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How to talk about books you havent read

Zafar Anjum | Jan. 19, 2009
<i>Where there is a will, there is a way</i>as far as talking about books one hasnt read is concerned.

In Bayards opinion, saying that you havent read a particular book or taking about it is the same. As long as you have the courage, therefore, there is no reason not to say frankly that you havent read any particular book, nor to abstain from expressing your thoughts about it, he says. The experience of not having read a book is the most common of scenarios, and only in accepting our non-reading without shame can we begin to take an interest in what is actually at stake, which is not a book but a complex interpersonal situation of which the book is less the object than the consequence.

Authors place

According to Bayard, any book is not important per se. Its the authors place in the literary system that makes the book more or less valuable (just like a film is not important by itself, but if it is made by someone like Steven Spielberg, we immediately attach a certain kind of value to it). Quoting an example from a Balzac novel Lost Illusions, Bayard proves that it is the authors value, his place in the literary system, that determines the value of the book. Also, he says: An authors place in the literary system is eminently malleable, moreover, which means that the value of the book is malleable as well.

And read this. This would comfort you: In a world where opening a book in order to talk about it is laughable, any opinion is fine as long as you can defend it. The book itself, reduced to pure pretext, has, in a sense, ceased to exist.

Bayards discussion in his book mainly centres around examples from literature and cinema but I think we can extend his logic to management literature too. Read the book if you can and you will know. Next time, if someone asks you about Blink or The Outliers, you will feel confident in taking your conversation partner to a corner of the room and giving him or her a piece of your mind without sounding foolish or unimpressive. 

Zafar Anjum is the online editor of MIS Asia portal.  


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