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A discussion of various aspects of reading; some good points, but much of it is blindingly obvious.

  • Sep 12, 2010

This book, which I read in its entirety, is about 25% sensible commentary wrapped in an irritating froth of supercilious b---s---. 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 much as he imagines.

The title is somewhat misleading - Bayard is not interested in providing you with a bluffer's guide. Instead, his tongue-in-cheek advocacy of non-reading is used as a point of departure to explore the whole exercise of reading from a variety of perspectives. An odd feature of the book is the amount of time spent exhorting us to overcome the feelings of guilt and inadequacy we are assumed to experience because we read so little. The assumption seems ill-founded and says more about the author's potential insecurities than anything else.

So, the book is sporadically witty and makes a number of decent points. Why didn't I like it more? Probably because it is neither as witty or as clever as the author obviously believes it to be

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review by . October 24, 2008
Translated from the French by Jeffrey Mehlman    Writing a review of this book after reading it is somewhat problematic for several reasons. I selected it based on the idiosyncratic and seemingly tongue-in-cheek title, because of a propensity I have been accused of indulging in the past, particularly related to movies I haven't seen.    Turns out, Bayard is quite serious, and maybe quite right. Selecting a particular book to read entails, especially in today's …
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Praise for How to Talk About Books You Havent Read:
"I probably shouldn't bring any of this up, but Mr. Bayard holds that one of the best reasons for reading a book is that it allows you to talk about yourself. How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read is an amusing disquisition on what is required to establish cultural literacy in a comfortable way. Lightly laced with irony, the book nonetheless raises such serious questions as: What are our true motives for reading? Is there an objective way to read a book? What do we retain from the books we've read?"--Joseph Epstein, Wall Street Journal
“Witty and charming and often fun.”—Sam Anderson, New York Magazine
"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."--Clare Messud, author of The Emperor’s Children

“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.”—New York Times

"In this work of inspired nonsense -- which nevertheless evokes our very real sense of insecurity about the gaps in our cultural knowledge -- reading is not only superfluous, it is meaningless. Our need to appear well-read is ...

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ISBN-10: 1596914696
ISBN-13: 978-1596914698
Author: Pierre Bayard
Genre: Literary Theory
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
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