If civilized people are expected to have read all important works of literature, and thousands more books are published every year, what are we supposed to do in those awkward social situations in which were forced to talk about books we havent read? In this delightfully witty, provocative book, a huge hit in France that has drawn attention from critics around the world, literature professor and psychoanalyst Pierre Bayard argues that its actually more important to know a books role in our collective library than its details. Using examples from such writers as Graham Greene, Oscar Wilde, Montaigne, and Umberto Eco, and even the movie Groundhog Day, he describes the many varieties of non-reading and the horribly sticky social situations that might confront us, and then offers his advice on what to do. Practical, funny, and thought-provoking, How to Talk About Books You Havent Read is in the end a love letter to books, offering a whole new perspective on how we read and absorb them. Its the book that readers everywhere will be talking aboutand despite themselves, readingthis holiday season.
By all rights, I shouldn’t have to read this book. After all, Pierre Bayard begins with an epigraph from Oscar Wilde: "I never read a book I must review; it prejudices you so." But I did read it, swiftly, ferociously, and with a pen in hand. Many times I underlined a sentence I admired, such as this one: "He who pokes his nose into a book is abandoning true cultivation, and perhaps even reading itself." But just as often, I underlined in fierce disagreement. This book isn’t, finally, about books, but about book conversation, and I had a particularly lively one with it. (Reviewed by Amy Reading).
New York Books - Sam Anderson
[A] witty and useful piece of literary sociology, designed to bring lasting peace of mind to the scrupulous souls who grow anxious whenever the book-talk around them becomes too specific, and either say nothing or else say too much, only to feel bad later on at having faked first-hand acquaintance with authors or titles they know they’ve either never read or totally forgotten.
New York Times
It may well be that too many books are published, but by good fortune, not all must be read…A survivor’s guide to life in the chattering classes…evidently much in need.
A little too much impenetrable psychoanalytic jargon sometimes threatens to overwhelm Bayard's argument, but Bayard's at least partly tongue-in-cheek argument about not reading is well worth reading.
With rare humor, Bayard liberally rethinks the social use [of literature] and the position of the reader…Read or skim How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. Or simply listen to what people say about it so that you can talk about it with ease. In either case, you may not be able to forget it.
London Review of Books
Brilliant…A witty and useful piece of literary sociology, designed to bring lasting peace of mind to the scrupulous souls who grow anxious whenever the book-talk around them becomes too specific.
Clare Messud, author of The Emperor’s Children
I read and adored Pierre Bayard’s book. It's funny, smart, and so true—a wonderful combination of slick French philosophizing and tongue-in-cheek wit, and an honest appraisal of what it means, or doesn't mean, to read.
Pierre Bayard was born in 1954. He is a professor of literature
at the University of Paris VIII, as well a practicing psychoanalyst. He has
written over a dozen books, most of which have not been translated into English.
Bayard's best-known work in English prior to How to Talk
about Books You Haven't Read is a work of literary detection entitled Who
Killed Roger Ackroyd?, published in 2000. In this book, Bayard dares to
suggest that Hercule Poirot's solution to one of Agatha Christie's best-loved
mysteries, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is incorrect and that Christie
has deliberately deceived the casual reader. On his way to fingering the real
murderer, Bayard conducts a sustained investigation into the nature of detective
stories and the blind spots they exploit in hiding their solutions in plain
sight, which he extends to other literary genres as well. He writes, "Many
readers of fictional texts have at times...
Bloom's engaging prose and brilliant insights will send you hurrying back to old favorites and entice you to discover new ones. His ultimate faith in the restorative power of literature resonates on every page of this infinitely rewarding and important book.
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