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How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  1,754 ratings  ·  428 reviews
This is a book that will challenge everyone who's ever felt guilty about missing some of the 'great books' to consider what reading means, how we absorb books as part of ourselves, and how and why we spend so much time talking about what we have, or haven't, read.
Hardcover, 185 pages
Published July 1st 2009 by Granta, (first published January 1st 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Manny
Most of the people who criticize this book are referring to the English translation How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read. If you take the trouble to consult the original French edition, you'll see all sorts of clever allusions to the intertextual tradition that has grown up in Continental Philosophy over the last 40 years, many of which are lost in the transition to a different language. When Derrida observed that nous sommes tous des bricoleurs, he was stating a daring new thesis. Now, when ...more
David
This book, which I read in its entirety, is about 25% sensible commentary wrapped in an irritating froth of supercilious bullshit. Professor Bayard has a number of observations to make about the whole exercise of reading, some of which are insightful and on point and many of which are bloody obvious. The irritating part is that each little nugget is presented with the kind of self-congratulatory smugness befitting a Faberge egg. But, for the most part, the professor doesn't scintillate nearly as ...more
Cosimo
To read or not to read

“Intessuto di fantasmi che appartengono a ciascun individuo e delle nostre private leggende, il libro interiore individuale è attivo nel nostro desiderio di lettura, e cioè nel modo in cui cerchiamo e poi leggiamo dei libri. E' questo l'oggetto fantasmatico in cerca del quale vive ogni lettore, del quale i libri migliori che incontrerà nel corso della sua vita non saranno che dei frammenti imperfetti, stimolandolo con ciò a proseguire la lettura”.

Il saggio di Bayard, un te
...more
Jason Pettus
This is one of four newish books I recently read mostly so I could finally get them off my queue list, all of which were actually pretty good but are mere wisps of manuscripts, none of them over 150 pages or so in length. This one is the surprisingly thoughtful 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 exami ...more
Debnance
Catchy title. Was it a parody? Was the author writing in earnest? I heard an interview with the author on NPR and realized there might be more to this book than I’d initially thought.

Bayard defintes “books you haven’t read” broadly, including the obvious “books never opened”, but adding “books skimmed”, “books you’ve heard about but that you’ve never read”, and “books you’ve read but that you’ve forgotten.” Whew! That doesn’t leave much to put into the book log for the year, does it? How many bo
...more
Alexa Garvoille
Jan 05, 2008 Alexa Garvoille rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: High School English Teachers, Reader-Response Theory Junkies
I should say as a disclaimer that I actually took a course with Pierre Bayard at the Université de Paris 8 a few years back and would like to share two observations on that point: first, the course I took was titled "Madame Bovary," yet at no point in the course did we actually read Flaubert; second, Bayard is much more engaging (not to mention friendlier and less pompous) in print.
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Bayard's playful essay-livre is a simple retelling of Reader-Response Theory crafted for the thoughtfully self-a
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K.D. Absolutely
Dec 28, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Tata J as birthday gift in 2009
This books tries to make us all less guilty about not reading books. I agree that in reality we will never have time to read all the books even those that critics recommend in say 1001 BOOKS YOU MUST READ BEFORE YOU DIE or even the shorter 501 MUST READ BOOKS. We can browse and skim and claim that we were able to read them all but who are we fooling?

This is precisely why Bayard, a college literature professor in Paris came up with this sensational book: it teaches us how to not read a book but s
...more
Izumen
Въпреки че е написана увлекателно и се позовава на интересни случаи в световната литература, книгата на Байяр не е нищо повече от популистки трик, чрез който да угоди на вечно гузното мнозинство, което не обича да чете.
Stela Markova
Обожавам тази книга. Препрочитам я с наслада, защото култивира две от най-важните неща - способността за ориентация в "колективната библиотека" (присъща единствено на културния и образован читател), както и критичното и аналитично потребление в необятното информационно море.
Laine Bergeson
This is a dense but strangely delightful book by a French philosopher, Pierre Bayard, about the act of reading a book and why, at it's core, reading a book is about the same as not reading a book and how, pretty much, we could practically be the author of a book and still manage not to have read it. Somehow his argument makes complete sense — and none at all — all at the same time.

Perhaps what I enjoyed most about the book is the irony inherent in reducing the act of reading to an act of non-re
...more
X-ray Iris
Didn't actually read it--I didn't care for the design. So I suppose I shouldn't have it on the "read" shelf. I got the sense of the thing, and it spent a lot of time on my night table. But I already know, anyway, how to talk about books I haven't read.
Wayne
Jun 28, 2014 Wayne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cheats,liars,...most folks I guess!!!
Recommended to Wayne by: a non-reader

Pierre Bayard ISN'T THAT DUMB !!!!!!!

Perhaps he's just being very TRES FRANCAIS ???
He's certainly CLEVER
therefore...WITTY.
So...THOUGHT PROVOKING.

Only a DUMBO would try to talk about a book they hadn't read.
(I doubt if a DUMBO could 'GET' this book anyway.)
It'a about LOTS of other very amusing ideas to do with books,
and so should be readily lapped up by...
well,like people on...
...GOODREADS, of course!!!!
(although we have ALL met those we regard as DUMBOS on Goodreads
and WE sure AREN'T them !!!?
...more
Liz
it sounds like it's gonna be some smarmy satire on the pretensions of the chattering classes but it's not like that at all. bayard argues that talking about books you haven't read requires an understanding of their context, the larger narratives they draw on, the reactions they provoke, and the function they fulfill; that it fosters creativity, human connection through sparkling conversation, and the reinterpretation of texts to fit social needs; that nobody has ever and can ever read all of the ...more
Ryan Barrett
Maybe I should have taken the author's advice and written this without reading the book. :P

I couldn't tell how much was serious and how much was a joke. Not a great sign. My sense of humor may not be refined enough, but of his main points, only one made sense to me:

1) Reading/not reading a book isn't binary but a spectrum. You can hear about a book, read parts of it, read it and then forget some of it, or even forget you read it at all. (OK.)

2) We all interpret books differently, and our interpr
...more
Miguel Teles
Despite the title suggesting, on a first encounter, that this could be a frivolous and empty book (as one more of those How To...) reading it reveals us afterall a comic and ingenious exposition of a literary/literary criticism theory, the reader-response theory (for another metaphor on this issue read the equally humourous and cunning Jorge Luis Borges in his "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" from Ficciones).

Besides that, the author introduces to us interesting concepts as collective libra
...more
John Schwabacher
It was kind of a surprise to find that this book is actually fairly serious. Bayard argues that it is simplistic to say you've "read" or "haven't read" a given book. More important is whether you can place the book in relation to literature as a whole. He posits a whole range of "books", including "screen books", phantom books", and "inner books". These distinctions have to do with one's experiences of books individually and relative to others's conceptions of the same "actual" book.
Each chapter
...more
Rebecca
This philosophical book touting the benefits of not reading books one wants to discuss in order to access the full meaning is thought-provoking and mind-bending. M. Bayard makes incredibly provocative arguments for his case and I found this work quite an enjoyable read.

Bayard's theories have cut me to the quick; He has called my bluff on many reasons why I read and brings up so many thoughts/issues I have felt regarding the urgency and necessity to read as many books as possible in this short li
...more
Sarah
A true masterpiece of postmodern criticism, simultaneously absurd, self-mocking, and absolutely serious. Bayard argues that we’ve created a false dichotomy: books we’ve read and books we haven’t and proposes a more accurate taxonomy: “unread,” “skimmed,” “heard about,” “forgotten.” In each chapter Bayard uses literary examples of characters talking about books they haven’t read to develop his argument that reading is elusive: “It is first difficult to know whether we ourselves have read a book, ...more
Katherine Cowley
If Pierre Bayard was in charge of Goodreads, the three standard categories (Read, Currently Reading, Want to Read) would be entirely eliminated. Instead there would be: Books that are unknown to me (I don't know about them and am not aware of them); Books that I have skimmed; Books that I have heard about (you can know lots about Romeo and Juliet even if you've never read the play); and finally, Books that I have Forgotten.

You will note that there is no category for having read a book, for as so
...more
Steve H
Based only on the title I was hoping this book might have some practical application to my work in libraries and doing reader’s advisory. Nope. What I experienced was a book with varying levels of comedy and philosophy. For instance, the author uses a two-part rating system to refer to books referenced in the work from “Book I have read/skimmed/forgotten – Extremely Positive Opinion” to “Book I am unfamiliar with – Extremely Negative Opinion.” That’s about as funny as it got for me.
The philosop
...more
Cara
I did not really understand this book, except the part about the movie Groundhog Day, which apparently I don't have on DVD. But that's ok, because the author doesn't think you really need to read books, much less understand them, in order to talk about them. If I did not know the author was French, I think I would have guessed it. Take from that what you will. I wonder if the DVD for Groundhog Day has a French audio track? Maybe I could enjoy the movie on a whole new level if I watch it in Frenc ...more
Bibliovégévore
J’ai mis plusieurs mois à rédiger cet avis car je crois qu’il me fallait du temps pour me remettre de cette lecture. Il s’agit tout simplement de la lecture la plus agaçante qu’il m’ait été donnée de faire. A aucun moment, l’auteur, professeur de littérature française à l’université Paris 8, ne parle de l’élément premier d’une bonne lecture : le plaisir de lire.

Pour moi, en tant que lectrice passionnée, et future professionnelle du livre, il m’est tout simplement inconcevable de ne pas aborder c
...more
Sias
When you meet somebody, you form an opinion about him/her in a matter of minutes. Deciding if you like or dislike somebody doesn't take long. Really getting to know somebody takes a little longer, but you don't have to take ages to form a definite opinion about what he is like. This initial opinion forms the basis of your future view of him, although your opinion might change quite a bit as time passes.
This is the basic strategy that Pierre Bayard proposes we should follow with books as well. Re
...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Catchy title. Was it a parody? Was the author writing in earnest? I heard an interview with the author on NPR and realized there might be more to this book than I’d initially thought.

Bayard defines “books you haven’t read” broadly, including the obvious “books never opened”, but adding “books skimmed”, “books you’ve heard about but that you’ve never read”, and “books you’ve read but that you’ve forgotten.” Whew! That doesn’t leave much to put into the book log for the year, does it? How many bo
...more
Angela
Jul 30, 2011 Angela added it
I'd recommend this book to anyone considering a degree in literature. It proves that you don't have to read every last page of every last 'literary' text in order to speak intelligently about them. Often, just knowing their place in society is enough.

When you think about it, it's stupid to force our way through books we hate reading. I love Bayard's take on why we do this: 'the truth of culture, which is that it is a theatre charged with concealing individual ignorance and the fragmentation of k
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I was looking for a resource to help the students in my music research class learn how to understand what a book included without reading it, particularly when needing to work through a lot of material and evaluating resources for potential research topics. A colleague recommended this book to me, and it did have some helpful tidbits I will be able to use with my class.

I don't disagree with the author in the sense that I think you don't necessarily need to have read a book in order to understand
...more
Tom
Dec 12, 2007 Tom rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Theory-types
Bayard explores the oft-overlooked reader-responce theory with an expanded definition of "reader". His overall argument is that it is not so important to have read an "actual" book as it is to have an understanding of the book as it exists in within society and within both the collective and individual psyche. Through this understanding of the "essence" of a book - which Bayard argues is clouded by ones choice to read one book, and thus passively not-read every other book - one is more free to a ...more
Margie
Jul 12, 2013 Margie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Margie by: Daedalus
Shelves: about-books
This lovely, philosophical book reminded me a lot of some of Alain de Botton’s books. Light and engaging, but deeply philosophical as well. Bayard proposes many instances in which we talk about books we haven’t read. He does so while examining human behavior and books as transactional relationships.

Whilst reading, I thought a great deal about James Frey’s book A Million Little Pieces. My friend Sara recommended it to me – she may have even loaned me a copy. We talked about it before I read it. S
...more
Jo
This is both a great satire and incredibly dense. The author, a Professor of French literature, espouses the virtues of non-reading which he codifies into a few specific categories: skimmed books, books have heard of, and books we have read but forgotten...etc. Everyone, in some sense, is a non-reader. As the author points out, even the most voracious readers can only read so many books, and for every book one chooses, 'all the other books in the universe' are put aside. He proposes that even if ...more
Lobo
http://olvasonaplo.net/olvasonaplo/20...

A kötet azért nem olyan emberekhez szól, akik nem szeretnek vagy akarnak olvasni, inkább azokat menti fel mindenféle kötelezettség alól, akik kicsit kétségbeesnek, hogy rengeteg olvasnivaló van de az idő meg véges. Igazából lehet úgy is beszélgetni könyvekről, hogy nem olvassuk őket végig alaposan. Sőt Bayard szerint minél több saját gondolatot adunk hozzá egy általunk akár csak hallomásból ismert műhöz, annál jobban szolgáljuk az irodalmat és gazdagítjuk
...more
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Pierre Bayard (born 1954) is a French author, professor of literature and connoisseur of psychology.

Bayard's recent book Comment parler des livres que l'on n'a pas lus?, or "How to talk about books you haven't read", is a bestseller in France and has received much critical attention in English language press.

A few of his books present revisionist readings of famous fictional mysteries. Not only do
...more
More about Pierre Bayard...
Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?: The Mystery Behind the Agatha Christie Mystery Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of The Hound of the Baskervilles Aurais-je été résistant ou bourreau ? Le plagiat par anticipation Il existe d'autres mondes

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“The books we love offer a sketch of a whole universe that we secretly inhabit, and in which we desire the other person to assume a role.

One of the conditions of happy romantic compatibility is, if not to have read the same books, to have read at least some books in common with the other person—which means, moreover, to have non-read the same books. From the beginning of the relationship, then, it is crucial to show that we can match the expectations of our beloved by making him or her sense the proximity of our inner libraries.”
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“Criticism demands infinitely more culture than artistic creation.” 5 likes
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