I am a college professor.  Yesterday, I asked my students who had actually completed the reading for class.  One person raised their hand.  Just one. It’s a theory class, so we read the actual theorist. Another student said, “I’ve read about the ideas in the reading, so I didn’t think I needed to do the actual reading.” At which point I actually bit my lip to keep from losing it.

I’ve been wondering how prevalent this idea is among students in general, and then I started thinking about the purpose of what I do as a reviewer.  One of the functions of a review is to help you decide what to read.  I wonder though, if people ever use reviews to fake having read the book. Can you fake having read Robin McKinley? Or Brandon Sanderson?  Do you have strong opinions about authors you have never actually read yourself, because you’ve read enough reviews to make up your mind? Hopefully you are not using reviews as cliff notes, not just because we typically leave out the major plot points, but I wonder sometimes if the giant increase in easily accessible reviews, not just in fantasy but in all forms of literature and commentary, leave a lot of people having opinions about opinions, rather than actual informed stances on issues, from the quality of Sharon Shinn‘s prose to the proper role of government in providing a social safety net.

So ‘fess up readers: Have you ever faked reading or knowing something, either in school or in society? Did you get caught? And why can’t we just say, “I don’t know anything about that’?

The most entertaining anecdote will earn the confessor a book of their choice off of the stacks.


  • Ruth Arnell

    RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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