A while back now, the Guardian newspaper published an article with the title ‘Our guilty secrets: the books we only say we’ve read.‘ This immediately reminded me of the scene in David Lodge’s Changing Places, where two academics play a game called ‘Humiliation’. An obnoxious American professor of English literature wins the game by admitting he hasn’t read Hamlet, but because of that loses his job. But the article also reminded me of my own not-so-guilty secret. One of my A level set texts in English literature was Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbevilles. Well, here’s my secret; I read virtually every book by Thomas Hardy except Tess. In rapid succession I read Under the Greenwood Tree, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Wessex Tales and Jude the Obscure. My intention was entirely noble; I had wanted to read around the set text. But by the time I had read that little lot I had severely overdosed on Hardy and just couldn’t face yet another weighty tome. It took me another ten years before I finally managed to read Tess, but it didn’t matter. I passed the exam with flying colours – probably because I was able to lard my script with quotations from so many other works by the great Wessex author.