We live in a world consumed with knowledge. According to Berrett-Koehler Publishers there were over 700,000 books self-published in 2015. In 2013 over 300,000 books were published by traditional publishers. To date there are well over 1 million books self-published every year. A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked by a book seller. The importance of knowing where and what to spend precious reading time on is a valid concern. According to google, self-publishers sell around 250 copies total of the book they publish. Needless to say, being an author seems a bit less prestigious for some reason. But yet, there is still an innate drive for individuals to put their thoughts into print.
Despite the enormous abundance of printed material there is something magical about a bookstore. Especially a well-stocked used bookstore. As a person that loves books not only for their content but for their appearance and feel I found Pierre Bayard’s book How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read intriguing. As both a professor of literature and a psychoanalyst it is apparent that part of the purpose of this book was to challenge the reader to look at books as more than information, as well as, to give the understanding that books provide a broad understanding of culture. Maria Popova in her critic while discussing the books states it this way. “Literature becomes not a container of absolute knowledge but a compass for orienteering ourselves to and in the world and its different contexts, books become not isolated objects but a system of relational understanding.”
Though I think Bayard’s tongue and cheek humor was wasted on me I did appreciate his approach when he discusses the value of maintaining a proper perspective to reading. “For there is necessarily a choice to be made, given the number of books in existence, between the overall view and each individual book, and all reading is a squandering of energy in the difficult and time-consuming attempt to master the whole.” How many individual books does a person have to read before they lose the big picture of why they were reading those particular books in the first place? Is it possible to be so enamored with the microscopic the we lose touch with the whole? The constant diagnosis of the meticulous can become a form of depersonalizing the process.
I find it easy at times to lose myself in a book, as well as, find a sense of personal identity in the things I read. “books – whether read or unread – form a kind of second language to which we can turn to talk about ourselves, to communicate with others, and to defend ourselves in conflict. Like language, books serve to express us, but also to complete us, furnishing, through a variety of excerpted and reworked fragments, the missing elements of our personality.” Books in many ways have an ability to level the playing field through allowing the reader to draw and relate to another person’s experiences, as well as, perspectives.
In the movie InkHeart Brendon Frazier plays the part of Mortimer Folchart who unknowingly has the gift of being a Silver tongue. In the opening part of the movie he is seen reading to his daughter the story of Little Red Riding Hood as he reads a red hood appears out of nowhere and his wife is found to be missing. As the movie unfolds the audience becomes aware that as a gifted Silver tongue reads a book out loud something is drawn from the story into reality and in turn something from reality is sucked back into the book. Part of what Bayard unfolds is the concept of “our inner books.” They “act as a filter and determines the reception of new texts by selecting which of its elements will be retained and how they will be interpreted.” Bayard reveals that as a person reads, parts of the book becomes part of who they are in such a way that it is specific only to the individual. It is so specific that it would take a great deal of time for the inner books of others to melt together. This very concept may in some way explain the reason why an individual can read the bible through year after year and see things they haven’t seen in prior readings. How do our inner books affect how we read and understand scripture? Could it be that the Holy Spirit uses out inner books that are created over time to unfold the truth of scripture in a more meaningful way?
I wonder just how much of myself I have left behind in the many books I have read. For those who inherit my library they will find a piece of my thoughts, opinions and disagreements with most every book. As a person who reads with pen in hand each page is an opportunity to circle and underline new ideas, intriguing statements, as well as, thoughts of contention. Margins provide space for insights, comments and notes for further study. Inside the cover are page numbers of quotes and illustrations I plan to use. Truly a part of me is in every book. As I go through life it is obvious that the books are part of me as well. Their influence is subtitle at times, some more than others but, they are there in one form or another.
“10 awful truths about book publishing”, last modified September 26,2016, https://www.bkconnection.com/the-10-awful-truths-about-book-publishing
 “How to talk about books you haven’t read”, brainpickings, last modified June 15,2012, https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/06/15/how-to-talk-about-books-you-havent-read/
 Pierre Bayard, How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (New York, Bloomsbury, 2007),8
 Bayard, 128