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Saturday, February 24, 2007

To read or not to read

My first reaction to this article in the New York Times was shock, then disappointment, to think that a university literature professor in Paris would write a book about how to pretend that you've read a book so you can talk about it with others or fake it in a class. Being an avid reader, I've never been able to understand why people do this. I had a brother-in-law who thought Reader's Digest Condensed Books were the best thing going for a businessman on an airplane; at least he was actually reading the books. But as I wondered about faking it for social purposes, it occurred to me that this could spawn a whole new generation of readers: people who buy books so they can pretend they read them, and then get interested in them while they're scanning for talk points or in a conversation about a book that takes them back to the book to see what it's really about. Maybe this professor is on to something. His book, “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read,” is a bestseller in France and will no doubt be available in translation in the near future.

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