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British adults lie about reading books to impress - including Hamlet, Wuthering Heights, Animal Farm and The Great Gatsby

by Khyle Deen. Published Fri 04 Mar 2022 17:39, last updated: 04/03/22

46% of British adults have lied about reading books in a bid to impress - Snooze worthy books including Hamlet, Wuthering Heights, Animal Farm and The Great Gatsby get modern comedy makeover from TV Channel Dave

War and Peace, Hamlet and Moby Dick have been named as books Brits are least likely to finish according to new research released today.

Comedy channel Dave teamed up with Professor Sam Haddow from St Andrews University to conduct the study, which surveyed 2,000 British adults, to identify the definitive list of the literary blockbusters that send the nation to sleep.

Dave is encouraging the nation to revisit some of the books named in the study via a series of witty comedy rewrites, following data which suggests a staggering 46 per cent of adults have lied about reading a classic book in a bid to appear more intelligent.

The top 10 books (including a precis from Professor Haddow) that we fail to finish were named as follows – warning spoiler alerts:

1. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy - Napoleon took six months to lose his war with Russia. Tolstoy took six years to write about it. That probably tells you everything you need to know  

2. Hamlet, Shakespeare - The world’s most self-loathing man spends a lot of time talking about himself, to himself. Also, Denmark collapses

3. Moby Dick, Herman Melville - An overlong list of whale facts, and after 137 chapters, an altercation between a man and a whale. The man loses

4. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë - A man becomes obsessed with vengeance when his soul mate literally ghosts him

5. Animal Farm, George Orwell – A lot of pigs who are not really pigs, but are actually pigs, convince other farm animals to work on a farm. And communism 

6. Bleak House, Charles Dickens - A 750-page book about a legal dispute lasting 117 years

7. Les Misérables, Victor Hugo - Over a quarter of this 3,000-page novel is made up of moral philosophy arguments. No, really. It got better when they condensed it to three hours and added songs

8. Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo - A terrible man does awful things which the novel ignores and focuses on the buildings

9. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald - An American learns that capitalism is bad, whilst drinking martinis in a mansion. Leonardo Di Caprio does NOT feature

10. Ulysses, James Joyce - A man walks through Dublin towards his wife, who is at home having an affair. Meanwhile, everybody in Ireland says everything that has ever been said. Loudly 

The sheer length of many of these books is a top reason Brits struggle to get through them. For example, Leo Tolstoy’s 1,225-page epic novel War and Peace, has an average reading length of 37 hours and 48 minutes*.

The Dave research revealed that the vast majority (71 per cent) of adults admitted to being impressed by someone who are well read in ‘the classics’, which might explain why so many lie about having read these books.

The study also revealed that men are more likely to mislead with 48 per cent prepared to lie about their literary credentials compared to 44 per cent of women. And young people aged 18 to 24 are the biggest book bluffers of all with 77 per cent willing to lie that they have read a heavyweight novel.

Interestingly 67% per cent of those who took part in the study said they would be more likely to complete the classics if only they made them laugh.

Thus, Dave commissioned a crack team of comedy writers, including Nikesh Shukla, Mollie Goodfellow, Steven Vinacour, Ivo Graham and Flo Perry, to bring some levity and add ‘a bit of Dave’ to six of the impenetrable classics named on the list:

Wuthering Heights – new version sees Heathcliff sent to counselling for anger management and toxic masculinity

Moby Dick - the classic loses 132 chapters (yet none of the story) and ends with a sole survivor clinging to a makeshift cheeseboard

Animal Farm – featuring Boris the Boar and Starmer the Horse, oh and a farmyard campaign to get ‘Hexit Done’

The Great Gatsby - sees Gatsby as a self-described ‘Fin-influencer’ – posting insane self-congratulatory and overembellished posts across his social media

Hamlet - where the would be King considers jacking it all in for an easier life abroad –the ‘To be or not be to’ scene rewritten with striking parallels to Harry & Meghan

Bleak House – embracing the chaos of this mindboggling book by drawing parrels with dreaded conference calls and the iconic Handforth Parish Council meeting

The rewrites come complete with a new illustrative cover which speaks to the revamped plot, characters and storylines from leading illustrator Bob Venables.

Rachel Parris, stand-up comedian and star of Late Night Mash, runs through key passages for the likes of Moby Dick in a series of video readings. Each witty remake is now available to download at https://dave.uktv.co.uk/article/bit-dave.

Professor Sam Haddow, of the School of English at St. Andrew’s University, said:

“It has been a delight to work with Dave’s writers to take a silly-stick to the stuffiness surrounding some of our most revered works of literature. I hope that readers get as many laughs out of these re-drafted stories as I have – and, perhaps, that they’re inspired to go back to the originals with fresher, less-jaded eyes…”

Cherie Cunningham, Dave channel director said: “At Dave, we’re always looking for new ways to add a little humour to the mundane and every day. For World Book Day this year, we wanted to not only celebrate these literary works of art but add a comedic twist in a bid to inspire new readers, or those of us who have tried and failed, to go back and give them another go.”

The comedic takes on the classic literature are now available to download at https://dave.uktv.co.uk/article/bit-dave


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