The Books People Pretend to Have Read

I recently came upon an article about books that people pretend to have read and it made want to share it here.

This article lists ten books that people pretend to have consumed but most likely haven’t. This list deals with ten science fiction/fantasy books, but if you do an internet search on the subject you find lists of other books people pretend to have read. Like this one:

Pretending to have read a book you didn’t! This is an interesting topic if you think about it. If you pretend that you have read a book you haven’t you are lying. You are deceiving people. But why? Why lie about reading a book you haven’t read?

There are many reasons why. Sometimes it’s as easy as there is a movie version of the book and one doesn’t need to read the book. That makes sense especially if you realize that almost every one of the books listed in the lists provided above is fiction. Also, these are well known titles that get talked about in our culture so it makes sense that even people who haven’t read them have heard enough about them to pass themselves off as a reader. Osmosis is enough with some of these titles. The question remains, why pretend? Why not just read the book? You are only robbing yourself of the enrichment you will gain from having consumed the book’s contents.

I will end this post by providing an example of a book that I think many people are guilty of pretending to have read but really have not. It is a non-fiction book and one that is pretty significant in our lives whether we realize it or not. That book is Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

Wealth of Nations is old, long, and dry but very important because it provides the theoretical framework for the socio-economic system by which we live. Many of our politicians and media figures cherry-pick the book. They always refer to the parts they like and usually abstain from referencing Adam Smith’s warnings. If you would like to know more about his work then you should read the book.

Do the work! Read the books! It’s enriching and rewarding.

Until next time, good reading.


American Dreamers

We will only grow as big as we dream that’s why we must dream big.” – Gabrielle Williams

Do you enjoy history? Do you like reading about the people who helped build America?

If you do then you might enjoy Dreamers and Deceivers by Glenn Beck. This is a collection of ten history stories about some individuals who had big dreams. Some of these stories are about people who would do anything to reach a dream even if it meant high costs to others. These are the “deceivers.” Then there are stories about people with big dreams and big ambition who changed the world for the better. These are the “dreamers.” The difference between these groups in the book is that the “dreamers” did things that added value to other people’s lives, while the “deceivers” did things that took away value from others. Glenn Beck doesn’t try to argue that in the book. He chooses to ignore a moral high-ground and just give you the fun, interesting historical details. He doesn’t provide you a full biographical history of these people, but instead gives you snippets of information that keep you reading along in an interested and fascinated way.

The dichotomy between the “dreamers” and the “deceivers” is an interesting approach to the history of the people who helped shape America. Check out the book to discover the duality for yourself.

Until next time, good reading.



Excited for this Laurence B. Siegel book

I am so looking forward to this particular book that I have downloaded the audio version of it on my phone.

I normally prefer a physical book but I was so interested in reading this book that I grabbed the audio version as it was immediately available to me.

The book I am hyped for is called

Fewer, Richer, Greener: Prospects for Humanity in an Age of Abundance by Laurence B. Siegel.

Laurence B. Siegel lays out how the world has gotten better rather than worse and how the present is the safest and most prosperous time in all of human history.

It is contradictory to the sentiments and spectre of socialism coursing through some of the culture today. Socialism is becoming popular despite its evident history and failings. Some people claim that democratic socialism is different and you can’t compare it to failed socialist states. But, is it?

How is democratic socialism not central planning and the re-distribution of wealth? How is it not someone else deciding what is best for you?

I think these are reasonable questions.

I personally find too much blame and envy in the ideology of socialism and practically zero real world solution. I also think people adopting socialism are so enthralled with the idea of a movement or revolution that they don’t see practical, efficient answers to problems being developed and implemented right now. Not all of the socialist critique is unreasonable, but their solutions are unreasonable. What the world probably needs are more engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and savers, not more socialists. Look at Norman Borlaugh, a geneticist and plant pathologist who is accredited with saving over a billion people from starvation with his work in agriculture. The socialist alternative would be take over of industry and regulation and price control that would probably lead to food shortages. Look at Ann Makosinski, a bright and talented young inventor who invented the Hollow Flashlight, which runs off the heat of your hand while you are holding the product. She also invented something called eDrink which takes the heat from your drink and powers your phone. Creative inventiveness and entrepreneurship that is finding solutions to world problems and making life better and more efficient. Look at Boyan Slat, an aerospace engineer and inventor who is cleaning up plastic in the oceans and using tiny plastic eating microbes to eliminate the waste. Look at Michael Braungart and William McDonough the authors of Cradle to Cradle who are transforming industrial and manufacturing plants into efficient, zero waste facilities. These are just several examples.

The present is a great time to be alive. I am excited about this book. I am excited about the inventors and talented people out there who actually take action in the world instead of just casting blame. It seems that what the world needs are more engineers, scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and savers not more socialists.

I hope you enjoy this recommendation.

Until next time, good reading.


Writing in the Margins

This blog is obviously called Penciled Margins because I write in the margins of my books. I prefer it to highlighting. Jotting down mental notes in the margins of my books helps me remember things better than if I hadn’t.

I usually use a pencil because it is easily erased if I ever want to remove the notes. I don’t meet or see many people at all who do this, but sometimes I find a book that has writing inside. The book pictured above is one such example. I found this book at a local thrift store. The brightly colored page markers caught my attention, but once I held it my hands and thumbed through the vintage pages I noticed all the written notes. I was happy, and it happens to be a book I really enjoy. It is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. I love used books for their history and backstory but when one has margins that have been penciled you immediately have a deeper history behind the life of the book as well as a look into the personality and thoughts of the previous reader(s). I find it fascinating.

The previous reader here went ahead and inscribed the chapter numbers on all the chapters since it originally didn’t have any. It is little acts and details like this that make me smile at human behavior. I get a glimpse into their experience with the book. It is like pieces to a puzzle. Their experience unfolds before me with every turn of the page.

Does anyone else write in the margins of their books? Do you know anyone who does? What do you think about it? Is it disrespectful? I would like to know.

Until next time, good reading.


The Contrarian

I was thinking about how people repeat what they hear. I was thinking about how people regurgitate word for word what they hear on their news. I was thinking about how quickly we adopt narratives that fit our worldview without thinking or checking such delivered information. I was thinking about how opposing forces are ripe with hypocrisy and pick and choose only the realities they are comfortable with and I wrote this piece.


The Contrarian

your pandering,

your insistence,

our rigidness to conclusions,

birthed a contrarian.

my existence

is to question

and not finalize knowledge.

your talking points

are ineffective here!




The Dystopian Novel You Probably Don’t Know About

Are you one of those people who likes a good book that nobody else seems to have read?

Well, I present just such a book to you. (No spoilers.)

It is titled We and it was written in 1921 by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

The book is a dystopian novel about a totalitarian society in the future that prides itself on rationality and logic. Order and reason are of such importance in this society that people don’t have common names, instead they refer to each other by numbers. And, math is a running topic of conversation by the main character. The mathematical concepts are symbolic.

The author explains the current state of the society as well as the significant historical events that lead to such a society. A little digging into the life of the author will reveal plenty of allusion and reference in the book to his personal life. Events and ideas in Russia influenced the book. What is fascinating about the book is just how many other writers the author influenced. It predates works by Orwell, Huxley, Rand, and Collins but you can see similarities among all of them. After reading it you will see how Zamyatin is one of the grandfathers of the dystopian style novel.

Check it out.

Until next time, good reading.


The Stupidity of Going with the Crowd

“In crowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated.”  – Gustave Le Bon

In an earlier post I covered a book titled Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay. I have repeated the importance of thinking for yourself and rejecting group-think many times on this blog. It is exciting to run into material that builds on previous reading. Learning has a way of snowballing into bigger and bigger balls of knowledge. And, since reading Charles Mackay and his work on crowd psychology I have run into other authors who have referenced and been influenced by Mackay. I keep seeing warnings of the dangers of crowd psychology in my reading. I have seen it with the book pictured above and that is why I am posting it here for you to be aware of too.

This book A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G. Malkiel devotes the entire second chapter to the madness of crowds. He cites Charles Mackay and even retells the tulip-bulb craze story that was so intimately detailed and discussed in Mackay’s book. This time Malkiel links the madness of crowds to speculation in investing. He warns about the dangers of get-rich-quick schemes. Crowds are very irrational and even dangerous, and if you follow the crowd into the greed of speculation you are likely to get burned. Malkiel’s book here is one of the few books ever written on the subject of wall street and investing that is not a waste of time or an attempt to get you to put your money into something that will make the author some cash. Malkiel eloquently tells you, the reader, the random walk theory. He provides great examples of how financial experts rarely, if ever, beat the market or even outperform no-load mutual funds. Like a lot of things, his lessons are exemplary and obvious but frequently ignored. Lessons and warnings are ignored because of crowd psychology. People are afraid of missing out. Some of them like a good rush from risk. Many want to get rich quick. So, they rebuke and ignore the historical lessons on the dangers of joining the herd and abandoning your own mind. Whether it is investments, or politics, or social issues there are going to be people who attach themselves to the crowd and let go of the ability to think and rationalize a situation. If you can avoid becoming one of them you can actually get ahead fairly easy in life because it is easy to stand out from the crowd. The crowd at best is average, so all it takes is to be slightly better than average and you will rise above the rest. Try it.

I’ll leave you with my paraphrase of what George Carlin said about groups and crowds…”pick any group, any one, and what you have is a few winners and a whole lot of losers.”

Until next time, good reading.



The Button War

My current fiction read is The Button War by AVI.

It is historical fiction aimed at the young audience. There are two things that grabbed my attention and made me decide to read this book. First, AVI is a Newbery Medal winning author. Second, on the back of the dust jacket there is a description that reads “it shines a light on how easily we believe what we want to believe.”

If you read any of my blog posts you know that this is something that recurs often in my posts and writing. I have stated numerous times that it is not about truth in this world, it is about what you can get people to believe. Marketing, advertising, public relations, and especially politics are more about getting you to believe one way or another over actually providing any truth. So, when I saw that phrase on the back of the book I wanted to see what is behind the story.

It is an easy read that will take you back to the time during World War I in Poland, but experienced through the perception and life of a group of young teenage boys. It is a well written display of how easily we believe what we want to believe.

Enjoy the book and until next time, good reading.


New Year’s Hype Robs You

It is that time of year again when we look back on the year with nostalgia and hindsight, and we look forward to the upcoming year with aspirations and resolutions.

I have never been fond of doing either. I avoid most of the lists of the year’s best. Anytime we talk about the “best of” something we are committing an error in logic. “Best” is subjective yet we continually fool ourselves over this “best of” nonsense. You hear it all the time, “best coffee,” “best book,” “best restaurant,” “best phone,” “best president,” “best year,” and the one I find the most laughable “best doctor/lawyer.” Everyone seems to have the “best” doctor or lawyer. “Best” only means something if there is exhaustive comparison and contrast, which face it, most of us don’t do. This all reminds me of an episode of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit. It is called The Best from Season 3 and it examined our obsession with the “best of” everything and debunked the hype behind all of the fascination. So, nostalgia and hindsight and fascination with all that made up the year especially the year’s “best” is irrational drama that doesn’t do us much good.

Then there is our obsession with resolutions and dreams for the upcoming year. Again, most of us will never follow through and finish any such resolutions. They are a nice idea and that is all. If you need to wait until the New Year to start something then you are already behind. Why can’t you start today? Why does such an endeavor have to wait and begin on January 1st? Do something now. For more information backing up the ridiculousness of resolutions and motivation see Mel Robbins and her Why Motivation is Garbage.

You’re Never Going to Feel Like It

Sentiment for the past 365 days and blind hope for the next 365 days is a silly concept. It can be effective to look back and use the observations you notice in the past to make adjustments in order to help and improve future outcomes, but the way we do it as a culture around New Year’s time is really nothing more than mindless conformity as an effort to keep the status quo going. Question things. Think. You don’t have to be told what was good for the year. And, you don’t have to follow a line into the next calendar year. New Year’s hype just robs you of your own thought and ability to take advantage of opportunity now. Do your own evaluations and skip the resolutions and motivation and just do something now, today.

I wrote this simple, little poem in response to New Year’s resolutions and all that is the status quo during this time of year.


be meek,

be safe,

inside the bubble of the status quo

you’ll be alive

you’ll get by

but you’ll hardly be living.


Until next year, good reading.



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