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If you’ve never quite managed to finish Pride And Prejudice or Jane Eyre, you’re not alone. Some 71 per cent of us claim we’ve read classics in an attempt to seem more cultured, according to a study by Lindeman’s Wine and Book Club.
Most ‘book bluffers’ said they lied about their reading because they did not want to appear stupid. More men were fibbers, with 23 per cent saying they had lied to impress a female, while women said they feared friends’ and colleagues’ judgement.
Books that had been made into films or TV series were the most lied about as people at least knew the plot. The top five books people claimed to have read were: Pride And Prejudice, The Lord Of The Rings, Jane Eyre, Tess Of The d’Urbervilles and The Hobbit.
Less than half of Brits (45 per cent) correctly named Emily Bronte as the author of Wuthering Heights. Many believed it to be Charles Dickens (16 per cent), Charlotte Bronte (13 per cent), fictitious character Jane Eyre (12 per cent) and even the singer Kate Bush (4 per cent).
When it comes to Jane Eyre, 15 per cent wrongly think it was written by Jane Austen while the Bronte sisters are most commonly credited with writing Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
According to Debrett’s, the authority on etiquette, wanting to appear literary is a peculiarly British trait. David Miller, Director at Debrett’s, said: 'Social etiquette is an important part of being British and we’ve been bound by it for centuries.
'We can’t help but care about how we’re perceived by others - it’s an intrinsic part of our DNA, which makes the lengths we’ll go to keep face ever more amusing.
'It’s notable men are most likely to bluff about the books they’ve read in order to win over the fairer sex. However it’s interesting women are most concerned about being judged by their female peers, casting a shadow on modern day notions of sisterhood.'
Four in ten Brits confess they keep works of literature on their bookshelves purely for display purposes. In a bid to keep up appearances, 57 per cent make sure the tomes on view are literary classics - even if they’ve never digested a word of them.
We’re also keen to impress others while reading on the move, with 23 per cent of us making sure we are seen out and about with the ‘right’ book.
The study was conducted by the Lindeman’s Wine and Book Club which will be holding events at Oxfam bookshops nationwide.