review of… Pierre Bayard’s “How Do You Talk About Books You Haven’t Read”

Pierre Bayard’s “How Do You Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” is a tour de force. While it promotes ideas that some will rebel against, even hate, I think that the details, how he really gets to the heart of the matter, will appeal to a great many readers. His plan helps people avoid the embarrassment of admitting a lack of reading time, and it amounts to light skimming and heavy lying. I can’t get into specifics in this short review, but some of the elements involve gleaning information from other sources (like reviews, or skimming a bit of the book itself, like maybe the jacket, or the author’s bio or the calaphon) and avoiding details which could trip you up. Be general seems to be the over-riding theme of Bayard’s book. Given that he is French, I think we can see why he might feel that way.
In the end the usefullness of this book lies in the time it saves more than the social awkwardness it remedies. With so much time reclaimed from the torture of reading actual books you give yourself the freedom to pursue other projects. Mr. Bayard, for instance, appears to have had time to write a book about not reading. While I find his bibliography highly suspect, I applaud the time and effort put into such a finely written and easily reviewed book.

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