Let’s Talk Bookish – Why Do People Lie About Reading Books?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where they discuss certain topics, share their opinions, and spread the love by visiting each others’ posts.


Prompts: Some people will say they have read books when they really haven’t; why do you think that is? Have you ever personally lied about reading a book? How do you feel about people who lie about reading books? Do you think there’s a certain type of book people are more likely to lie about reading?

Welcome to June’s LTB, everyone! This first topic is certainly an interesting one, though admittedly not one that I think about often. I didn’t even know this was really a thing, since I don’t usually question the truth behind someone claiming to have read a book.

I have never personally lied about reading a book, and I’m not sure just how often this really happens. However, I definitely remember times where I claim to have heard of a book, when I really haven’t. I don’t really do it on purpose, but some titles/author names are familiar and I forget if I have really heard of them or not. Either way, I find this affirmative response to be more encouraging to move conversation forward, which is why I usually choose to say that I have heard of the name before. This, I totally understand in conversation, as it doesn’t really matter whether the listener really has heard of it or not, it’s just a tool to move forward with the conversation.

All this being said, I don’t (or try not to?) lie about having read nor having heard of books/authors when it comes to something like an online blog post (outside of a conversation), as I find this to serve little purpose. When would it be necessary for me to do so, anyway? I think it’s okay not to have heard about something, and to admit that – nobody’s perfect!

I don’t think it’s the greatest sin to pretend you’ve read something when you haven’t, or honestly, when you thought you’ve read something that you really haven’t. That’s happened to me before! When you hear about a book so often (sometimes part of its plot), until you think wait, didn’t I read that already? Yes, I totally get it. I don’t think there’s too much harm in this kind of white lie usually, depending what the intentions are. Besides, if one is always lying about books they (haven’t) read, I think it becomes pretty obvious after a while.

I think people will most often lie about having read “classic” literature, likely to feel or seem more well-read. Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, Little Women, Shakespeare, etc., these are often books that many well-read people will have already read. Just to “fit in”, or to seem more educated, I believe people would be willing to fib a little and say they’ve read those before. Honestly sometimes I can’t even remember which of Shakespeare’s plays I read in school, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I thought I had read Romeo and Juliet (gasp, I haven’t).

What do you all think? It doesn’t seem like too big a deal – I struggle to think where such a lie could really harm or cause damage in any real way. It could be a slippery slope to other lies and deception, but in and of itself seems relatively harmless. In fact, it seems like more harm to oneself than anyone else, no?

11 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish – Why Do People Lie About Reading Books?”

  1. I think I’m DEFINITELY guilty about lying about having HEARD of books, even if I don’t lie about having read them. I’m not sure why, but maybe it’s in part because I don’t want to force the person to tell me all about the book instead of continuing wherever the conversation was really going? I try not to do it but sometimes it just slips out!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Riiiight? I totally get that. It’s just a hassle to have them explain something, when often it’s not even the point!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, once you put it that way…LOL. I’m sure I’ve said that I’ve heard of a book when I haven’t. This easier to do when messaging one another since it can be quickly looked up. Or, I’ve kept quiet and just let the other person go on talking.

    I can understand sometimes why people might like to lie about having read certain books. For instance, I’ve never read The Great Gatsby and I’ve never seen the movie(s). I’m upfront about it when people ask–most people don’t ask because most I know don’t talk about books. When I tell people I’ve never read it, there are a slew of questions as well as surprise and then the inevitable “you should read it.” (I’m guilty of doing this to other people too when it comes to certain classics I love, so I’m sorry. This means I’m talking about annoying people like me too…hahaha.) I get tired of explaining that I never had to read it for class and that it just never caught my attention.


    1. Hahaha, you’re probably lucky that you didn’t have to read it (oops I said it!). Yeah honestly it’s not really a big deal, I’ve never found myself shocked and betrayed that someone lied about having read a book. I totally agree with you, I can understand why people might do it, for the ease of conversation, it probably is the easiest way out. And I totally wouldn’t hold that against them. Funny that you realize you do the same thing sometimes though!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL. Sometimes I a serious case of FOMO over it because people keep telling me it’s so good. Also, I’m hoping to read Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and The Beautiful. Maybe the movies will help…hahaha

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel sorry for those who feel they have to lie and claim to have read a book, particularly anything literary. It suggests the person has confidence issues or low self esteem to me. I’ll happily tell you that I haven’t read the classics – most of the ones I’ve tried to read have bored me silly. I read for fun and entertainment and have no interest in analysing why the author used certain words, whether a certain plot point or character was used as a reflection of society, a moral warning or whatever.
    I might not always admit to some of the smutty books I read though…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha, Louise! I totally agree. I haven’t read Romeo and Juliet, nor MacBeth because those weren’t required at school. Haven’t even read Pride and Prejudice properly because at the time I just wasn’t interested. I read a second F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tender is the Night) book in a high school because I wanted to be more “well-read”. Such a big mistake! I hated it. One of the other choices was The Picture of Dorian Gray, and having read that now, I so sorely wish I had chosen what I thought would be interesting over what I thought would make me sound more educated. Alas that is youth!

      And you’re so right, I’m not sure I want to admit how many romance books I’ve read (and enjoyed) either….

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I used to know someone who would routinely lie about having read every book they saw me with. It was annoying mostly because I’d go, “Oh! What did you think about X?” and then they’d mumble something incoherent, making me realize they hadn’t read the book at all. I think this person was just trying to appear more intelligent because “smart people read” or something. And I think we have to reflect on how maybe society at large is pressuring people to appear a certain way. Yes, it’s annoying and bad someone was lying to me. But what about the ways we talk about books contributed to that? I think sometimes avid readers do tend to look down on non-readers or people who haven’t read a book they particularly love, and sometimes reader snobbery leads non-readers to lie so they can avoid the judgment they fear is coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the reply, Krysta! Yes, I totally agree with your comments here, there is definitely some societal pressure to appear a certain way, which is sad for sure. For sure there are people who look down on others for not having read something they themselves deem important, which is ironic, since if you’re an avid reader, the whole point would be to encourage others to read more, you know? Thanks for bringing up such an important point though, there may be something to how we as book readers present ourselves that may lead others to want to fit in what feels like a bit of an exclusive club.
      But wow, I can’t believe that person who would lie to you constantly about the books YOU’RE reading. There’s like…no reason to do that my goodness, just don’t comment if you haven’t read it! I can’t believe you had to go through that, I would’ve been so annoyed for sure if they did it all the time… Hopefully you don’t have to deal with that anymore!


  5. Human behavior often stumped me. I never thought about this one, but now looking, I can remember thinking some have lied about reading books. People are funny. Insecurities, needing to belong, sounding like they know something when around certain people, not wanting to stick out, and so forth. But then, the question becomes, how did they get that way?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Think of many politicians, saying whatever they need to say to fit their surroundings, and even when caught in lies, appearing to care and understand. I have met regular people like this.


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