Note — Sep 20, 2020

How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read

Seen in → No.142

Source → brainpickings.org/2012/06/15/how-to-talk-ab...

Maria Popova at Brain Pickings with lots of quotes and her own comments on Pierre Bayard’s How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read and I just absolutely love what he’s saying. I might start using his “notation system for the different levels of non-reading and subjective interpretation” which, in a way, reminded me of the known-unknown quadrants.
(Via the reliably insightful Jay Owens.)

[T]his taboo subject that makes a case for reading not as a categorical dichotomy but as a spectrum of engaging with literature in various ways, along different dimensions — books we’ve read, books we’ve skimmed, books we’ve heard about, books we’ve forgotten, books we’ve never opened. […]

As cultivated people know (and, to their misfortune, uncultivated people do not), culture is above all a matter of orientation. Being cultivated is a matter not of having read any book in particular, but of being able to find your bearings within books as a system, which requires you to know that they form a system and to be able to locate each element in relation to the others. The interior of the book is less important than its exterior, or, if you prefer, the interior of the book is its exterior, since what counts in a book is the books alongside it. […]

Non-reading is not just the absence of reading. It is a genuine activity, one that consists of adopting a stance in relation to the immense tide of books that protects you from drowning. On that basis, it deserves to be defended and even taught. […]

More → So far I’ve only skimmed Andy Matuschak’s Why books don’t work and I’m not sure I agree but looks interesting. Also; Shelf worth – how shelving became the status symbol of 2020.