top ten books people do apparently lie about having read. Which seems strange to me, but then I’ve read the actual unabridged version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, so I have big-book cred despite never having read War and Peace.

I’m surprised James Joyce’s Ulyssesisn’t on here. I hear it’s basically unreadable. Never looked at it myself, so I wouldn’t know.

I’ve read five of the books on this list and actually very much enjoyed two of them. I only read Jane Eyre so I could better appreciate Sharon Shinn’s Jenna Starborne.

I can’t say I have ANY desire to read 1984. I mean, we kind of know how that one comes out even without reading it, right? No, thanks. I’m grateful to have got off without reading it in high school.

Any of your favorites / least favorites make the list? Truly?

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13 Comments Not that you would ever lie about having read a book —

  1. Craig

    I’ve read seven of the ten, though the exceptions are all in the top five: War and Peace, Great Expectations and A Passage to India.

    (If it weren’t for a scheduling conflict in college, I’d have read War and Peace: a classicist and a Russian lit professor were team-teaching a class comparing it with The Iliad, which still strikes me as a great idea.)

    The Lord of the Rings is the standout on the list, both as one of my favorites of all time and also a “what’s *that* doing there?” moment. There are that many people who are embarrassed not to have read Tolkien? Really?

    Most disliked would be The Catcher in the Rye, probably, though I don’t think I take it seriously enough to work up a really solid loathing.

  2. Rachel

    Yes, I was astonished to see that TLotR apparently is a REAL CLASSIC that people are embarrassed not to have read. Really?

    I remember everyone seemed to just loathe The Catcher in the Rye, so I have to say I would run the other way from reading it.

  3. Elaine T

    I have read 6 of the ten, I think. I miss CRIME & PUNISHMENT, 1984, CATCHER IN THE RYE, and GREAT EXPECTATIONS. I apparently truly lucked out by missing CitR in high school. I’ve read some of Orwell’s essay’s, but not 1984. And I *think* I had to read the Forster somewhere along the line, but I don’t remember anything about it.

    I wonder if Ulyssses isn’t on there because people aren’t embarrassed about not reading it, given the reputation it has.

    TLOtR is a surprise… not that people haven’t read it, but that they are embarrassed not to have read. I have the impression it is still looked down upon by literary ‘taste-makers’.

    BTW, the library turned out to have Johnson’s AN ALIEN MUSIC, which I brought home and read last night. It is good. Jesse’s voice makes it. I admit that when the authors were dealing with the apocalyptic stuff I did have to keep telling myself – ‘it’s just an excuse to get them off the ground….’ . I particularly noticed how plausibly they dropped clues in the characters, especially Hammod, without going into great detail and without having Jesse realize what she was seeing. It can be done, we don’t need Robert Jordan sized tomes for good plot & characterization.

  4. Craig

    Maybe there’s a bunch of people who came to LotR through Peter Jackson’s movies, and then were sufficiently post-literate that they bounced off the books? But everyone knows they’re fans of the movies, so they’re embarrassed to admit it?

    …No, on second thought, I’ll bet there *are* people like that, but I can’t see it as common enough to give Tolkien a place on the list. Still don’t know.

  5. Diana

    I have actually read all but #5 A Passage To India. I don’t understand Tolkein on there either, but I really didn’t like the books of the LOTR trilogy, so perhaps that’s why I don’t understand. I enjoyed 1984 quite a bit, maybe because I read I before it was obsolete. I also liked We by Zamayatin, so perhaps I just have a fondness for disutopias. As complex as they are I still enjoy Stanislaw Lem’s work and think Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is probably the best of my favorite disutopian futures.

  6. Pete Mack

    1984 is a fine book, if a little, well, dated. The one book that I pretended to read was in HS, when I quit Gone with the Wind 1/2 way through. I still don’t understand why the English teacher required that. She also assigned Red Badge of Courage, which is a genuinely good Civil War novel.

  7. Rachel

    Elaine — hey, so pleased you found An Alien Music in your library! YES you just have to ignore the everything-dying apocalypse, but the authors’ choice not to explain the apocalypse makes it so much easier to set this aside and not worry about it. When an author thinks he or she understands the science behind some important plot element, and goes into detail, but gets everything wrong because really that understanding is badly lacking — that is much, much more annoying.

    And I bet you are right about Ulysses! That makes perfect sense.

  8. Rachel

    Diana — oh, well, you Schnauzer people have questionable taste already, so there you go with not liking the LotR trilogy and liking 1984! : )

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with Standard Schnauzers, you should check out this page, because Diana has a real gift (or a lot of luck) for taking great photos of her many-titled dogs.

    Back to the topic at hand, I am so not into dystopias — unless the dystopia is torn down at the end. Have you read The Hunger Games? Did that work for you as well as a dystopia where the society defeats any attempt to resist it?

    I am definitely impressed that you’ve read all but one.

  9. Rachel

    Hi, Pete — I was such a dutiful student, I think I actually did read every book that was ever assigned. The one I should have just stopped reading was Madame Bovary, which has my vote for Most Unpleasant Novel I Ever Read All the Way Through. Twice, in fact, since it was assigned in two different classes. *shudders*

  10. Pete Mack

    I was a pretty dutiful student in HS, but GWTW was just too much. The book was 1 kilopage (1024 pages). I read about 600, and gave up in exhaustion. Any book longer than 700 (generously!) pages probably has serious editing problems.

  11. Rachel

    One kilopage! I like it! I think we should definitely adopt this as a unit of measurement.

    Actually, I liked the unabridged Les Miserables , which was certainly over a kilopage. There would have been tons of stuff that would have been easy to cut — all those digressions on the street urchins of Paris, or the sewer system, or whatever — but I enjoyed having them in there. The modern industry insistence on fast pace and straight line plotting does shut down other types of writing that are perfectly legitimate.

    But I must say, I have no urge to read Gone With the Wind myself.

  12. Rachel

    One kilopage! I like it! I think we should definitely adopt this as a unit of measurement.

    Actually, I liked the unabridged Les Miserables , which was certainly over a kilopage. There would have been tons of stuff that would have been easy to cut — all those digressions on the street urchins of Paris, or the sewer system, or whatever — but I enjoyed having them in there. The modern industry insistence on fast pace and straight line plotting does shut down other types of writing that are perfectly legitimate.

    On the other hand, I have no interest in reading Gone With the Wind, either.

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