Books Most People Lie About Reading

Detroit and Singapore?
The Federalist has a list of eleven books, which it calls ten, they say most people lie about reading. Here’s the list.

  1. Atlas Shrugged Never read, never plan on reading.
  2. On the Origin of Species I admit it: never read.
  3. Les Miserables Read, but as a youth, which means I skipped along.
  4. A Tale of Two Cities Read: thank you Sister Dorothy.
  5. 1984 Oh my yes.
  6. Democracy in America Only volume one, parts of two.
  7. The Wealth of Nations Read first 100 pages like everybody else; where all the quotes arise.
  8. Moby Dick Read: you should too.
  9. The Art of War Read.
  10. The Prince Read.
  11. Ulysses Nope, and only feel slightly guilty.

Those of you who read David Lodge’s academic trilogy (Changing Places, Small World, Nice Work) will recall his cocktail party “game” in which professors of literature admit to not reading this or that famous work. One character, after one too many sips of wine, says Hamlet (read it). This leads to his immediate and permanent downfall. But that was thirty, forty years ago. It may now be a mini boast not to have read it (you elitist, you sexist).

Anyway, it seems to me that the Federalist’s list is flawed. I can’t ever recall anybody asking or lying about Les Miserables. Maybe when the movie came out (I didn’t see)? I’m sure people lie about Moby Dick, but nowadays fewer people have to since it’s decreasingly assigned (a white whale, you racist). English majors lie about Ulysses, but nobody else. And I doubt many moderns have even heard of A Tale of Two Cities. Check me on this. Ask people you meet (particularly students) to name three novels by Charles Dickens and give them no hints.

Twenty-some years ago the most-lied about book was A Brief History of Time (read it), but only in the sense that it was named so by people happily admitting they haven’t read it. The Federalist links to a similar list on Huffington Post which includes The Satanic Verses, a book which I find people boast of having not read. Also Infinite Jest which my number one son loaned me and which I could read no more than five pages. Ugh.

Now that our culture is splintering, it’s not clear if there is a list to which all could agree. I certainly haven’t read any books because the author had this or that prescribed demographic characteristic, nor would I think of lying that I had. Indeed, my sentiments are the opposite. But members of university “English” departments would be tempted. Their lists change with the political season.

I’d say the Bible should make the list, only there’s a growing crowd proud of having eschewed it (so much for understanding their culture, but ideology is ideology). Mark Twain should be on the list; either Tom Sawyer (read) or Huckleberry Finn (read). How about F. Scott Fitzgerald? Hemingway? Steinbeck? Catcher in the Rye (didn’t read)?

Henry Adams would’ve made it fifty years ago. Now he’s an unknown. Gibbon? Boswell? Maybe it’s because it’s early, but I’m have a difficult time thinking of non-fiction works which are considered mandatory reading by the majority. People are running from history as fast as they can…and into the arms of Equality! Equality! Equality demands the non-existence of anything smacking of elitism and natural achievement. To paraphrase The One, “You didn’t read that.”

So is it even possible to create a list? Your suggestions?


  1. Scotian

    This should be fun. Origin of Species, 1984, and The Prince definitely. Then there is Herodotus, Gibbon (abridged), The Road to Serfdon (Hayek), and some Mises and Rothbard. Definitely a more than passing familiarity with the Bible (King James) and Shakespeare is warranted. For light reading you need Sherlock Holmes, otherwise how will you understand the dog who didn’t bark as my students didn’t when I brought it up in class. And of course how can we neglect Jules Verne and H. G. Wells or even Edgar Rice? I would stay away from those Russian novelists: War and Piece, I shudder to think of even the attempt. If you are really brave you could even try Newton’s Principia, in the original Latin. Oh, and don’t forget your favorite author, you know that guy who wrote The Blank Slate. If I can think of some more I will be glad to let you know.

  2. Briggs


    Oh, I’ve read Pinker, all right. Which is how I came by my opinion of his work.

    I don’t think people lie about reading Tarzan, but maybe they do about Hayek (they’ll count the comic book version of Serfdom as “reading”).

  3. La Longue Carabine

    Is this going to be one of those threads where everyone brags about what the did or didn’t read? Oh, I hope not!

    I went to HS in CA.[1] and don’t remember having ANY reading assignments. I learned to read on my own, plowing through about 1200 SC-FI paperbacks in those three years.[2]

    No that I am a grown up[3], I’m trying to catch up with many of the classics I should have read. Two hours a day on the bus + kindle + classics are free = finding out many are good, many are…not so good.

    [1] Yes, I know, but it’s just a screen name, but it shows I can get through an 800 page short story.

    [2] Lots of time on the way to and from school, 10 minutes between classes, 20 minutes at lunch, and an hour at night does the trick. Oh, and used book stores selling them for $0.10 apiece.

    [3] Chronologically, anyway.

  4. La Longue Carabine

    I see that it’s going to be a bragging list. Shame.

    Since I’m back, let me supply something I left out in that earlier comment: y and w, at least.

    The two secular books that impressed me? Treasure Island. Wow. Just wow. And Lord of the Rings, a different kind of wow.

  5. Yawrate

    Origin of Species (read big chunks though)
    Les Miserable or the movies
    Democracy in America (by the Frenchman?)
    Wealth of Nations at least a 100 pages
    Art of War
    The Prince

    But I’ve read plenty of Shakespeare, Twain, CS Lewis, the Bible, the Koran the Analects, Tolstoy, and plenty just for entertainment.

    What will the new classics be? The ones chosen by our children. Will reading for enlightenment and pleasure join the ash heap?

    Will the 19th century seem so different that it is deemed irrelevant? What about Shakespeare, the one who means so much to the English language?

    I think perhaps the information era will leave the classics behind, making them the province of scholars and those peculiar few whose interests prod them to the search.

  6. Summa Theologica by Aquinas
    Republic by Plato
    Nicomachean ethics

  7. Scotian

    Bragging? Lighten up, we are just having fun. Treasure Island, of course, a gift from my grandfather. I see that I misspelled peace but I’ll blame it on autocorrect. A serious question: have the readers of this blog found that they increasingly read more non-fiction than fiction with age? I find that I can barely bring myself to read fiction anymore and I’m not just referring to modern work. My theory is that it is easier to absorb fiction while your reading skills are still maturing but that later you seek out substance and knowledge. Fiction is thus very useful for early development but it brings with it the dangers of propaganda and has a much greater influence on our world view than we care to admit. This applies to all forms of entertainment. This is probably why I compare “A Christmas Carol” to “1984”: I love big brother, er I mean Christmas. I would be interested in any, maybe not any, thoughts on this.

  8. La Longue Carabine

    Bragging? Lighten up, we are just having fun.

    I apologize, I didn’t make the sarcasm obvious enough. There is no way lists of bests and worsts[1] could be avoided following an article about good and bad books.

    1. Hmm, sausage!

  9. Briggs


    I used to read science fiction like I used to consume candy, in massive quantities and without discrimination. Now I can’t tolerate bad writing. Much genre writing (like sci-fi) is horrible. Not all; no, not all. But then most accepted modern literary fiction is like those uber-abstract paintings which fling ink randomly onto canvasses or are bare geometric objects. Deep, man, deep. But I still read a lot of fiction, mainly (it seems) written in (or in the style of) the nineteenth century. Patrick O’Brian, baby.

  10. Dr K.A. Rodgers

    Does reading the Classic Comic count?

  11. Sheri

    I have read Atlas Shrugged and 1984 from the list. There was also Childhood’s End (my favorite book) and Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass. Also, the Bible, though not all in one run.

    As to Scotian’s question: I read non-fiction virtually all the time. Have done so since my early teens. There was a commercial years back with a woman reading a computer manual to her 6 year old (obviously some kind of tech commercial). That would be me. I do agree that people often start off reading fiction. On the other hand, my husband reads most anything except romances and Steven King type sic fi. He’s an avid reader, so at least in his case, he did not switch to non-fiction as he got older. Choice of fiction versus non-fiction may have to do with availability of materials and volume of reading in some cases.

    (And, yes, as to “bragging”, we’re just having fun! It’s not a contest.)

  12. JohnK

    Your question as posed: “So is it even possible to create a list? Your suggestions?”

    In response, there are at least three possible kinds of lists. All three lists are ‘possible’ in some sense. #3 is possible in a highly objective sense.

    1. A list of books that people should read to enhance their social status within some group.

    2. A list of books that people ‘should’ read because [‘important’, ‘good’, ‘true’, beautiful’, ‘I like them.’].

    3. A list of books that people should read, because they provide essential communicative context among literate people, and inter-generationally. This is the ‘cultural literacy’ that E.D. Hirsch, Jr. first identified a few decades ago, in perhaps the most mal-understood and deliberately misunderstood important scientific argument ever in print.

    The distinctive feature of the #3 list is that the books on it (specifically, the ideas, concepts, phrases, voices, etc. in those books that are, not the idealized, but the literal, foundation of literate communication at the moment) can be more or less objectively identified, for instance, through content analysis of newspapers, or something like that.

    Hirsch and colleagues found that this ‘list’ did change over time, but quite slowly. This of course is what you would expect of foundational literacy — ideas, phrases, ideas, and books that people assume that other literate people already know at least something about.

  13. Thomas

    If people take the challenge seriously, how can anyone “brag” about not having been good enough to have not read something? Humblebragging? It’s really hard to put a list like this together…even without the added fillip of being “most lied about.” Here are some other recent lists:

    o 5 Must Read Books from Brain Pickings
    o Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy (what every American needs to know)
    o Then there’s the whole “ignorance drives science and culture” debate…
    o The Modern Library’s list of the top 100 novels… a widely criticized, anglo-american, end of 20th c list compiled using approval voting
    o Mortimer Adler’s Great Books Club
    o Listopia where you can vote for your faves…

    You don’t have to be a behavioral scientist to know that everybody thinks of themselves as well read or intellectual even if they’re at the level of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy or a graphic novel like the 300. As a post-adolescent, I had a summer job in a factory back home in the Midwest. Imagining myself to be an intellectual aspirant, I would talk about some book I was reading with my co-workers. One day, in complete disgust, Darryl – a Mopar-loving guy from Oneida, Tennessee – had had enough. Completely contemptuous of the conversation, he spat out, “Books! What do you get out of books! I’ve read every book that’s ever been written and look what it’s done for me!” Only snobs or trolls would call a guy like Darryl a liar.

    Ezra Pound put a list together in his book The ABCs of Reading, as did Henry Miller when he wrote The Books in My Life. Van Wyck Brooks — a widely read, pre-WWII American literary critic — in a brilliant takedown of TE Lawrence’s (of Lawrence of Arabia fame) claim to having read an entire 40,000 volume library, slyly noting that this was most likely an impossible boast. Brooks simply did the math: even if you read 2-3 books a week (his personal upper limit, and Brooks was neither lying nor aggrandizing, he really read his books) and all you did was read books for years…it would still take a huge part of one’s adult life to reach 40,000 books. That is, of course, unless you’re a speed reader…can’t think of his name but a recent LA Times book reviewer claimed to read several books a day this way.

    Then there’s the whole issue taken up by CP Snow in his Two Cultures…more true now than it was written. Today, academic disciplines churn every few years creating entirely new sub-disciplines with their own massive core catalog rendering even relatively recent contributions obsolete. Even the most well-meaning and intellectually ambitious reader/scholar can’t keep abreast of the tsunami of output in today’s world. The result is scholars who are 2 inches wide and 20 miles deep — creatures abhorrent to Snow — and it’s not just the academics.

    Corporate America is kind of like a mirror-image to the academy. Where the academy at least puts up a pretense to scholarship, the corporation is rabidly anti-intellectual, totally focused on skills and filling gaps in same. One is valued, not just based on past contributions, but on what you can do for someone — your manager, the C-suite, the corporate entity — tomorrow. So, the old Hollywood axiom about only being as good as your last movie has now become you’re only as good as your next movie. What you may or may not know about world history, philosophy, art, science, literature – your pedigreed degrees, laudes, whatever, is mere window dressing – and doesn’t mean shit towards your productivity and contribution to the corporation. Consider Google’s extensive analysis of their hires which found that GPAs, test scores, the whole armamentum of metrics that constitute success in school do not contribute to on-the-job performance. Just look at the average MBA…their training taught them to think of 3-5 years ago as ancient history. I can honestly say that I’ve known a handful (counting on one hand) of people in my career for whom the life of the mind had some meaning OR who were willing to come out and admit to it. There may have been many more who wisely remained latent.

    But I digress. Who are today’s Pound or Miller, writing on the absence of books they wish they had read? That list would be radically different today from anything on the list in the mid-20th c and would necessarily include non-literary output as well – e.g., film, art, business books, science, etc. Honestly, the thing I’m most embarrassed about admitting to is the paucity of artifacts from the last 10-15 or so years. You don’t know what you don’t know and, not having kept up with the current zeitgeist’s cultural production, I will confess to not knowing what an up-to-date list would look like to a well-read millennial, if there are any.

    Here’s my totally randomized stab at stuff I wish I knew more about but am just as comfortable nodding my head knowledgeably in the rare moments when they come up in conversation:

    Firestein, Ignorance: How it drives science
    The Tibetan Book of the Dead
    The Education of Henry Adams
    Hegel’s introduction to the Phenomenology of Mind as well as Science of Logic
    Roman Jakobsen
    CS Pierce
    The Graeco-Roman canon of classics
    The complete oeuvre of Jean Luc Godard
    Wealth of Nations
    Walter Benjamin
    Ulysses S Grant’s personal memoirs
    Michael Porter’s books on competitive strategy
    Judea Pearl on causality
    JS Mill
    Frederic Jameson
    The Great Chain of Being, Lovejoy
    Jeremy Bentham
    William James
    Ellul, Technological Society
    Epic of Gilgamesh
    Prose Eddas
    Aiden and Michel’s Quantitative Analysis of Culture or Big Data as a Lens on Culture
    Science and Civilization in China, Joseph Needham
    Thomas Pynchon’s novels
    Virgil, Aeneid
    Vico, Nuova Scienza
    Of Grammatology, Derrida
    Statistics for Experimenters, Box, Hunter and Hunter
    Henry James
    Bayesian Data Analysis, Gelman
    Jorge Luis Borges’ novels
    Collected works of Freud
    An Introduction to Kolmogorov Complexity and its Applications
    Summa Theologica, Aquinas
    Noam Chomsky
    Philip Reiff’s last work, My Life Among the Deathworks
    Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis, Singer
    Zellner, Intro to Bayesian Statistics

  14. Will S

    I do remember Lodge’s game—wasn’t it called “Humiliation”? And the associate professor had been losing by naming obscure books, then suddenly understood the game and won with the Danish Play and was shortly thereafter denied tenure. At least that’s my recollection. I think it was in Trading Places, the one with Swallow and Morris Zapp, the amazing Austen-zapper. What a great book that was—I read it when I was 15 or so, having grown up in academia.

  15. Sheri

    Thomas: “How can anyone “brag” about not having been good enough to have not read something?”
    I think you answered your own question go a degree. First of all, it’s not really “good enough to have not read”–it’s just a listing of what people found interesting and that they liked. People being what they are, they tend to read things they like (except in school, where Cliff Notes are very popular for those who don’t read much). As you noted, there are only so many hours in day and one chooses what to fill that time with. Reading “War and Peace” does not make anyone morally superior, just more interested in that type of literature (the same is true of Atlas Shrugged). Plus, there exists media other than books for reading: professional journals, newspapers, magazines, and so forth. Not reading books does not necessarily mean not reading.
    I really don’t think it matters so much what you read (within limits, of course) but rather than the fact that you can and do read.

  16. Mike Pauwels

    There was a PS campaign some years ago (1965) with the tag line: “Send me a man who reads.” I think the book you are reading today is far less important than the consistency with which you read. I read little outside of assignments through college. Then I started with Perry Mason progressed slowly into classics (whatever that means today) and now I can check off some of the books on most of these lists. As a result, although I am surrounded persons who read much more than I, at least I can listen intelligently.

  17. Bob in Maryland

    Atlas Shrugged – Tried reading it back in the 70’s. Got as far as “John Galt Speaks” and never finished it.

    On the Origin of Species – Have never even looked at it.

    Les Miserables – Bogged down about half way through, and never finished.

    A Tale of Two Cities – Read it in High School. No interest in re-reading it.

    1984 – Read it several times, and not for the last time.

    Democracy in America – Nope.

    The Wealth of Nations – Again, nope.

    Moby Dick – I’ve read it three times already, and will once again someday. One of my favorite books.

    The Art of War – Nope.

    The Prince – Not the least bit interested.

    Ulysses – Hmmm, I’m starting to see a pattern here. Got about half way through this one, and put it down after realizing I hadn’t understood a word for the last 30 pages or so. It’s still on my bookshelf however, staring accusingly at me every now and again.

  18. Bob

    I have tried reading Moby Dick three times in my life, and still get a gag reflex when the book is mentioned. I found the first few chapters boring and the writing style even worse. Anyway, anything worth saying was written by Asimov, Heinlein, Jerry Pournelle, and L Ron Hubbard.

    I agree that most of the current sci-fi authors are deficient one way or another, but every now and then I will stumble across a good won. I do most of my sci-fi “reading” with Audible books, now. I use Kiindle books for my non-fiction, and some of my mystery and action books.

    Thanks for the list. Does reading the Iliad and the Odyssey count in your literature course?

  19. Don in MN

    A different but similar approach might be to list books one owns but has not read (books “educated” folks are supposed to have read). My list, so defined, is very similar to the list in the OP:

    Ulysses (ditto Briggs’ comment)
    Finnegan’s Wake (if Ulysses is merely impossible, then FW is impossible squared)
    Brief History of Time
    Atlas Shrugged
    1984 (I consider Brave New World the better read, and I’ve read it at least twice).
    War and Peace
    The Wealth of Nations (and I once impersonated an Economist)
    Origin of Species
    Infinite Jest (though I’ve enjoyed Wallace’s essays and even read his treatise on infinity)
    Bible (like many, I’ve only read bits and pieces)
    Moby Dick
    All of Mark Twain’s fiction (but his essay on Shakespeare is priceless)
    Democracy in America (read pieces)

    Books I have read:
    Les Mis
    Practically everything written by Shakespeare
    Most of Dickens’ works
    All of Jane Austen (not mentioned above??)
    The Prince

  20. conard

    As a child I came across a stack of my father’s college texts, mostly math and engineering stuff, and for few weeks I would return to study their pages and wonder what secrets they possessed. I was convinced that one day, if I tried hard enough, the learning would just pour out. I copied the symbols and marks from the texts and brought them to my mother who would patiently listen to my theories on what they meant, I would beg and plead for her to show me how to add and subtract letters and tell me the secrets they told.

    One day the books were gone. I don’t recall how she explained their absence but I do remember the brand new “banana skateboard” and her telling me I could ride it as much as I wanted (but to stay close).

    I have read many of the books on Dr. Brigg’s list but when it comes to Joyce I am grateful that mom taught me about skateboards.

  21. Kip Hansen

    What about the Russians? (War and Peace. Dr. Zhivago. Anna Karena) The British women? (Bronte sisters, Virginia Wolfe) The best of 20th century SciFi?

  22. John Moore

    One recommendation, based on decades old memory: “Stand on Zanzibar” by John Brunner. Science fiction that was prescient in some interesting ways.

    I was fortunate to have 60’s public high school teachers who made me read most of the works of fiction on your list. As an engineer from birth (both parents were also engineers), I wouldn’t have bothered. At a friend’s urging, I read Atlas Shrugged – not impressed then, and still not impressed – Rand is sociopathic.

    I shudder to imagine what today’s public high school students read. My daughter went to Catholic school as will my several grand-kids. That’s no guarantee (based on my daughter’s experience), but parochial schools are at least somewhat protected from cultural rot.

  23. Gary

    Create a list of books you want people to think you’ve read but haven’t so they think better of you? Sounds like a George Costanza trick.

  24. revGDright

    Crime and Punishment-started it a couple of times.
    Gravity’s Rainbow-got three quarters of the way through but was flunking thermodynamics at the time so I put it down.
    Emmanuel Kant-20 pages of “the Essential Kant” on a Greyhound bus trip.
    History of the English Speaking People-Got through volume I!
    The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind- Nailed it.
    Atlas Shrugged-Got through it all. Even the John Galt Speech.
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance-5 or 6 pages.
    Any novel by Neville Shute-I zip right through them even though they are corny as hell.
    The Making of the Atomic Bomb-read it.
    The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb-read it.
    The Soul of a New Machine-read it.
    The Tao of Physics-a chapter or two.
    On Thermonuclear War-reading it right now.
    Playboy-I used to say I read the articles.
    The CRC math tables-used them a lot after I dropped my metal Pickett and lost a significant digit in the Trig functions.

  25. An Engineer

    Here are some “off the beaten path classics” for your consideration:

    Bunts – George Wills
    Building Early America – Charles F. Peterson
    American Way of War – Russell F. Weigley
    Where and how the war was fought: An Arm Chair Tour of the American Revolution – William J. Casey

  26. Paul

    Don’t agree with his politics but Demon Haunted World from Carl Sagan is a good read if only for the fine art of baloney detection. Read Great Expectations in college and didn’t want to but ended up loving it.

    Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell is a good read. The beauty of Sowell is if I use his thoughts in an argument and the other person disagrees, I can call him or her a racist and immediately dismiss their ideas without having to discern if their argument actually had merit. Seems to work for the current administration.

  27. Rich

    The books people read are just another fashion with all the importance and absurdity attached to other fashions. If you live in a community where boasting is important you’ll boast about the books you read. Else not.

    I cannot believe no-one’s mentioned Asterix the Gaul.

  28. joeclark77

    It’s a journal called “The Federalist” and they didn’t even think of the Federalist Papers. I’d bet quite a lot of folks in the highest levels of our government would claim to have read them, although I guess they’re not technically a “book”, or didn’t start out that way.

    Don Quixote might be another one on the list. Everyone thinks they know that story, but most don’t. Romeo & Juliet (again not a “book”) certainly falls into that category. I wouldn’t be surprised if “The Lord of the Rings” is coming on to the list, since the movies are out and everyone thinks they know the story.

  29. Never read Les Miz [though I saw the 1935 March/Laughton/Hardwicke flick — Hunchback was my Hugo], Art of War, Tocqueville [straight-through, although I have pecked at his banquet], or Ulysses. I became mired in Moby Dick some 200 pages in. I found the first portion hysterically funny but the book lost its humor after that.


  30. Nate West

    I made it through Atlas Shrugged (as a 18yr old college freshman, of course). If you’re going to read any Rand, The Fountainhead is plenty. At least the characters are somewhat multi-dimensional.

    OTOOS – nope.
    Les Miserables – nope.
    A Tale of Two Cities – started. no plans to finish.
    1984 – doubleplus good. But Brave New World is better and more prescient.
    Democracy in America – started. need to go back to it.
    The Wealth of Nations – in the queue.
    Moby Dick – someday.
    The Art of War – started. no plans to finish.
    The Prince – in the queue.
    Ulysses – just.. no.

    I also started “The Sun Also Rises” and couldn’t get past the banality of the first 50 pages. To me, it read like a modern soap opera.. what am I missing? Are the people in his story supposed to be shallow?

    Kipling is on my list (never did get to read his children’s stories when I was a child).

    I enjoyed Catch-22 a lot, though it does get really, really depressing.

    I don’t like the modern separation of novels into “Genres”. There are some awful and some wonderful “fantasy”, “sci-fi”, and “alternate history” authors. There are probably even more awful “non-genre” writers. The worst is probably the notion of “children’s” literature, which is now separated into its own section to ensure that serious, adult, and deep literature is given its proper place.

  31. bernie1815

    Dear Abby:
    My wife reads gruesome murder mysteries all the time that, judging from the dust jacket, detail how to murder someone and leave no trace. Should I be concerned?

  32. Sheri

    bernie 1815: Nope. I watch crime shows, especially the serial killer ones, and my hubby’s still walking around! You might want to bring home a special gift now and then……

  33. bernie1815

    Are you talking about your fourth or fifth husband? 😉

  34. Sheri

    Very funny! Can I take the fifth? 🙂

  35. bernie1815

    Certainly not. Weren’t four enough?!

  36. Yonason


    A book report I wrote in Jr. High was on “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”, one of the most BORING books I’ve ever not completely read. Can’t remember what I got on my book report, but I do remember that I passed, so I must have read enough of it to deserve that. If nothing else the shear pain of enduring as much of it as I did, I should have gotten an A. I can’t believe that most people think Jules Verne was a science genius. I used to believe that, myself, until I did a simple calculation. The earth’s diameter is 7,918 mi, and 20,000 leagues is 69,047 mi. The man was a science illiterate.

    If you can get hold of “Hamlet’s Mill” by Santillana and Deschend, I highly recommend that. There are some ego excess flights of fancy early on, but they are endurable, and the book as a whole sheds a lot of light on Human history and the interplay of science and folklore.

    They explain why the “world” is, and has always been flat, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what the ancients meant by “world,” and also what it meant for one world to “end” and another to begin. (spoiler alert: see p. 235)

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