Talking About Books You Haven’t Read

March 26, 2010 at 11:40 am 2 comments hosts a conversation between authors Pierre Bayard (How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read) and Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose) at the New York Public Library in November 2007.

In the July 26th edition of L’Espresso Eco writes, “The most intriguing part of this pamphlet, less paradoxical than may first appear, is that we forget a high percentage of the books we actually read, in fact, we conjure a virtual image of sorts, not so much of what the book said, but of what it made us think about.”

Bayard’s seemingly paradoxical book makes the case for literary laziness. In How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, Bayard argues that the key to appreciating the classics is through a quick skim, not deep immersion; cover to cover isn’t merely impractical, it’s downright passe.

It’s a fascinating discussion that ranges from reading to semiotics. The two-hour talk can be viewed here.


Entry filed under: Public Libraries, Recreational Reading.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Wong Jin Fu Shaun  |  April 11, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Firstly, I would like to say, this is very true for me. I have read many books in all my life, and I do not really remember what I have read. What I remember though, are the lessons that are I learn from those books and my thoughts and opinions when I read the books.
    For me, I read very, very slowly. I tend to read the book and understand each and every word and sentence and check the dictionary on any word that I do not know on. This has made me think a lot on what I have read and hence I can remember a great deal of my thoughts on what I have read. I would try what Bayard advices; to do a quick skim instead. As work starts piling up, this seems to be the best idea if I want to continue my reading habits.

    • 2. Jason Erik Lundberg  |  April 11, 2010 at 11:28 pm

      Shaun, I think that actually you get a better appreciation for the book if you do what you mention you do already. Savoring the language is what great writing is all about, and this gets passed by when we merely skim for content.


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