13 books that everybody says they've read - but haven't

As an avid reader, I'm always interested in book lists. Lists of the best, the worst, the funniest, the saddest, the ones I wouldn't be caught dead reading - you name it. Give me an article with a list of books in it and you have caught my attention. I WILL read it!

So when I saw the headline on Huffington Post about 13 books that everyone claims to have read even though they haven't, I was hooked. I had to read it. And you know what? I HAD read seven out of the thirteen.

1. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer - Probably like most people who have read it, I read it in school, in English lit class. That was a long time ago and today I can't claim to remember a lot of details about it, but I do remember that, at the time, I quite enjoyed it.

2. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville - I haven't read it, but maybe I should. From what I've read about it, de Tocqueville penned some very powerful and cogent insights about our democracy.

3. Ulysses by James Joyce - It's one of those books that I had always been curious about and always intended to read, and so, a couple of years ago, I did. It was a hard slog and I admit that I was often confused by it, and yet, by the end, in reading that last chapter - what I always think of as "Molly's soliloquy" - I knew that I had read an amazing piece of literature.

4. Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - I first read this in middle school - 7th or 8th grade, I think - and I remember the experience quite vividly. I was completely caught up in the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit. I still love the story and, of course, I watch at least one of the movies (preferably the one with Alastair Sim) every Christmas season.

5. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie - Okay, I must confess that I have never read anything by Salman Rushdie. I've always intended to read this book if for no other reason than that the ayatollah declared a fatwa against Rushdie because of it, but I haven't gotten to it yet. There are other books by him that I would like to read as well. One day I will.

6. Moby Dick by Herman Melville - Why does everyone claim to hate this book? I love this book! Again, I read it in college and it opened a whole new world to me - a world of understanding something about human nature and obsession. It taught me more about human psychology than most of the psychology courses that I took.

7. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking - This is one of those books that we bought (actually, my husband bought it, I think) and it has languished on our bookshelves. It's another of those books that I intend to read - someday.

8. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace - Not only have I not read it, I freely admit my cultural ignorance in saying that I have never heard of it or the author. I looked it up and found that the book was published in 1996. I'm not sure what I was doing that year that caused my radar to fail to pick it up. Actually, I might have been aware of it at the time, but at some point, it exited my consciousness. I have no intention of reading it.

9. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco - This is a dense book about two things that I love reading about - murder mysteries and religious intrigue in the Middle Ages. Somewhat like Ulysses, reading it can be hard work unless you are really knowledgeable about Catholic Church monastic orders and rituals of the period, but it is ultimately rewarding. Then again, if you're not up for a hard slog, you can just watch the terrific movie with Sean Connery.

10. Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust - I am the owner of a beautiful boxed edition of this work that was given to me several years ago. I actually started reading it and got perhaps 100 pages in before I gave up. I just wasn't up to the task then, but now that I have more time on my hands, I fully intend to go back to it. Someday.

11. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes - I've never read the book, although I did once have to read and translate a portion of it for Spanish class. But I do love the music from Man of La Mancha. Does that count?

12. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner - Many allegedly find Faulkner hard to read or hard to understand, but I never had that problem, maybe because I grew up in the society that he wrote about and the cadences in which he wrote were those I heard in my everyday life. This book, in fact, may be my favorite of his - at least the ones that I have read. It's a book that deserves to be read. Good writing never goes out of style.

13. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - This is the first really big book that I remember reading all on my own just because I wanted to. It was summer and I was a teenager with no television to entertain me. I read the book all the way through, completely mesmerized by the Imperial Russian world, and then I read it through again! I tell you I lived amid the Russian court at the time of Napoleon that summer.

Just reading over this list again brings back so many happy memories of hours spent within the pages of books. It makes me want to go back and read them all again. Even the six that I missed the first time around.


  1. I haven't read any of these thirteen books - not a single one! Although a few are on my extensive tbr list, I never seem to get to them. My American lit professor in college recommended Faulkner to me based on my obvious enjoyment of 20th century and Southern lit, and I do own a few of his novels... Maybe I need to just go ahead and pick them up already!

    It is interesting to see the books that people claim to have read. I wonder why so many say they have read these particular books but haven't.

    Btw, I like your new template!

  2. Well, at least you are honest, Susan! I think that all of these books, with the possible exception of "Christmas Carol", have the reputation of being hard reads and, truthfully, most of them (at least the ones that I have read) are, but they are SO worth the effort! Unfortunately, many modern readers are not into "effort" and would prefer their "literature" spoon-fed and sugar-coated, so books like these have fallen out of favor. It doesn't speak well for our culture.


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