Secrets of the Readers' Advisors: Revealed!

I think we’ve been outed.

Pierre Bayard has blatantly stated what we librarians only whisper to each other in dark corners of conferences, confess in encrypted emails to our closest pals, grudgingly admit over the fourth or fifth bookardi and cola at Librarian’s Anonymous meetings.

We haven’t read everything.

In his soon-to-be published treatise, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, Bayard not only condones not reading everything (and logically points out the impossibility of this endeavor), he encourages the practice.

“Being culturally literate means being able to get your bearings quickly in a book, which does not require reading the book in its entirety–quite the opposite, in fact. One might even argue that the greater your abilities in this area, the less it will be necessary to read any book in particular.”

In the first section of his book, Bayard is not dismissing reading altogether, merely pointing out that choosing what to read also means choosing what not to read. These are choices readers must make with every book plucked off a shelf. For Readers’ Advisors, who are already well aware of all the choices available, this is an agonizing truth. The proficiency of a Readers’ Advisor lies in the ability to glean as much as possible from as many books as possible, place them in cultural context, and maintain perspective regarding the relationship of one book to another. In this way “anyone who truly cares about books…masters all of them at once.” 

Bayard  Interesting theories to chew on.



About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

2 Comments on "Secrets of the Readers' Advisors: Revealed!"

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  1. Keir says:

    Kaite, a wee bit more about Bayard here. I think Bayard makes some good points — I often wish I were better at putting down books than I am at picking them up — but the idea of embracing not-reading is still somewhat painful to me. I still want to read everything. Unrequited love, I guess.

  2.' Rita Vogel says:

    I hate to feel cheated. For example, when the opportunity to correct both my farsighted and nearsighted vision by wearing one contact for each presented itself, I tried it and denied it. I’m told with repeated practice, your brain adjusts to it. The idea of one eye seeing things close up and the other seeing the landscape made me feel that I’m missing half of everything. This could be totally ignorant of me, but I’d rather wear glasses.
    Now, the business of skimming. One can’t read everything, but one should treat herself to the best. I hate abridged books because I don’t trust those who remove chunks of stories. I don’t want anyone else panning for my gold.
    One can appreciate the irony in an author’s suggesting you don’t read books. I doubt that talk show hosts read every author who guests on their shows. Anything less than reading cover to cover seems like cheating to me. However, if one confesses to it, as Bayard seems to, I see nothing wrong in admitting, “I haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard/read blurbs, etc.

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