Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read (2007), teaches you exactly what the title says: How to talk about books you haven’t read. It’s a funny read that shows that people can actually talk about books they haven’t encountered at a scholarly level. This is because Bayard argues that we shouldn’t think of books as existing within a vaccum. Rather, we should approach “books as a system,” where books exist in relation to each other.
My colleage, Dexter, casually brought up Bayard in a seminar in spring 2015 within the context of trying to understand the position of books within a historiographic field. At that moment, Bayard’s acknowledgement that it’s OK to not have read a book came as a huge relief. Reading for me has changed. Now when I read, I try to figure out where in the network does each book lie.
Read this book if: You’re a bibliohile and/or you’re in university. You’ll approach books and reading differently and with more confidence.
Avoid this book if: You don’t like French academics.