There’s also a fake side to the reading habit

PUNE: Rows of books from the latest bestseller list, authored by eminent personalities or recommended by celebrities are neatly stacked in the alphabetical order on a shiny white bookcase at this techie’s house in Hinjewadi — their mint condition a dead giveaway that they have not been read.

A book cafe, an airport lounge or a bookstore often has scores of people with a book, but with restless eyes — the fake readers. People from seven cities — Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata — have owned up to faking reading.

Thousands of respondents have cited reasons such as — to impress a prospective partner, create an impression on a future employer, to be socially accepted in a group of book lovers, or to even leave a mark in public — as to why they indulge in fake reading.

Among the seven cities, Pune is only behind Kolkata (31.8%), with 24.4% people accepting they fake read in public in ‘The Landmark Fakespeare Survey 2014’. While 27% of Puneites said they indulge in fake reading mostly in coffee shops, people from Mumbai and Delhi also showed a similar choice of place, where they would be inclined to fib about reading.

The other places where people fake read are in the train or the bus, in the aircraft, at a party, in the library and the workplace.

“It is a light-hearted survey about spotting people who choose to fib about having read a book that they haven’t. It could also be someone who thinks it’s perfectly cool to claim to read but not go beyond the preface. The rationale behind fibbing or faking reading could be many such as peer pressure or the intention of merely wanting to fit in,” said Sivaraman Balakrishnan, senior manager marketing and communication, Landmark stores.

Balakrishnan observed that Puneites mostly choose the books under economics or finance genre to fake read in public. While most people from Mumbai and Kolkata also shared that they usually take up books on economics or finance while faking, the least favourite genre was philosophy and spirituality.

“I see mostly people in their early thirties fake-talk about the books they have read or posses in public gatherings. One of the factors may be the blurring lines between social networks and the real life,” explained Aarya Naik, of the Gyan Adab Centre, which invites authors and readers to promote art and culture.

While Delhi topped the number of people saying that they consider decorating their homes with books, even if they don’t read them, 12.5% of people from Pune also accepted to doing so.

“I have often observed that people hire interior designers to redo their houses and these professionals go on to hunt for books to decorate the bookshelves lining the walls,” said Samreet Kaur, a professional working at a research firm.

“Although many people like to surround themselves with or carry books, I have seen many people striving to cultivate the reading habit. Hence, they hang out with people who are avid readers, or try and experiment with books on different subjects,” said Neha Vishal Pipraiya of Pagdandi books cafe.

Sociologist Vidyut Bhagwat observes that reading is associated with prestige. “Also, in the age of being socially connected through visual media, people often feel the social pressure to seem intellectual or well-read. Especially in airport lounges and coffee shops, people who sit alone, may be indulging in fake-reading as to not look like a vagabond,” she said.

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