22 Books You Pretend You’ve Read But Actually Haven’t

Most people lie and say they’ve read these classic books to seem smarter, according to a survey in The Guardian. Chances are, you’re one of those people too.

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

What you think it’s about: Great Expectations is a classic tale of large predictions, significant likelihoods, and big prospects.

Why you should actually read it: Dickens gives readers a good lesson in why you should be kind to strangers, because you never know who they really are.

2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Houghton Mifflin Books / Via aquarionics.com

What you think it’s about: A couple of short dudes go on a long vacation with a taller dude, and eventually Ethan Hawke shows up.

Why you should actually read it: Before there was J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, there was J.R.R. Tolkien and The Hobbit. In order to have a handle on modern-day fantasy it’s always good to have some context.

3. The Bible

Crossway / Via bibleanalyzer.com

What you think it’s about: A group of guys had a bet as to how many stories, characters, and themes they could fit into one book which would then spawn a number of organized religions and phenomenons.

Why you should actually read it: Regardless of your religious affiliation, the Bible is an integral piece of historical literature that shaped countless other texts.

4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Dover / Via en8848.com.cn

What you think it’s about: Sailors who listen to electronic music get pissed when they can’t track down their favorite DJ. What a dick.

Why you should actually read it: Melville’s novel is one of the major works of American Romanticism and has one of the most famous first sentences in English literary history.

5. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Bobbs Merrill / Via pourcurator.com

What you think it’s about: An architect skips class all the time and hangs out at the water fountain in his school hallway, which is how he earns this nickname that sticks with him forever.

Why you should actually read it: You shouldn’t.

6. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Charles Scribner’s Sons / Via valentinovamp.com

What you think it’s about: An old guy goes on a fishing trip.

Why you should actually read it: Because you probably skipped it in high school and you’ll have a greater appreciation for it, and for the sea, as an older person.

7. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Kathryn Macnaughton / Via jakeshakerreview.blogspot.com

What you think it’s about: One college professor who gets way too close to his student’s younger sister is criticized for falling in love instead of babysitting her.

Why you should actually read it: It’s a pretty important lesson in what not to do when it comes to love, romance, and relationships.

8. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Simon & Schuster / Via goodreads.com

What you think it’s about: A young Leonardo DiCaprio cons 22 people out of millions of dollars.

Why you should actually read it: The real plot in Catch-22 inspired a new phrase in the English language that means “a difficult situation for which there is no easy or possible solution.”

9. 1984 by George Orwell

Secker and Warburg / Via flavorwire.com

What you think it’s about: A story based on one of the original Apple computer commercials.

Why you should actually read it: The problems highlighted in Orwell’s popular novel are still very relevant to the world we live in today.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

J. B. Lippincott & Co. / Via movieposter.com

What you think it’s about: A bird-watching walk gets completely out of hand.

Why you should actually read it: Harper Lee’s work of literature is an essential read that deals with serious historical issues around race that had often gone ignored.

11. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Vintage Random House / Via npr.org

What you think it’s about: A book about war that’s interesting until page 200, and then it mainly turns into a doorstop.

Why you should actually read it: To be able to say you’ve read a major “classic” and earn bragging rights since War and Peace is known as one of the longest books ever written.

12. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Scribner & Son / Via beyondhollywood.com

What you think it’s about: Pirates spend their whole lives looking for gold but no one told them that “X” marks the spot.

Why you should actually read it: This classic tale is a glimpse into what young adult novels and children’s literature looked like in 19th century America.

13. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Bantam Classics / Via dolchaybanana.blog.com

What you think it’s about: A bored lady who uses men and material things to fulfill her otherwise dull life, as told by a privileged male.

Why you should read it: To have a better understanding of sexism circa France in the mid-1800s.

14. The Odyssey by Homer

Penguin Classics / Via garvoille.wordpress.com

What you think it’s about: One soldier goes on a very, very long vacation that shifts from a fun-filled adventure to a tale of survival.

Why you should actually read it: This tome was originally recited by Homer before it was written down, making The Odyssey a significant piece of history you can actually touch.

15. Ulysses by James Joyce

Sylvia Beach / Via sdburke.wordpress.com

What you think it’s about: A United States war general goes into lots of detail about his battle strategies.

Why you should actually read it: Ulysses is the trendsetter of highly experimental fiction and challenges your imagination to work in overdrive.

16. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Feedbooks / Via feedbooks.com

What you think it’s about: All the ego and discrimination that’s fit to print.

Why you should read it: The novel shows readers that sometimes a search for identity and sense of self doesn’t have to come from a great adventure; it can also happen in the confines of day-to-day living.

17. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Penguin Classics / Via rarebookschool.org

What you think it’s about: A story about a woman who lives a very, very, very, very long life — 400 pages long, in fact.

Why you should actually read it: If you can get past the tough language and considerable amount of pages, Jane Eyre explores a number of important themes like gender, sexuality, class, and religion.

18. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Kathryn Macnaughton / Via wefancyit.wordpress.com

What you think it’s about: Walt Disney, a biography.

Why you should actually read it: It’s a short read that serves as a portrait of America during the Great Depression and is also an important depiction of friendship.

19. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Bantam Books / Via sylviaplath.info

What you think it’s about: A guide to navigating Etsy.

Why you should actually read it: Sylvia Plath unapologetically delves into the complicated nature of patriarchy and oppression.

20. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

What you think it’s about: A one-man baseball team that practices in a rye field.

Why you should actually read it: J.D. Salinger wrote one of the best coming-of-age novels in recent history, and it definitely won’t leave you bored.

21. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Modern Library Books / Via usedbuyer.blogspot.com

What you think it’s about: Back in the day, a young woman gets ostracized by her town for refusing to wear her boyfriend’s letterman jacket.

Why you should actually read it: The Scarlet Letter is an important text that grapples with slut-shaming and gender politics that challenges 19th century American Puritanical values.

22. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Random House / Via pinterest.com

What you think it’s about: Law and Order SVU set in the 19th century.

Why you should actually read it: Dostoevsky addresses the concept of morality and causes readers to wonder whether the end really does justify the means.

Correction: This article original stated that Madame Bovary is set in Russia, but it actually takes place in France.

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