I have always had it very easy getting my books on Amazon and mostly in kindle version and earned some reasonable credit to enable me get some free books to my credit. It was therefore with such confidence that I put off acquiring the book “How to Talk About Books that you Haven’t Read” by Bayard Pierre, to the time I got back home from Hong Kong. I was care free and I took my time to be over with the jet lag and settle back to my normal routine which, I am yet to fully settle with a big backlog of work that I need to do to be up to date. So it not until Tuesday morning on October 8, that I logged into Amazon and confidently searched for the book in anticipation but to my shock, there was no kindle version available for me to purchase. My head got into a spin as I wondered what to do, being thousands of miles away from where I could get a hand copy, two flights away and I knew instantly that I had a big problem at hand, Was this going to be a first hand experience of writing about a book I had not read?
Story short, I finally got the kindle version of the book on Thursday after much hassle of reaching out to my fellow Kenyan colleague, John who was so gracious and generous to buy the book for me on his Amazon account which surprisingly had the version available. To my consternation and shock, I could still not download the book as Amazon returned a message that I could not claim the Gift in my country, as if I was I was in different country than John! My problem was finally solved when my friend from the US visited on Thursday evening and was gracious enough to allow me to buy the book on his Amazon account on my computer, facilitating me to read the book overnight and sacrifice my much valued sleep, surely there’s always a way out.
My temptation to go with the title of the book and actually write the blog without reading the book would probably have been “accepted” and would have been an easy practical proof worth citation, that you can talk about a book that you have not read. By now you’ll be justified to assume that I finally had it easy reading the book but absolutely not, I am still in a haze trying to reconcile myself with the facts of the book, on the one hand relieved that I do not have to read hundreds of books for my dissertation but still trying to convince myself that I will not be getting myself into some dubious business of academic dishonesty. Reading through Bayard Pierre’s book definitely opened my mind in a big way to appreciate the doctoral level of study and why it is inevitable to talk about books that I will never get into my hands leave alone read, its an invitation into an adventure that I have no choice but to accept and which am excited about.
As I read through the book, I could not help but accept and agree with the author that reading can as well be as not reading, how else would you justify talking about books you read but forgot. Is it not by forgetting the context or setting of the books narrative, the characters, places mentioned, and the author, that you can finally extract the idea the book is advancing, own it and talk about and add to your knowledge? It is easy to get lost in the contents of the book and loose the opportunity to actually learn. It is clear that the book is just one among the collection of books in the library that belong together in advancing the idea you should extract from the book. the book should thus be read within that context and one risks the possibility of getting lost in the contents of the book and not getting the idea the author is trying to advance. I must admit that I am now a good student of Bayard Pierre and have recognized the three internalized constraints that have been inherent in my style of reading books, of: feeling obligated to read; feeling obligated to read thoroughly; and that I can only discuss books that I have a tacit understanding of. I am finally liberated and have a new found freedom to talk about books that I have not read and nothing will stop me forthwith! I have finally found my spot and you can guess my excitement at that, knowing that I have the knowledge: that reading a particular book is a waste of time as compared to keeping my perspective about books overall, i can therefore talk about books I don’t know; that I can skim through a book and write an article about it; that I can listen and read about what others say about a book and talk about; that the book I have read and forgotten that I have read, is a book I can talk about as having read; that I can comfortably confront any audience to talk about a book I have not read including the public, my professor, the write of the book and even my the person I love and have to impress or seduce through talking about the book they love; that I should not be constrained in the way I behave, in that i should not be ashamed, I can impose my ideas as long as I can defend them, I can invent books, and I can talk about myself in that talking about books is a pretext of actually writing your autobiography. This is definitely intriguing and a new to me but I must reiterate that its liberating in my journey to writing my dissertation. This also gives me the freedom and inspiration to write books and add to the collection of books.