Faking It

Alison Morris - February 11, 2008

I have a confession to make. Until this past week, I had not read The Mysterious Benedict Society.

I know! I know!! Everyone read this book last year, EVERYONE loved this book, everyone’s been raving about this book, it was on every mock-Newbery list in the country, and my best friend’s husband (Kelly) said I HAD to read it a.s.a.p. because Trenton Lee Stewart’s wife is a friend of his from high school. Kelly, Everyone, I apologize: I just didn’t get to it last year. Just like I didn’t get to even a fraction of all the books I’d hoped to read. As happens every year.

Here’s what I will say in my defense: At least I didn’t lie about it. I did NOT claim to have read this book. Nope. I might have used evasive language a time or two or avoided contributing to conversations about it and in so doing "suggested" (perhaps even unintentionally!) that I’d read this book, but I never outright LIED about having read it. (At least not that I recall…).

Why would I even consider lying about such an insignificant thing? Because it’s exhausting to have to endure over and over again the shocked gasp that generally follows admissions of this sort. In their interviews with "Book Brahmins" one of Shelf Awareness‘s standard categories to fill in is: "Book You’ve Faked Reading" which I always love seeing and find completely reassuring. ("Whew! I’m not the only one!") It’s tiring to sheepishly recount the reasons that you still haven’t read this book or that book on the neverending list of "books everyone else has read and you know you ought to have read but didn’t and now feel needled by and therefore are less likely to read ever."

The good news is that The Mysterious Benedict Society did not fall so deep into that trap as to become irretrievable for me. I fished it out, I read the book, and by golly I did indeed LOVE it!! I loved it so much, in fact, that I went back and awarded it a Morris Medal, which is something I can do, because (of course) it’s my own awards list and I make the rules. I have since moved on to reading the ARC for The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, which will be published in May, and challenging my friends to take the Personality Challenge on the official Mysterious Benedict Society website, so I can see how well we’d work as a team. (Apparently I’m most like Reynie.)

MANY of you recently confessed your propensity for or dislike of or indifference to the idea of peeking at a book’s ending: I think it’s now time to confess the books you’ve faked reading or outright lied about.

In order to establish that we have a trusting relationship here I will not admit publicly that I’ve never read anything by Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck. I don’t remember reading Anne of Green Gables, which leads me to believe that I never have. I’ve met Eoin Colfer but I haven’t read a single Artemis Fowl book. And I’ve read only one novel by Avi (The End of the Beginning, which I loved).

ARGH! Admit it: You just gasped at that last one, didn’t you?? As recompense you ought now to lay bare some of your own sins. Confess your deepest, darkest reading omissions and/or fakes right here, where you (unlike me!) have the option of doing so in complete anonymity. I promise I will not use my "connections" (thanks, Kelly) to send the Mysterious Benedict Society out to discover your real identity.

17 thoughts on “Faking It

  1. Anne

    Actually, the one I gasped at was the Artemis Fowl confession. 😉 I have to also admit to never reading Anne of Green Gables – when asked, I usually just laugh and remark on being given numerous copies when I was younger since I spell my name the same way as the character.

  2. Erica Perl

    This makes me feel SO much better, Alison! I’m about to start teaching a course in writing middle grade fiction and I was actually nervous that I’d be expected to have read every middle grade book published in the last century or so. *Whew!!!*

  3. litlb00k

    I loved this post inasmuch as I thought this was my own dark secret! I often fake the Redwall books by Jacques. For years children have been talking with me about them and I vaguely act as if I know where they are coming from but, in reality, I can’t bear to pick them up.

  4. Sam Musher

    I haven’t read any Artemis Fowl, either. Nor have I read Spiderwick, nor Eragon. My worst fake-reader sin, though, is that I’ve told people how badly written The Da Vinci Code is without having read it. Yes, I’m that librarian.

  5. Kat Brokaw

    I never could finish Odysseus. One more rosey fingered dawn was going to drive me to drink. I didn’t read Eragon because, quite frankly, I’m jealous of the author–he got at 19 what I want at… well, more than that. And, just for the record, Da Vinci Code was written poorly. Still, Brown’s laughing all the way to the bank, you know.

  6. Karlene Rearick

    I HAVE read Mysterious Benedict Society, Spiderwick, Artemis Fowl, Eragon, and the Da Vinci Code (every chapter ends in a cliff hanger, so you don’t have time to notice the flaws). I’m having one of those WOW moments of being amazed that I’ve read something Alison hasn’t! Here’s the thing… my favorite genre is fantasy. The ones I can’t seem to make myself read are the chick lits… Clique, Gossip Girls, A-List, etc.


    So you all feel better, here’s the king of omissions that gets all the jaws hanging: I am 37 years old. I have a B.A. in English Lit & have worked in a bookstore for over 14 years. And I’ve never read Catcher In the Rye. Not even the Cliff’s Notes. I know, I know–I’m headed straight for fiction hell. But when I tell people, they either can’t believe it or they tell me it’s far too late to enjoy it, anyway.

  8. Carol

    I faked my way through school, parenting, and 15 years of children’s bookselling without ever reading Alice in Wonderland. I read it a few years ago and what a book! Could it be as marvelous at 10 as it was at 5 times that??

  9. No Names Please

    Thank you, Alison, for speaking the truth. I love my job more than I could ever have imagined, but the cruel irony of opening a bookstore (in which I am the store manager, buyer, bookkeeper, etc., etc.) is that I have so much less time to read than I did before! I am constantly faking it or going on the twenty pages or so that I did have a chance to read. I hate this! I want to read everything (well, not everything… but a lot more than I do). But there just isn’t time! Some of my most shameful omissions: I have not read any Artemis Fowl OR Septimus Heap; I am the last person on earth who hasn’t read any of the Twilight books; I just finally read The Golden Compass when the movie came out because I knew I couldn’t get away with faking it anymore when people came in wanting to parse the differences between the book and the movie. There, it’s out there… I feel so much lighter now. A confessional rush!

  10. Chris

    I totally gasped at the “Avi Admission” and laughed out loud! Okay here goes… I never read Little Women and I can’t even look at the screen now that it’s out there!

  11. Phoebe

    Alison, I was totally convinced you’d read a bunch of the “Poppy” books from having talked with you about them! Too funny. As a typical college student, I mostly fake having read things like any Faulkner novel beside “The Sound and the Fury,” or “Atonement,” or more Dickens than I have actually read, and most often I fake having read Augustine’s “Confessions” . . . I’ll have to read The Mysterious Benedict Society at once!

  12. Joe Sottile

    Didn’t read Catcher? It changed my reading habits for the better. Books started to matter. I read it at the perfect age, 16. Now I write poetry books for kids. Joe Sottile

  13. Nene

    I am book lover and children’s librarian who has NEVER read the Chronicles of Narnia or anything by Tolkien. Is that bad?

  14. maire

    I’ve been a book lover since I took GREEN EGGS AND HAM out of my mom’s hands and read it to her, and I’m a geek through and through, can quote Tolkien at command (even know how to write my name in Elvish), and adore Robert Owens Imaginarium Geographica stories. But I’ve never read a single Chronicles of Narnia.


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