UK adults lie while reading books to impress – including Hamlet, Wuthering Heights, Animal Farm and The Great Gatsby > Creative Review > Style

by Khyle Deen. Posted Fri, Mar 04, 2022 5:39 PM, last update: 3/4/22

46% of UK adults have lied about reading books in order to impress – Snooze-worthy books including Hamlet, Wuthering Heights, Animal Farm and The Great Gatsby are given a modern comedy makeover by the TV channel Dave

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

The Dave Comedy Channel teamed up with Professor Sam Haddow of the University of St Andrews to conduct the study, which surveyed 2,000 UK adults, to identify the definitive list of literary blockbusters that are putting 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 that suggests 46% of adults have lied about reading a classic book in the purpose of looking smarter.

The top 10 books (including a summary by Professor Haddow) that we fail to complete have been named as follows – spoiler warning:

1. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy – It took Napoleon 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 most hateful man in the world spends a lot of time talking about himself, to himself. Also, Denmark is collapsing

3. Moby Dick, Herman Melville – Too long a 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 revenge when his soul mate literally ghosts him

5. Animal Farm, George Orwell – Lots of pigs that aren’t 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 that spanned 117 years

7. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo – More than a quarter of this 3,000-page novel is made up of arguments from moral philosophy. Not really. It got better when they condensed it to three hours and added songs

8. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo – A terrible man does horrible things that the novel ignores and focuses on buildings

9. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald – An American learns that capitalism is evil, while drinking martinis at a mansion. Leonardo Di Caprio is NOT featured

10. Ulysses, James Joyce – A man walks through Dublin to his wife, who is at home having an affair. Meanwhile, everyone in Ireland is saying everything that has ever been said. Loudly

The length of many of these books is one of the main reasons Britons find it difficult to skim through them. For example, Leo Tolstoy’s 1,225-page epic novel War and Peace has an average reading time of 37 hours and 48 minutes*.

Dave’s research found that the vast majority (71%) of adults admitted to being impressed by someone who reads ‘the classics’ well, which could explain why so many people lie about having read those books.

The study also found that men are more likely to mislead, with 48% willing to lie about their literary titles, compared to 44% of women. And 18-24 year olds are the biggest book bluffers with 77% willing to lie that they’ve read a heavy novel.

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

So Dave tasked a crack team of comic 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 inscrutable classics named on the list:

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

Moby Dick – the classic loses 132 chapters (but none of the story) and ends with only one survivor clinging to a makeshift cheese board

Animal Farm – featuring Boris the boar and Starmer the horse, oh and a barnyard campaign to get “Hexit Done”

The Great Gatsby – sees Gatsby as a self-proclaimed ‘Fin influencer’ – posting nonsensical self-congratulatory and overly embellished posts on his social media

Hamlet – where the future king plans to put everything in place for an easier life abroad – the ‘To be or not to be’ scene rewritten with striking parallels to Harry and Meghan

Bleak House – embracing the chaos of this mind-blowing book by drawing parallels to dreaded conference calls and the iconic Handforth parish council meeting

The rewrites are accompanied by new illustrative cover art that talks about the plot, characters, and revamped storylines from lead illustrator Bob Venables.

Rachel Parris, stand-up comedian and star of Late Night Mash, goes over key passages for Moby Dick in a series of video readings. Each witty remake is now available to download at

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

“It’s been a pleasure to work with Dave’s writers to silly tackle the suffocation surrounding some of our most revered works of literature. I hope readers get as many laughs out of these revamped stories as I do – and, perhaps, be inspired to return to the originals with fresher, less jaded eyes…”

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

Comedy versions of classic literature are now available for download at

About Marcia G. Hussain

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