This week British newspaper The Telegraph made a 3-minute video of contemporary writers confessing to the books they have never read. Their picks include few surprises (Proust, Joyce, "Midnight's Children") but do suggest an astonishingly high level of fakery.
British historian and writer Simon Sebag Montefiore, for instance, did a major academic project on "Wuthering Heights" and yet had never actually read the book. (His excuse was that his parents had loved it so much that they'd been telling him all his life how wonderful it was and so he didn't really feel the need to actually read it.)
Other writers confess to have gushed over and critiqued books they've never read – and never intend to read – for the better part of their lives.
It's rather entertaining snip of video and then of course there are reader comments confessing to never having read Hamlet, "Don Quixote," and so on.
I think, though, that a braver and more interesting set of confessions could be provoked by a different question: What work of literature did you read and secretly not enjoy? (Secretly, of course, because everyone else assured you that it was brilliant.)
I'll start with my own list of three: (1) I was told that Ralph Ellison's "The Invisible Man" would permanently alter the way I see the world. It didn't. (2) I was promised that despite its length I would be enthralled by Robert Musil's "Man Without Qualities." Instead, I quit two-thirds of the way through. (3) And it was predicted that the minute I finished Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" I would want to pick it up again. I never have.
How about you?