Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on October 4, 2016

CLIFF NOTES   When I entered college I was introduced to the Cliff Notes. Never heard of it? Well, it was a study guide which assisted many students in addressing what a book was about without reading the entire book.  The books I have read so far, I sort of wish I had cliff notes. Or should I say Spark Notes?

Bayard and Adler are a part of the same community, “read less and still know”, to help readers make it through books which fail to ignite the conscious of some readers. Adler’s book, “How to Read a Book”, addressed many aspects of reading, including the art of reading by skimming. Bayard’s book “How to Talk about books you have not Read” assist a reader in grasping certain aspects of the books’ context without reading it in its entirety. Both authors reveal there is an art to skimming and give their readers permission to do so.

I have skimmed many books in my time by highlighting the points I wanted to remember or make note of for a future purpose. In our BYCE Ministries reading tutorial services, we encourage and practice with our students the effectiveness of skimming a reading passage during standardize tests. Bayard states that “skimming books without actually reading them does not in any way prevent you from commenting on them. It’s even possible that this is the most efficient way to absorb books…without getting lost in the details. Such, in any case, was the opinion—and the declared practice of that master of non-reading Paul Valery.” (Kindle, 15) Valery did not read much but could communicate with others about an author and their book. He was stated by Bayard as “achieving fame in the world of literary criticism by challenging the traditional way of reviewing an author’s work.” (Kindle, 15)

Adler and Bayard both used other authors’ work as examples in their efforts to demonstrate their teachings. This method of demonstration utilizing many examples affected my ability to see the details, therefore I exercised what Bayard empowered readers to do; I skimmed over them. Bayard states, “The notion of skimming or flipping through books can be understood in at least two different senses. In the first case, the skimming is linear…starts skipping lines or pages…the second case, the skimming is circuitous: rather than read in an orderly fashion, the reader takes a stroll through the work, sometimes beginning at the end.”  (Kinder, 29) Bayard submitted captions of the content of each chapter under the chapter titles which was a useful tool to guide you through the book. This pattern was more my cup of tea. From the information provided to me, I could make my own reading choice.

Bayard, carved a few pages in this book using the example of the Proustian habit. He states that “you don’t need to have read Proust to be aware of it; you need merely open his work to any page to observe this technique in action. Second, it is a strategic choice in that it justifies Valery’s own approach since Proust’s habits of drawing associations from the smallest detail might seem to encourage a critic to do likewise with Proust’s work, as opposed to actually reading it.” (Kindle 18-19) In reading a book, you get to know the author by looking at the author’s pattern or habit. Their style repeats throughout the text.

Comment: Why authors writing on how to read a book effectively avoid presenting only the main points rather than adding useless words to make more pages? Oh yeah, it wouldn’t qualify as a book.

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

10 responses to “A NOTE TO ME”

  1. Geoff Lee says:

    Hi Lynda
    These books are, in a sense, giving us permission to skim over books at the surface level, or even not to read them at all. I totally understand the need to do this for extensive reading and study, but I still wonder how much we then end up with a lot of subjective commentary, rather than substantive discussion of objective content? Bayard’s reference to the ability of the critic to write anything he wants – positive or negative – regardless of the real merits of a book, seems to prove this point.

  2. Jim Sabella says:

    I too wonder about the skimming effect. In one point Bayard even recommends that books take a life of their own once published. Being creative and even making something up when discussing a book you haven’t read is fair game. Interesting concept! Good post Lynda.

  3. Lynda Gittens says:

    I agree with you Geoff and Jim. We can skim insufficiently and have nothing but skin and not enough meat from their message. With the volume of reading we have for this class and our papers, skimming is my first choice.

  4. Katy Lines says:

    “In reading a book, you get to know the author by looking at the author’s pattern or habit. Their style repeats throughout the text.”
    As you probably already share in your tutorial services, if you’ve read multiple books by the same author, you quickly discover their style and know what to look for to gain the gist of what they’re saying and how you want to respond to the variations in their texts. And in writing/discussing my response about a text, my tendency is to duplicate the authors’ style in my own writing.

    • Lynda Gittens says:

      Hey Kathy,

      That is one good point that authors do have a style they use consistently in their writing. With our reading resources, we probably will not have that luxury of reading the same author’s materials.
      I am glad you brought out sharing that tip with our tutorials. I will ensure to include that point in the future.

  5. Mary Walker says:

    “Bayard states that ‘skimming books without actually reading them does not in any way prevent you from commenting on them. It’s even possible that this is the most efficient way to absorb books…without getting lost in the details.'” There are many books that I believe this is true for, Lynda. I feel like I need to take a step back and assess a book as Adler suggested. Then I will decide if I have time to savor it, skim it, or ‘hopscotch’ through it. As Katy said, knowing an author helps to find what is important in the book. I think as we study for the DMin we will need to do all three.
    I really enjoyed your post!

  6. Lynda Gittens says:

    I agree with you Mary, We need every hint, tip, guide, and tool to get through our readings and to be able retain the important information we need to be successful.

  7. Lynda, it was interesting hearing the patterns you noted in reading the book and how it was a better fit for you. Of all the books read thus far, I would agree, this was the best fit for me too. I liked his writing style and his patterns as well, but you helped give words to this for me. It’s refreshing how he gives you a lot of validation in skimming and reading whatever you want and what pertains to you.

  8. Lynda, your notes about patterns, both Bayard’s and other authors’, struck me as pretty important. I am more likely to read in depth and author whose pattern is comfortable for me, and getting to know a particular author’s pattern is helpful for me when trying to pull the important points out of a text. I think the problem I had with the Pink text is that I had no familiarity with the author or subject matter so I had to “build the relationship” from scratch. I’m not sure how to change that, but it helps to understand it.

  9. Lynda Gittens says:

    Jennifer and Kristin thank you for your comments.

    Yes, his books were easier to read or maneuver through. Kristin your comment about building a relationship with the author from scratch was my truth with her. I did find one area where we could relate and left it at that.

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