World Book Day: future readers and liars

Today, the UK celebrated World Book Day, described as “the biggest annual celebration of books and reading in the UK and Ireland.” (Quite the concept, ain’t it?) As part of the event, the organizers sponsored a couple surveys that produced some intriguing results

One asked which best-selling book of the past decade people would give to young people. It should come as no shock that Harry Potter topped the list. It’s some of the other nine that are surprising. The 9/11 Commission Report came in seventh while The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins was ninth. I find it interesting that the 9/11 report would even make the list, let alone the top 10. And while I know Europe is far more secular than the U.S., I am almost floored by the fact Brits would consider one of the leading tracts of so-called new atheism to be among the most important books to pass on to younger people.

Another survey asked people whether they have lied about reading certain books. Once again surprising me, 42% lied about having read George Orwell’s 1984. Now I can understand people lying about having read War and Peace31%) or even The Bible (24%). And I actually think there’s some lying going on when only 15 percent said they lied about reading Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time as I think it is probably the most unread best seller of all time. Still, I would have expected more people to have read 1984 at some point.

One other interesting tidbit: Richard Dawkins made both lists. Six percent of the respondents said they lied about reading his The Selfish Gene.

So on this World Book Day, if I have one modest wish, it is that, at least for a day, we ponder the real and spiritual poverty of a life lived without the ability to read[.]

Victoria Barnsley, “Why World Book Day Matters More Than Ever

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