Books are awesome, and reading is cool! Or, it used to be anyways. Long gone are the days of being a “gifted” student reading Anne of Green Gables while your underperforming classmates struggle to get through Sarah, Plain and Tall. In this modern era of Instagram hoes and Twitter thots, our attention spans have unfortunately shrunk down to that of a very curious dachshund, making reading more than 260 characters at a time downright challenging.
With illiteracy on the rise and bookstores on the decline, many people worry that books could soon meet the same fate as the Flowbee or butter churn. And though reading books can expand your vocab and strengthen your imagination, it can also lead to a superiority complex. Before even reaching chapter two of a New York Times bestseller you may find yourself dropping words like “penultimate” and “xenial” in mixed company.
So yeah, reading can be fun, and growing your pool of cultural references is neat, but at what cost? If you want to reap the benefits of reading without becoming a snob or giving up hours of precious scrolling time, I offer this alternative: pretending to read.
Pretending to read is a time saver and it’s fun! With the help of the most basic regurgitated opinions, movie adaptations, and this helpful little foray into the classics, you can grow your literary clout, make classic references, and keep bibliophiles at arm's length (don’t let them get any closer than that). Here are ten classic books that I’ve pretended to read so that you can too!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This life-changing novel examines the moral consequences of whether or not to “burder” (bird-murder) one of the most innocuous songbirds in North America, despite the fact that killing a mockingbird is illegal under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Plus there’s one scene with a rabid dog, a maid named Calpurnia, and many a reference to a cotton gin.
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
“Call me Ishmael!” is how this whale of a story begins. It’s the classic yarn of Captain Ahab and that GWW, Moby Dick. But it isn’t dolphin and games. The porpoise of this story is to show that even lunatics with peg-legs deserve the chance to hunt whales (inclusivity win!).
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Ah yes, the classic love story. It’s a very famous… I want to say play? I’ve only ever seen the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. But I’m guessing it wasn’t very true to the original since both of the main characters die, which is very stupid because most people like to see a happy ending.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
This lovely children’s book follows the story of a little mouse named Stuart who goes to live with a human family. I know what you’re thinking, how can a mouse live with men? Well, that’s exactly what this heartwarming “tail” is all about. You don’t want to miss the part where Stuart says to his frenemy the gay cat, “Well it looks like I’m of mice… and men!”
1984 by George Orwell
This killer work of historical fiction chronicles the zaniness of the year 1984 and everything that went down. We’ve got Ronald Reagan, Cyndi Lauper, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, not to mention the AIDS epidemic, Ghostbusters, and it was a leap year! No wonder George Orwell wanted to write all about it.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The main point of this book is to remind you how much of a time-suck reading is by making you read about a bunch of cool parties, moonshine, and deadly traffic accidents instead of actually going out and experiencing those things for yourself. There’s also a billboard for an optometrist’s office that makes a prominent appearance, but no one is quite sure why.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
This is a very gross book about a bunch of young boys. There is one boy named Robert (probably) and another named Daniel (I think) but also one named something funny like… Piggles? Anyways, one of those chaps was lord of the flies! And best of all? No parents allowed.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Many people believe this sci-fi classic is the story of a grotesque monster named Frankenstein and the unnamed mad scientist who created him. And many people are right! That is exactly what this book is about.
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Picture Grease without a beauty school dropout and more knifery. If anyone out there can tell me how to pronounce “Socs” properly I would really appreciate it!
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
In this classically racist book, join good ol’ Tom Sawyer and his orphan friend with the made-up name as they cause a ruckus all over town. They get embroiled in all kinds of wacky misadventures, like doing chores, tricking other kids into doing chores, witnessing a murder, and exonerating the accused. This book will make you long for the good ol’ days, when kids could wander into a cavern unsupervised, kill a Native American, and wander back out in time for supper.
See how easy that was? Now if you had actually read all of those books you’d be reading til 2027. And by that point, well, you’d certainly be an unbearable bookworm. Now that you have a base-level understanding of these classics, you can pretend that you’ve read these books instead.
So congratulations! You’ve saved yourself hundreds of hours and jumped into the world of classic literature without having to turn a single page. Now get out there, there are whole libraries full of books, waiting to be pretend-read.