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.