Hands Up If You’ve Read Don Quixote

A survey commissioned ahead of World Book Day by The Reading Agency discovered that most adults wished that they had more time to read.

It also unearthed the fact that many people have never read the books they claim to have done, often having seen televised or film versions of them instead.  The list of books people most lie about having read include:

  1. The James Bond novels.
  2. Lord of the Rings
  3. The Chronicles of Narnia
  4. The Da Vinci Code
  5. The Hunger Games
  6. Trainspotting
  7. The Wizard of Oz
  8. Bridget Jones’s Diary
  9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  10. The Godfather
  11. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  12. Gone Girl
  13. The Kite Runner

I was feeling pretty smug about my own reading habits going through the list: James Bond novels, yes, read every one of them from Casino Royale to Octopussy, plus every subsequent novel, whether it be penned by John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver, William Boyd or Anthony Horowitz; Lord of the Rings, yes, read The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, plus The Hobbit to boot; never read the Chronicles of Narnia as a child, and realistically am not going to read them now as an adult; The Da Vinci Code, check, read that; haven’t read The Hunger Games; have read Trainspotting, tricky Scottish idiom and all; no to The Wizard of Oz; no to Bridget… you know, let’s just forget about the rest of the list.

Many years earlier, back in 2002, a survey of 100 authors were asked to name their favourite book.  Canvassing more than 50% more votes than any other book, and topping the poll of authors’ favourites books was Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

Ben Okri said: “If there is one novel you should read before you die, it is Don Quixote.”

Now it is a funny thing with Don Quixote.  Whenever you hear anyone talk about it, they always quote the famous sequence when Don Quixote and his faithful companion Sancho Panza encounter a large group of windmills on the plains of La Mancha.  I say Don Quixote, you say windmills.

Don Quixote’s encounter with the windmills happens in Chapter 8 of the novel.  In a novel, which typically runs to 52 chapters in most translations, this encounter has to be regarded as one that happens fairly close to the start of the book.  Now, I have never heard anyone recount an event, which happens close to the end of Don Quixote.  Why not?  I would suggest that it is because no one actually reads it all the way to the end.  I reckon that Don Quixote is the most lied about book, which people­­––particularly 100 authors––claim to have read but never really have.

Now, I am going to put my hand up here.  I’ve never read it either.  I only got to the bit about the windmills.

© Fergus Longfellow


Fergus Longfellow was always the most keen pupil in his class.



  1. […] I started out reading Don Quixote.  I mounted my trusty horse; had my faithful companion by my side; and I started out reading Don Quixote.  But I only got to the bit about the windmills.  And I don’t think that I am alone.  I’ve said it before, but no one who professes to have read Don Quixote ever talks about anything b…. […]


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