If cultured people are expected to have read all the significant works of literature, and thousands more are published each year, what are we supposed to do in those inevitable social situations where we’re forced to talk about books we haven’t read?
In this delightfully witty, provocative book, a huge hit in France that has drawn attention from critics and readers around the world, literature professor and psychoanalyst Pierre Bayard argues that not having read a book need not be an impediment to having an interesting conversation about it. (In fact, he says, in certain situations reading the book is the worst thing you could do). Using examples from such writers as Graham Greene, Oscar Wilde, Montaigne, and Umberto Eco, he describes the varieties of “non-reading”—from books that you’ve never heard of to books that you’ve read and forgotten—and offers advice on how to turn a sticky social situation into an occasion for creative brilliance. Practical, funny, and thought-provoking, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read is in the end a love letter to books, offering a whole new perspective on how we read and absorb them. It’s a book for book lovers everywhere to enjoy, ponder, and argue about—and perhaps even read.
Pierre Bayard is a professor of French literature at the University of Paris VIII and a psychoanalyst. He is the author of Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? and of many other books.
Jeffrey Mehlman is a professor of French at Boston University and the author of a number of books, including Emigré New York. He has translated works by Derrida, Lacan, Blanchot, and other authors.