May. 7th, 2017

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Pierre Bayard "How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read" (Bloomsbury)





This is a surprisingly thoughtful rumination on books.

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read,  by a hip French literature professor named Pierre Bayard,; because make no mistake, this is not exactly a practical how-to guide to faking your way through cocktail parties, but more a sneaky examination of what it means to "read" a book anyway, if by "read" you mean "understand, relate to, can recall details of, and can discuss with others."

After all, if we read a book as a child and then completely forget its story as an adult, do we still get to count that as a "read" book?

Bayard gets into all kinds of interesting questions like this, ultimately arguing that the most important thing we can do as readers is understand the entire time period that book is a result of; in the goal of accomplishing that, then, he argues that it's perfectly okay to just read the Cliff Notes of famous huge books you know you're never going to get around to actually reading, perfectly okay to discuss a book at a cocktail party you're familiar with but haven't actually sat down and scanned each and every page. This is how we learn, he argues, how we grow as both humans and patrons of the arts; every Wikipedia entry we read, every conversation we fake our way through, every BBC adaptation we check out, ultimately helps us understand the full-length books we do sit and closely read from the beginning to the end, which is why we shouldn't be ashamed of any of these activities but rather proud of them.

Funny, smart, and very French; a very fun afternoon of reading.

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