Reading is hard. The words just go on and on piling up onto each other until they overwhelm you with their complexity and volume. But the fact that you have the same level of literacy as a 7-year-old shouldn’t stop you from making yourself sound smart by discussing classic novels at parties. Here are 5 pieces of the literary canon that you can discuss ad nauseam at saturnalias, galas, symposia, tapas or other everyday social situations, even if you struggle to decipher anything more complex than a Sears catalogue.
1. Infinite Jest
It is a known fact no one has actually read David Foster Wallace’s epic (including the late author himself who wrote several passages in a trance). Having a copy of this book on your shelf is the perfect way to hide your second grade reading level because no one will be able able to call you out on you inability to recall any characters, themes or or even simple adverbs from the book.
2. To the Lighthouse
Although this slight tomes is a masterpiece in tone and style, it’s plot is simple to remember: People are sad within view of a lighthouse. Even someone with the vocabulary of a well trained parrot can recite that simple sentence when behooved to join in a spirited discussion of the Bloomsbury Group’s finer works.
3. The Hobbit
If you watch the film of The Hobbit you will be as well versed in the tale as the most fervent Tolkienite. I know what you’ll say “I’ve tried watching films before to hide my second grade reading level but I always miss something because they change things in the adaptation.” Luckily for you The Hobbit is different because director Peter Jackson left absolutely nothing out of the movies. He actually pulled stuff from another novel, The Silmarillion, into the movie. Assuming that your inability to comprehend even the simplest works of fiction does not extend to motion pictures you will be able to convincingly pretend you have read 2 different novels.
Although Orwell deliberately wrote in a straightforward accessible way, you will be unable to read this on your own, as your reading abilities is lower than that of a 1940’s factory worker. Lucky for you, current events mimic the events of the novel with an accuracy that has caused a ripple among far more educated circles. If someone asks you about the novel just say something like “Every time I see the news it reminds of the book,” or “Big Brother certainly seems real now,” or even just, “Edward Snowden, Edward Snowden, Edward Snowden.”
5. The Catcher in the Rye
This classic has been on numerous greatest books lists and is a seminal read for many adolescents (ones with an age appropriate reading level). The key to faking this book is to just say it really spoke to you. If pressed just say some self indulgent middle class teenage bullshit such as “I can’t stand phonies,” “phonies are all around” or “I really like all the swears in the book.”