Most Britons have lied about the books they read

LONDON Thu Mar 5, 2009 8:26pm GMT

A customer browses the book section at an Oxfam store in Dalston in east London November 28, 2008. REUTERS/Simon Newman

A customer browses the book section at an Oxfam store in Dalston in east London November 28, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Simon Newman

LONDON (Reuters) - Two out of three Britons have lied about reading books they have not, and George Orwell's "1984" tops the literary fib list, according to a survey published on Thursday.

Commissioned by organisers of World Book Day, an annual celebration of reading in Britain, the study also shows that the author people really enjoy reading is J.K. Rowling, creator of the bestselling Harry Potter wizard series.

According to the survey, 65 percent of people have pretended to have read books, and of those, 42 percent singled out "1984." Next on the list came "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy and in third place was James Joyce's "Ulysses."

The Bible was in fourth position, and newly elected U.S. President Barack Obama's autobiography "Dreams from My Father" came ninth.

Aside from a list of ten titles which respondents were asked to tick or leave blank, many admitted wrongly claiming they had read other "classics" including Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Herman Melville.

Asked why they had lied about reading a book, the main reason was to impress the person they were speaking to.

The study, carried out on the World Book Day website in January and February, surveyed 1,342 members of the public.

Those who lied have claimed to have read:

1. 1984 - George Orwell (42 percent)

2. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (31)

3. Ulysses - James Joyce (25)

4. The Bible (24)

5. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert (16)

6. A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking (15)

7. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (14)

8. In Remembrance of Things Past - Marcel Proust (9)

9. Dreams from My Father - Barack Obama (6)

10. The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins (6)

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White)