How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read - Pierre Bayard This lovely, philosophical book reminded me a lot of some of [a:Alain de Botton|13199|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 [a:James Frey|822|James Frey|]’s book [b:A Million Little Pieces|1241|A Million Little Pieces|James Frey||3140930]. My friend Sara recommended it to me – she may have even loaned me a copy. We talked about it before I read it. She was excited about it. I had heard a lot of buzz, but hadn’t read it yet. But we were able to have a conversation about the book I hadn’t read, based on my impressions of it and Sara’s excitement about it. It was published eight years ago. At this point I’ve forgotten most of it. But Sara and I could still talk about the book, even though we may have forgotten most of it. The things we remember about it will be different, and will have been bent, or glossed, by our personal experience of reading it. Perhaps we enjoyed certain parts, or questioned certain parts – those reactions will color our memories. The conversation would be interesting, based on our fragmented memories of the book.

I could talk to my friend Mark about the book. I don’t think he’s read it. Yet he and I could talk about it based on both my reading (and forgetting) the book, and his awareness of the book and the scandal surrounding it. We could talk about the scandal, about the value of the book on its own merits versus the misrepresentation of the book as truly autobiographical.

Mary Jo and I could have a different conversation about the book. I don’t think she’s read it either. Her participation in the discussion might be colored by being an English Lit major, or by her impression of me as an avid reader, or by other books she’s read which are autobiographical or about recovering addicts. We might discuss how the book is similar to, or different from, books we’ve both read. Thus we would base our conversation not on the book itself, but on our relationship to each other and to the canon of ‘books we’ve both read.’

All of these types of conversations are opportunities, according to Bayard, to talk about books we haven’t read. They are valuable; they give us opportunities to relate to one another, to learn more about the books we’ve read, and about books others have read. I enjoyed his thinking about these opportunities, and enjoyed his writing style. I recommend the book.