March 06, 2009


Teresa found a list of the top ten books that Brits lie about having read. Heh. Well, I've read six of those ten books, and two of them in the original French. So la di da for me.

And I wouldn't read Ulysses or Dreams From My Father if you paid me. I took a course in college where the professor offered that if any one of us could 1) read and 2) understand Ulysses, we'd get an automatic A in the class. No takers.

Incidentally, I find it hilarious that people are lying about having read Obama's book.

Posted by Sarah at March 6, 2009 03:46 PM | TrackBack

I've read only one! The first one, of course. And I might have read it in 1984 (or was it late 1983?).

I started reading the Bible back in 1992, but never finished.

Did you read all seven parts of Remembrance of Things Past?

I'm surprised Obama's book isn't number one.

I wonder what the American top ten list would look like.

Posted by: Amritas at March 6, 2009 04:36 PM

Amritas -- Oh yeah, you're right: I only read the first book of Proust. Whew, that was plenty though.

Posted by: Sarah at March 6, 2009 05:03 PM

Yeah . . . I wanted to read 1984, but never did. :) I've read the Bible, but it's not really one of those books people read all the way through at once. I've read every word at some point, but never in order, and never all at once.

Teresa makes a great point, though, which is why I probably didn't do well in my AP English class: I could never figure out why all the books people insisted where "great literature" had to be so damned depressing.

No joke! We had to read Crime and Punishment in AP English. The only reason I passed that portion of the class is because my boyfriend read it, loved it, and explained the rest of it to me. I was depressed enough by life – I didn't need a modern Russian author making it worse. :p

Give me my sci-fi and fantasy brain candy! :D

And Ayn Rand. Because she makes literature WORTH it!

Posted by: Deltasierra at March 6, 2009 07:06 PM

Sarah, a few things to point out:
The movie 'Oh Brother, where art thou' is a pretty good adaptation of Ulysses, not 100% true to the book, but good nonetheless.
I've read:
1. 1984 - George Orwell
2. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
3. Ulysses - James Joyce
4. The Bible
6. A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking
So you're one up on me, but I do know how fascinated you are with the 0ne, so I understand ;)

3. Please migrate your comments (at least, if not your blog) off of munu. It hates comments, often rejecting them out of hand, or refusing to open the commnets because of "high levels of spam."

On the top ten lied about books in America, I don't have a clue, but here's some that they all should read
1. The Constitution (not a book, but still)
2. The Federalist Papers--Hamilton, Madison, Jay
3. Machiavelli's The Prince
4. The Blogs of War--Matt Burden, et al.
5. Atlas Shrugged--Ann Rand
6. Thank you for smoking--Christopher Buckley
7. The Last Centurion--John Ringo
8. The Bible (ideally, multiple versions, with concordances)
9. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlien
10. The Crucible--Hawthorne
11. anything from the Serge Storms series by Tim Dorsey
12. D-Day--Ambrose
13. Any book 0prah has never heard of
14. I am America and so can you--Colbert
15. Cannery Row--Steinbeck


Posted by: Chuck at March 6, 2009 07:38 PM

Chuck -- I swear O Brother Where Art Thou is based on The Odyssey, not Ulysses.

And I'm working on a move away from spam hell. Also I don't read Oprah books.

Posted by: Sarah at March 6, 2009 09:18 PM

Top 10 books Sovereign Kingdom University students claim they've read:

1. القرآن Al-Qur’ān
2. Dreams frOm My Father
3. The Audacity of hOpe
4. The Communist Manifesto
5. 毛主席语录 Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, a.k.a. The Little Red Book
6. 김일성 전집 Complete Collection of Kim Il Sung's Works
7. 세기와 더불어 With the Century (Kim Il Sung's autobiography)
8. 김정일 전집 Complete Collection of Kim Jong Il's Works
9. Mark Zepezauer, The CIA's Greatest Hits
10. Anything I wrote

Posted by: kevin at March 7, 2009 02:59 AM

LOL - yes it is hilarious that people are lying about reading Obama's book. However, that is the book I would have thought would be the number one book lied about. (I wonder if people lied to the pollsters about that one... Heh).

*sigh* I never did get far in languages. Only a year of Spanish and a year of French. Not nearly enough to read any books... except maybe first grade books.

Posted by: Teresa at March 7, 2009 11:50 AM


Exposure to two languages, however brief, is a lot more than many people in this country have (namely, one or none). So you have nothing to be ashamed of.

Few Americans get far in languages simply because they don't need to. (My favorite post of all time on this topic is by mrcaxton.) And you have to get very far to appreciate writing in a foreign language on an aesthetic level, especially if the work is culturally alien. The 11th century Tale of Genji, often claimed to be the first novel, might as well be from outer space to most modern people, including even modern Japanese people. It is a struggle simply to get to the point where one can read prose in a foreign language without simple mechanical issues getting in the way. Consider that even literate native speakers of English do not necessarily understand literature in their own language.

Most people are more interested in content instead of packaging (the original language). Few read the Bible in its original languages. (At the opposite extreme, there are Muslims who memorize the Quran without knowing what all of the classical Arabic words mean.) I know polyglots who read novels in translation even though they could easily read the originals. I myself read everything in translation unless I have no choice (i.e., there is no translation). I studied Russian solely because I needed to read certain books in that language to do my linguistic research. For many people worldwide, English is to them what Russian is to me: a tool and not a key to literature. They don't read books in English for fun, even if they could.

Posted by: Amritas at March 7, 2009 03:45 PM

Amritas - thanks for the pointer to Mrcaxton's post - he's very right about the difference in motivation for learning a language.

Although he doesn't pursue the other side in that post, I'm sure he'd say one of our problems with learning a language has traditionally been an inability to hear it spoken daily in America. (less of an issue in the internet age).

I know some people would argue that Spanish should be easy to learn just because we have so many Hispanics in America now... possibly, if that is the language one wants to learn. For some odd reason I didn't like Spanish - I think it was the teacher. LOL.

Oh well, I did pick up the German Rosetta Stone series not long ago. Now all I need to do is make time.

Posted by: Teresa at March 8, 2009 12:44 AM

The Internet is the best thing to happen to linguists EVER.

I have the first Harry Potter book in Russian, and also a sci-fi novel signed by the author, E.E. Knight, who received it from the publisher and had no idea what to do with it. I generally don't read anything longer than a 10-15 page magazine article, however, and that only for work. Not sure I ever will develop enough love for Russian to read a novel all the way through.


Posted by: Sig at March 9, 2009 09:29 PM