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This article on Stuff has alleviated a little of my constant book anxiety.
Allegedly, 2 out of 3 Brits lie about which books they have read - no doubt in an attempt to not seem lazy/uneducated/unknowledgeable. I recognise the desire to answer "Yes" when asked if I have read one of those books that you know you 'should' have read... but I never do it. For the simple reason that what if that person asking me has actually read it. How stupid would I feel if they were to say to me 'Oh really, what did you think about such and such character and their reaction to such and such event in the novel' or something similar? Then I would look even more ridiculous than if I simply told the truth that I'm working on my dream of being more widely read, have a thousand books I want to read but am constrained by the brutal fact of having very little time.
The top ten books that those surveyed claim to have read are:
1 - 1984 by George Orwell (42%)
2 - War and Peace by Tolstoy (31%)
3 - Ulysses - James Joyce (25%)
4 - The Bible
5 - Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (16%)
6 - A brief history of time by Stephen Hawkins (15%)
7 - Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (14%)
8 - In remembrance of things past by Marcel Proust (9%)
9 - Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama (6%)
10 - The selfish gene by Richard Dawkins (6%)
Of these books I have read only some sections of The Bible. I own War and Peace but have yet to open it and once got Midnight's Children out of the library - I ran out of time to read it, I had too much stuff on and I didn't make the time for it as I could/would/should have. I can tell you with confidence I will never read Ulysses by Joyce nor will I tackle Proust's seven volume epic. I would like to read Madame Bovary, 1984 and Dreams from my Father, maybe even Hawkins' book one of these days. But all in good time.
I guess the relief is that perhaps when someone claims to have read something you haven't they might not have... Being widely read takes time after all and I have plenty of reading years ahead of me.