02.1.2011

How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read

My sister has taken several history classes and one of them assigned the book How to You Read a Book You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard. Apparently, her professor told them that they amount of reading required for a history major means that some of the reading will never get done and this book was the answer to that.

You see, Bayard doesn’t believe that you have to actually read every book you talk about; the important thing is to know where the book fits into the collective library of your respective culture. Now, this collective library is important to note. This means the books that we casually reference, the books we all are assigned in the formative years of school work, the books that have shaped the culture we live in. This also means far more books than most people are even remotely interested in or books that a particular person may find unreadable.

Now, I think the most proper way to explain what this book is about is to make a confession. You remember in high school when I was assigned Moby Dick and Crime and Punishment? Yeah, I skimmed those books. As in, I read the first couple of chapters, some random chapters in the middle and the last few chapters. Yes, I talked and wrote about those books like I read every word and my teachers believed me. Bayard makes me proud of that and I will continue to talk about both of those books!

Offended yet by my gall? Or do you think Bayard has a point?

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