I consider myself a bibliophile, because I really appreciate people thinking I’m cultured. Just last month I shared a New Yorker article about political implications of dog walking on my Twitter. Let me tell you, finding a topical quote that was under 140 characters wasn’t easy, especially since the link took up 28 of those characters, and the quotations mark took up two. If we’re doing the math, that left me with about 110 characters to work with.
But, I’m woke enough to understand that not all of us burgeoning bibliophiles actually care to/have the time to/really even like to read books. Luckily, pretending you’ve read a book is as easy as reading a book!
Here are the top five books to pretend you’ve read to make you appear as smart as possible to your workplace colleagues/fellow cigarette smokers at a party/parents/grandparents/strangers’ cats.
1. A Tale of Two Cities
Author: Charles Dickens
Plot: A man lives in Paris and London. The French Revolution happens at some point.
Why Pretend?: This one is a classic college intro-lit course reading. Everyone has read this book. Being ignorant will surely render you feeling very left out.
Start a Conversation: Bring up Dickens as one of the founders of modern British prose.
What to Say: “Two cities! Could you believe it? London and Paris. Shook.”
2. Slaughterhouse Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Plot: World War II was terrible. Aliens kidnap a dude named Billy. There’s a prostitute and birds.
Why Pretend?: It’s your only way into the inner circle of “Prose Bros” who consider this book their bible. Take your pretend game one step further and tattoo “So it goes” somewhere on your body.
Start a Conversation: Mention what you think the aliens represent. Don’t worry, any academic buzzword should do the trick.
What to Say: “So it goes.”
3. The Brothers Karamazov
Author: Fyderma Dohstee-etskmee (?)
Plot: A dumb man does something dumb and then dies, probably.
Why Pretend?: Russian Literature is all the rage among the cultured community. And which Russian author to feign literacy in than Deestuhvutsky.
Start a Conversation: Throw a few constants together to form something sounding like a Russian name. Every character goes by about twelve diminutives, so you’ll probably land on one of the major or supporting characters.
What to Say: “I’ve only read one translation, but I’m planning on reading another this summer.”
4. Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte (but the e has the two dots on it)
Plot: Some girl just kind of lives her life then meets a guy.
Why Pretend?: Well what kind of sexist pig would you be if all your favorites books were written by dudes? Gotta have a lady to bring up in conversation. Why not bring up the lady who wrote a really long book that no one but the 1% of bibliophiles has actually taken the time to read?
Start a Conversation: Bring up classism and the British leisure class of the 19th century.
What to Say: “Mr. Rochester is my favorite byronic archetype.”
5. Infinite Jest
Author: David Foster Wallace
Why Pretend?: This is just an absolute classic among white men across the cultural sphere. It’s a great pretend read because it’s so complicated that you could pretty much say anything about it and no one will call you out.
Start a Conversation: Mention reading a reprint of one of Wallace’s articles in The Atlantic.
What to Say: “I had only read Wallace’s essays prior to reading Infinite Jest.”