J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye and speaker of the deepest truths to angsty teens since 1951, labeled my English major (along with many, many other things) phony. Holden Caulfield mentions it, and Franny Glass from Franny and Zooey obsesses about it. They say that English majors are basically becoming highly educated in pretending you know everything. Or, as I like to put it, getting your BA in BS.
He wasn’t entirely wrong. While I do see multitudes of merit in the knowledge and skills I learned as an English major, we did do a lot of pretending. Specifically, we pretended to have read every book, poem, and play ever written. If we didn’t, people would stare at us incredulously and shriek with a voice like a thousand harpies, “You haven’t read that?!?!?!” Consequently, we’d lose all credibility in every conversation henceforth.
So, we lied.
Today, I’m going to reveal to you the top 10 books that I pretended to read in college. Revealing this secret hurts my soul a little bit. Salinger would be so proud, though! Look at me, being all honest about who I am. No phonies to be found here!*
*Salinger, I love you. Sorry for the teasing.
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
Anything by Sylvia Plath, for that matter. I haven’t read a word of hers. I know she’s super depressing, and that’s why I’ve avoided reading her.
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I’ve actually really tried to read this book several times. Some of my favorite authors of all time fall on opposite ends of the critical spectrum. Some think it’s the best book of all time, some think the worst. I had trouble keeping track of all the names. It’s like a Russian Game of Thrones in that regard (and that regard only!)
- Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov
How can I claim to be a SciFi nerd if I haven’t read this yet? There goes literally all of my nerd cred.
- Ulysses by James Joyce
TL;DR: It was too long, so I didn’t read it. That stream-of-consciousness style makes it really difficult.
- To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
I actually have been meaning to read this since college, but I was too busy reading the assigned books to read anything for fun. One of my favorite professors said that this is his favorite book, so it’s definitely on my list!
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
I tried to read this novella that inspired the movie Apocalypse Now!, but I just could not get through this mess. It was so slow. I actually ended up dropping a class because I couldn’t write an essay about it.
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Sorry, Mrs. May, I know you assigned this book, but I was in high school. I just asked my friends every day what happened in the book. The only thing I remember about it was yams. Am I right? Is this book about yams?
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Everybody was supposed to read this in elementary or middle school, but I never did. I was too busy immersing myself in the awesomeness that was A Wrinkle in Time.
- Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
This… play? yeah, play. Whenever this play was brought up, I would just nod and say, “Oh yeah… interesting,” or “Mmmmm…” or “Oh, good point!” Nobody ever caught on! I still have no idea what it’s about. Are those microwaves?
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare
This one pains me the most to admit. I love Shakespeare. I went and saw The Tempest at the Globe Theatre in London, and I’ve read maybe 12 of his other plays. I also know the plot of Hamlet backwards and forwards. I’ve seen it live twice. I’ve just never read it, and it’s my deepest shame.
In making this list, I put a couple of books on my reading list. What are some books that you haven’t read? Leave a comment and let me know!