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There Are Ways to Consume a Book Without Reading it, But Should You?

5951685233_ac3d818db3_bWe all have books that we have pretended to read, but sometimes the pretense isn’t enough. Sometimes you might have to fake your way through conversations on a book, but luckily there is a solution.

Writing over at Inverse, Lauren Sarner shares five different ways one can familiarize oneself with a book without actually reading it. She skips over the most obvious (audiobooks) and a couple of the online options (summaries on Wikipedia or Blinkist, reviews on Goodreads, and commentary/debate on Twitter) to come up with a list of five ways to Sparknote your way through a book without reading it:

  1. Know the conversation around the author
  2. Watch the tv show
  3. Know the author’s ideas
  4. Eat the book
  5. Join a book club

I’m pretty sure option four is a joke, but the other options in the list are useful tricks for consuming the books that everyone expects you to know and which you simply cannot stand.

They all have their downsides, of course, but in certain situations the trick might be the better option than reading the book.


For example, Ayn Rand drones on at length in novels that expound her social theories (objectivism). Rather than spend a thousand hours reading one novel, it would be better to spend a hundred hours reading up on her theories and what people are saying about them.

Similarly, the Game of Thrones series makes for a tedious and plodding read in book form and an entertaining five seasons of of tv. Having spent months reading the omnibus, I can honestly say that it was more fun to binge-watch the tv series (aside from the gratuitous rape scenes).

These tricks do work to help one get the gist of a book, yes, but they’re not perfect. In many cases the details that filter through often lack the nuance of the original book.

You might, for example, watch Hannibal and Silence of the Lambs and come away with an understanding of the story, but there are many details which were changed when the novel was adapted into a movie, and then (later) a tv series.

I’m reading Silence now, and I won’t give away the story. But I will say that the pacing is very different and that the book goes into far more technical detail (and is the better for it).

The novel is giving me a better understanding of both the tv series and the several movies.


Of course, you can’t say that about all novels; sometimes the movie has been so radically rewritten as to be a different story entirely. The movie version of Kick-Ass, to name one example, is a polar opposite to the graphic novel. The movie was completely rewritten without many of the nuances of the comic book, changing it from a social commentary into a fairly generic action movie. (And don’t get me started on Starship Troopers.)


So as you can see, i have an opinion on this. What’s yours?

While we’re on the topic of cheat reading, what’s your favorite trick?

images by CarbonNYCMoyan_Brennistolethetv

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DavidW January 19, 2016 um 6:30 pm

I’m honest, I’ll say I haven’t read it but this is what I heard…

carmen webster buxton June 29, 2016 um 4:33 pm

I LOVE the Silence of the Lambs cosplay photo! As for books versus movies, I will say that I was really happy Wolf Hall got made into a TV mini series because it was written in present tense, and I cannot read present tense novels. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. I love historical fiction, but I like the past in the past tense.

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