"We still live in a society," Pierre Bayard writes in How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, translated by Jeffrey Mehlman (Raincoast Books), “where reading remains the object of a kind of worship.” Further, you are looked down on for skimming books, and for discussing them without having read them. These circumstances inform a jolly, intelligent little book by a guy who sometimes takes shortcuts—because he loves books, not in spite of it. “Reading is first and foremost non-reading,” he says at the start. That is, when you open a book and read it, you are simultaneously “not picking up and not opening all the other books in the universe.” He goes on to invoke the librarian in Robert Musil’s book The Man Without Qualities (which I haven’t read, but now I don’t have to), who prides himself on knowing all about books and declares that he would not have achieved such cultural literacy had he allowed himself to be distracted by actual reading. (Book-publishing catalogue copy writers, take note!) Thus disburdened of guilt, you can immerse yourself in the rest of Bayard’s book—or skim it, or put it down and go to a party and talk about it. If you read it, though, you’ll have the pleasure of encountering Bayard’s delightful shortcuts. These include talking about books you know nothing about, discussing books you’ve read but forgotten, conversing with an author whose book you haven’t read, seducing people with talk of books you haven’t cracked, and doing all of the above without shame. Then again, Bayard is such a joyful, promiscuous reader of books that he makes you want to read even more books, more thoroughly.