BenDomenech“Have you ever lied about reading a book?” asks conservative Ben Domenech in The Federalist. Here’s his list of the top 10 lied-about titles, as mentioned in an essay last year:

10. Atlas Shrugged (Ann Rand). She’s the only woman to make Domenech’s list.

9. On the Origin of the Species (Charles Darwin).

8. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo) and A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens). “Virtually every bit of literature about the French Revolution could be tied here, though ignorance of it might inspire fun future headlines, such as De Blasio Brandishes Knitting Needles, Calls For ‘The People’s Guillotine’ To Be Erected In Times Square.”

7. 1984 (George Orwell).

6. Democracy in America (Alexis De Tocqueville).

5. The Wealth of Nations (Adam Smith).

4. Moby Dick (Herman Melville).

3. The Art of War (Sun Tzu).

2. The Prince (Niccolo Machiavelli).

1. Ulysseus (James Joyce). “I own this book but have never read it.”

So what do you think of the lied-about list? Any titles to add or confessions to make?

Domenech’s precise criterion for choosing the top lied-about books, by the way, is this: “Books that are culturally ubiquitous, reading deemed essential, writing everyone has heard of… that you’d be mildly embarrassed to admit you’ve never read.”

Well, he’s entitled. This would be a more credible list with works by Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky on it, and perhaps more women and nonWesterners as well (at least if we’re thinking globally). Or are Domenech and friends still so preoccupied with dead white (nonRussian) males that it’s too early even for Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison to earn a mention?

Is Russian-born Ayn Rand, the list’s only female, really more “essential” than Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky?

(Via KBoards.)


  1. @ecw0647: Apparently you were talking about the two commenters, but I can’t resist saying I have read Ayn Rand and have actually enjoyed some of her writings as entertainment even if the politics rub me the wrong way. Her descriptive prose at times reminds me a bit of Sinclair Lewis, and in places the idealism of her white hats makes me think of Lewis’s hero Martin Arrowsmith. The problem is, she overdoes it and in the end comes across as a propagandist for the managerial class and the worst of the Wall Street sleazes. Gordon Gekko, had he existed, would undoubtedly have been a Rand fan boy. Now—back to Rand as literature. I think Patheos pegged her just right: “In the world of Ayn Rand, square-jawed physical attractiveness is a reliable way to tell the heroes apart from the villains.” True literature challenges people’s misconceptions. Ayn Rand reinforces them. Hey, don’t take it personally: some of my best friends love her work. Thanks for sharing your opinions.

  2. @David Rothman. LOL. My comment was made to be humorous since in my experience I see many people who have very strong opinions about Ayn Rand but, under pressure, admit to never having read any of her stuff. I have not read Atlas Shrugged, only The Fountainhead and her book on altruism, but I’ve read several biographies and books about objectivism. (My reviews are all at Her personal life was a disaster and her works don’t come close to being literature, but one cannot deny that her “philosophy” has had a major influence on economic and political theory since her death, including Alan Greenspan, who was her acolyte. Her anti-authoritarianism and anti-coercion came directly from the experiences of her family in Russia before her emigration and while much of her thinking is puerile at best, I find that part of her thinking as well as her anti-religiosity somewhat refreshing.

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