How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read

A new book entertains the notion of how we can engage with those books that we haven't read, or only skimmed, or perhaps only heard about. 

"It is the very rhythm of what is read and what is not read that creates the pleasure of the great narratives," observed the French critic Roland Barthes in The Pleasure of the Text. After all, Barthes asks, "has anyone ever read Proust, Balzac, War and Peace, word for word? (Proust’s good fortune: from one reading to the next, we never skip the same passages)."


But what about the books we have not read? 

Another Frenchman, the University of Paris literature professor Pierre Bayard, has written a new book about how we can engage those books that we haven't read, or only skimmed, or perhaps only heard about. Bayard has us rethink books as part of a cultural system:

A book is an element in the vast ensemble I have called the collective library, which we do not need to know comprehensively in order to appreciate any one of its elements… The trick is to define the book’s place in that library, which gives it meaning in the same way a word takes on meaning in relation to other words.

Read Maria Popova's excellent review of Bayard's book here

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Scientists claim the Bible is written in code that predicts future events

The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.

Michael Drosnin
Surprising Science
  • Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
  • The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
  • Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.
Keep reading Show less

The mystery of Jesus’ brother gets even weirder

The controversy over whether Jesus had any siblings is reignited after an amazing new discovery of an ancient text.

Jesus and James. Unknown painter. Possibly 14th century.
Politics & Current Affairs
Keep reading Show less

Orangutans exhibit awareness of the past

Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club

(Eugene Sim/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
  • It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
  • This ability may come from a common ancestor
Keep reading Show less