Our Reading Lives

Confessions of a “Pretend I’ve Read It”-aholic

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Emily Gatlin

Staff Writer

Emily Gatlin is a former independent bookstore manager turned freelance writer. Follow her antics on Twitter: @emilygatlin

Emily Gatlin

Staff Writer

Emily Gatlin is a former independent bookstore manager turned freelance writer. Follow her antics on Twitter: @emilygatlin

While we at the Riot are taking this lovely summer week off to rest (translation: read by the pool/ocean/on our couches), we’re re-running some of our favorite posts of 2014. Enjoy this Best Of, and we’ll be back to your regularly scheduled programming on Monday, July 7th!

This post originally ran February 24th.



To quote Guitar, “Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

I am about to confess my best kept reading secret to the world, and it feels so good.

My name is Emily and I am a “Pretend I’ve Read It”-aholic.

Person: “Jane Eyre is WAY better than Wuthering Heights.”

Me: “I don’t know. I’m partial to Wuthering Heights because EMILY Bronte.”
Truth fact: Y’all, I read plot synopses while writing this and neither one sounds remotely familiar to me.

Person: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Me: (Long pause) “Ahh… yes. Gatsby.”
Truth fact: Robert Redford is a super fox in that weird bathing suit thing. And yes, someone actually quoted the last line of The Great Gatsby to me once. It was pretty deep.

Person: A Confederacy of Dunces is my favorite book in the world. Isn’t it the greatest?

Me: Oh yeah. I wonder what else John Kennedy Toole could have written. So sad.
Truth fact: I’ve read the first ten pages no less than five times. I don’t get it. I want to. But I really don’t.

I’ll admit, most books I pretend to have read are classics. I was “WHAT DO YOU MEAN”-ed enough in high school for not having dates. I didn’t want to be “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU! YOU AREN’T A REAL READER”-ed as a 30 year old woman.

Should I make amends and go back and read what I “should have read” in high school? Does it really even matter?

Truth fact: I’ve never read a Jane Austen book. Not a single one. Honestly, I don’t care to.

As readers, shouldn’t we read what we want to and not feel book-shamed, especially when it comes to books we haven’t read?

Around Christmas, I got a whole mess of Amazon gift cards and I picked some books I wanted to save them for. Well, thanks to the post spreading like wildfire and publishers having my address on file, most of the books I was waiting for manifested themselves on my doorstep within a few days. So…

The USED BOOK BONANZA OF 2014 was born. I missed a lot of good books while I was in college and during my years as an indie bookseller, and I’m tired of smiling and nodding when people talk about them. I care more about the direction literature is going than where it has been.

Wow, it feels good to let that out.

Ordering used books online absolutely fascinates me. It’s a complete crapshoot AND it’s cheap. Why not make a game out of it?

I have rules. The book has to be one I haven’t read but want to read enough that it’s allowed to take up shelf space. Real estate is a big deal in my house. Also, I can’t pay more than $.03 for it. With shipping, it’s around $4.02 a book.

When they come, it’s like Christmas. Sometimes I get an Easy Bake Oven with extra brownie mix included (hello, fine first edition of a book with 36 printings that I got for A PENNY). Other times I get a lump of coal (no dust jacket AND it smells like cat pee? VERY GOOD, MY AUNT FANNY!).

I’m giving up the shit. I’m going to be honest about books I haven’t read and I’m only reading what I want to from now on.

Sorry, Jane Austen.