Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

20 Books You Pretend to Have Read

Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Chief of Staff

Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

We’re nosy here at the Riot, and we like to talk about all the aspects of the reading life…even the ones we might be a little bit embarrassed to own up to. So last week, we asked you to confess the books you pretend you’ve read. It’s good to get these things out in the open!

828 readers completed the survey, listing 412 unique titles. We’ve got a lot of dead white guys on this list, and only 3 contemporary titles. Of them, two are massive commercial successes that penetrated mainstream culture (Harry Potter and Fifty Shades) and which many people have likely pretended to read in order to participate in conversations. The other (Infinite Jest) is regarded as a Great Work in literary circles, so its appearance on this list makes sense given Book Riot’s readership, even if it’s not as recognizable not-so-hardcore book nerds. At least, that’s my take.

Check out the list below and tell us what you make of it, won’t ya? (Click here to see the full set of responses.)

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (85 mentions)
  2. Ulysses by James Joyce
  3. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  4. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  5. The Bible
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  10. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  11. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  12. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (21 mentions)

    Fellow Rioter Minh combined these results with the data from our surveys about readers’ favorite novelsmost-hated books, and the books you’ve been meaning to read forever, and the overlap is pretty interesting! Are the books we’re most likely to pretend to have read the ones we keep thinking we’ll get to someday?

    BR Venn - 3 Polls final

    BR Venn - Meaning to and Pretend to