DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Never Reading Again!

Written by: on October 10, 2018

At first, it appears ironic that a professor of literature advocates not reading but as you dig deeper into the book and understand who Pierre Bayard is, the elation of a student skipping out on reading assignments quickly wanes.

As a French based professor of literature, Pierre Bayard is an acknowledged non-reader and proud of it. Bayard says, “Because I teach literature at university level, there is, in fact, no way to avoid commenting on books that most of the time I have not even opened.”[1] At a deeper level what Bayard wants to convey is that because there are so many books to read and so little time to read, the real goal is to be able to enter into dialogue with another about the “sense” of the book and allow the culture of the conversation to shape us even more than the book itself. Bayard goal fits within the paradigm of Syntopical Reading that Adler proposes in How to Read a Book [2] in which one is to put books into conversation with each other to get a broader perspective on the subject. Bayard writes,

In truth we never talk about a book unto itself; a whole set of books always enters the discussion through the portal of a single title, which serves as a temporary symbol for a complete conception of culture. In every such discussion, our inner libraries — built within us over the years and housing all our secret books — come into contact with the inner libraries of others, potentially provoking all manner of friction and conflict.

For we are more than simple shelters for our inner libraries; we are the sum of these accumulated books. Little by little, these books have made us who we are, and they cannot be separated from us without causing us suffering.[3]

 

Bayard idea of the inner library is fascinating and speaks to an overall truth in life, which is, we are a summation of all the things we have seen, felt and done. We cannot separate life experiences one from another, and neither should we separate one piece of literature from another. Therefore, for Bayard expelling the negative social and cultural expectation of non-readers is paramount and advocates moving from an absolute linear position to a nonlinear and relative one. Again, Bayard states, “Only in accepting our non-reading without shame can we begin to take an interest in what is actually at stake, which is not a book but a complex interpersonal situation of which the book is less the object than the consequence.”[4] Removing shame from non-reading maybe one of the most significant points Bayard makes throughout the whole book. As the famous saying goes, I can tell where you will be in five years by the people you hang out with and the books you read, which inadvertently puts a lot of pressure on people to read, which can lead to shame. While I am still an advocate for reading and understand the statement, removing the shame of not reading and allowing for interpersonal shaping is a better narrative to live as a backdrop of our lives.

As leaders, we can learn a lot from Bayard’s How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read. His emphasis on removing shame from the equation is an excellent place to start and the area I want to highlight. Shame can keep people from stepping into opportunities to grow themselves or an organization. Dr. Brené Brown in dealing with shame says, “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change”[5] as good leaders’ part of the job is to help remove shame from the equation to create space for that innovation, creativity, and change to happen. The interpersonal skill of reading people is a necessity in every good leader, not so that one can take advantage of another, but to provide an advantage to the other, as they may not be able to see past their current situation because they lack the correct reading of the situation. It may be even more important for the leader to model vulnerability were possible in order to foster a culture that sees it as strength and not a weakness.

 

 

[1] Pierre Bayard, How to Talk about Books You Havent Read (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010), xv.

[2] Jerome Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014).

[3] Bayard, 73.

[4] Bayard, 129.

[5] “Vulnerability Is the Birthplace of Innovation, Creativity and Change: Brené Brown at TED2012.” TED Blog, accessed October 9, 2018, https://blog.ted.com/vulnerability-is-the-birthplace-of-innovation-creativity-and-change-brene-brown-at-ted2012/.

 

About the Author

Mario Hood

Most importantly, I am married to the love of my life, Misty Hood, and I'm kept on my toes all day every day, by my son Dalen and daughter Cola Hood. I also serve as the Next Generation Pastor at Church On The Living Edge in Orlando, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. Mark Chironna as well as being a Youth and Family Life coach.

11 responses to “Never Reading Again!”

  1. mm Karen Rouggly says:

    I appreciated this post so much. As one who struggles with shame about not reading enough (and one who LOVES Dr. Brene), I thought you articulated so well the freedom I felt when I read Bayard. Thanks for contributing to my continued process of living shame-free!

  2. mm Mary Mims says:

    Mario, I resonate with the idea of removing shame from not reading enough or doing enough. I do think we can learn a lot from listening to what others have to say about books and life in general. Your perspective is helpful in my processing new information which I may not be comfortable with. I guess Bayard’s theories are at work in our cohort.

    • Mario Hood says:

      Yes, I think there is a balance we can bring to everything, especially academic achievement. When we were in Hong Kong I was heartbroken at the fact that everything for those young people was based on their success in school. You could feel the weight as they talked about how their very lives depended on how well or bad they did. It made me look at myself and see what was the driving force in my studies and how I need to make sure I’m leaning into God’s grace as we go through this journey and the fear of failure or shame.

  3. The whole removing shame from ourselves because we can’t possibly read everything is a good thing. It’ll allow us to grow into areas we once fear and hopefully produce in us courage to attempt great things. In terms of acquiring knowledge through reading, I equate Bayard’s shameless approach to the idea of owning what one has learned. There are a lot of voices out there saying many things similarly and so what could make ours special or standout? I think it’s courage to say that “I’ve studied it the best I can but show me where I’m still lacking or show me what you think is good.” But we must first own it and not be ashamed. Thanks for the post.

    • Mario Hood says:

      This is a great perspective, Harry. Knowing our limitations is one of the first steps in knowing your strengths. So many times we try and ignore what we are lacking instead of owning it. As you said, when we own that part it actually brings more weight to the parts we do know and adds to the conversation.

  4. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hey there Mario. I was thinking about the whole inner library thing and wondered where it came from and how it was established. Bayard doesn’t seem to spend much time on it, so I’m figuring that the inner library comes from years of actually reading well. It’s hard to know how to categorise books if you have not done the work in the first place. I remember when I first started preaching, I wold spend 30 hours each week crafting sermons and making every word count – I was building a sermon library. 30 years later I have read so much and have such significant life experience that I can put sermons together with ease, even covering a broad range if theological reflections without lifting a hand to a theological tome. It doesn’t mean I no longer think, research and plan, but it takes a lot less time. What do you reckon? Does Bayard’s thesis require the hard yards of reading in the early years?

    • Mario Hood says:

      I would agree with this Digby. I’m sure some young fifteen year old who hears about his book will think I will never have to read anything but that’s just not the case. Once you have a deep inner library then there are some books you need not read and you will be able to craft a conversation around it.

  5. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    This makes me wonder what books some of us have in our own inner libraries. I am sure there are many we all share, but clearly there will be differences. Honestly, I am enjoying learning with and from everyone of you more so from those books in our inner libraries we most likely do not share. Thanks Mario!

  6. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Mario, I really appreciate your focus on shame and reading. I have often used the statement, “Leaders are readers!” I still believe that is true, but I will be redefining what a reader is. This will broaden that statement in a way that ALL people can do.

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