Do You Lie About Having Read Classic Books? This Guide Can Help!

Illustration for article titled Do You Lie About Having Read Classic Books? This Guide Can Help!

A recent study in the UK showed that 62% of adults lie about having read the classics in order to appear more intelligent. Women lied about reading more than men did (though men were more likely to brag about fake academic achievements), probably because we're better at deceit even though our brains are smaller.


Because I am a helpful person who wants nothing more out of this life than to help you, I've put together some summaries for the classic works of literature that are most likely to come up at a parties, in relationships, at the bus stop or wherever it is that you lie about books.

"But, Madeleine," you might say after reading this list. "We read your summaries and, frankly, it seems like you haven't read these books either."

To that, I say, "Shut up! You don't know what you're talking about" and "Please excuse me, I have some more classic novels that I have to go read in my private library that looks exactly like the library from Beauty and the Beast and no, you cannot come to verify whether or not I'm lying about that, too."

Now that that's settled, here we go.

Five Summaries of Classic Novels from Someone Who Definitely Reads a Lot of Classic Novels


"1984" is a George Orwell novel that I have definitely read and have never had to look up on Wikipedia to make sure that I wasn't confusing its plot with 2001: A Space Odyssey. The book takes place in the dystopian future, which may confuse you because it's like, ummmm, 1984 already happened and that year was basically all about Rainbow Brite and Hall & Oates songs, but don't stress out about it. It's called "1984" because Orwell — who was born under the name Eric Arthur Blair in 1903 in India (again, I know this from reading the book and NOT from Wikipedia) — wrote it in the forties, back when he had no idea how awesome 1984 would be because 1984 is actually the year that Purple Rain came out.

Anyway, "1984" — which is differs from 2001: A Space Odyssey because there is no music that goes "DUUUN DUUUN DUUUN DUN DUN!" and at no point does a monkey kill another monkey with a bone that he then throws into the sky — is about a society with SUPER intense government surveillance. Everything is run by this guy called Big Brother who might not even exist. I know! It's like, what?! but seriously, though — it's crazy. Like so crazy that you should probably just read it rather than have me explain the rest of the plot to you — which is something I could DEFINITELY do having DEFINITELY read the book, but I don't want to ruin it for you.

Jane Eyre

"Jane Eyre" is a novel by Charlotte Brontë, one of the famous Brontë sisters, many of whom were writers and all of whom lived long and prosperous lives that were free from tragedy. The book is about a girl named Jane and, boy, is Jane a good name for her because she is plaaaaaaain. Like plain as a cardboard box, which I guess is a good thing because her plainness represents all of the virtues of England or some shit.


Jane loves two things. Taking walks outside — even though there are many days with no possibility of taking a walk — and this man named Mr. Rochester who once took a lady from the West Indies, married her and then locked her in the attic because she went crazy. I'm talking totally nutso, man. But Jane loves Rochester anyway because he's quite mean and you know how ladies love assholes. (High five, bro.)

Time passes and eventually the crazy wife burns Rochester's house down and also burns off Rochester's hand and probably some other parts of his body, too. Anyway, he's real gross after that, but Jane still loves him and he loves her back because she will not treat him differently and will still let him be horrible to her even though he's ugly now and locked his last wife in an attic.


Some other stuff happens to, but I don't have time to be specific about it because my phone is ringing and I have to go do my taxes, but trust me — I know what happens.

War and Peace

Ah! "War and Peace." So good. I love how Leo Tolstoy points out how both war and peace are literally happening around us all the time because that's just how the world works. Sometimes you have war and other times, you have peace. Not just literal war and peace, but metaphorical war and peace, too. Those are my main feelings on that and also this book is very long.


Catcher in the Rye

"Catcher in the Rye" is a great book by J.D. Salinger that is often assigned in high school English classes. I remember this because it was assigned my sophomore year by this big, dumb oaf of a teacher who was the type of instructor who wouldn't just give you a grade, but would instead make you tell him the grade that you think you deserved and of course you would always say, "I deserve an A" and he'd tell you that you weren't thinking critically enough and then you'd get in trouble for telling him to stop expecting you to do his job for him. Seriously, what a dick. I hate him


Anyway, "Catcher in the Rye" is about this sad boy named Holden who keeps getting kicked out the prep schools that his parents probably pay big bucks to send him to because he thinks everyone is a phony and he won't shut up about how phony everybody is. I also think he has a hat that he's very excited about, but I don't know for sure — not because I didn't read the book, I did. I read it so hard and I definitely deserve an A on the paper I wrote, which proves how I read it.

Pride and Prejudice

To be honest, I haven't read "Pride and Prejudice," but I did read Helen Fielding's "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," which I'm pretty sure is the same thing only set now instead of during the regency era. The story is that Bridget is dating a handsome lawyer named Mark Darcy who is a Colin Firth-esque mega babe, but they have a fight and she flies to Thailand. Once there, she runs into her old boss Daniel who — let me tell you — should have the word "CAD" tattooed on his forehead or something because he is as untrustworthy as he is handsome, if you know what I mean.


Shit goes down in Thailand and SPOILER ALERT Bridget ends up in a Thai prison over some drug trafficking charges. Lucky for her, Mark is like, "I'm not gonna let you rot in there, no siree" and uses his lawyer magic to get her out. The best part is that you still don't know if they're going to get together, but then they do and it's just great.

[The Cut, Telegraph, Daily Mail]



I have two degrees in English and let me tell you, there is no group of people more guilty of pretending to have read things they haven't, or denying their enjoyment of "low brow" fiction, than "English majors." No one wants to be the one who admits they never finished Beloved, or skipped class the day they were supposed to have read The Winter's Tale. Meanwhile, they will become suddenly silent when a discussion of Twilight comes up, b/c not only have they read all the books, they own all four movies.