Pierre Bayard has blatantly stated what we librarians only whisper to each other in dark corners of conferences, confess in encrypted emails to our closest pals, grudgingly admit over the fourth or fifth bookardi and cola at Librarian's Anonymous meetings.
We haven't read everything.
In his soon-to-be published treatise, How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, Bayard not only condones not reading everything (and logically points out the impossibility of this endeavor), he encourages the practice.
"Being culturally literate means being able to get your bearings quickly in a
book, which does not require reading the book in its entirety--quite the
opposite, in fact. One might even argue that the greater your abilities in this
area, the less it will be necessary to read any book in particular."
In the first section of his book, Bayard is not dismissing reading altogether, merely pointing out that choosing what to read also means choosing what not to read. These are choices readers must make with every book plucked off a shelf. For Readers' Advisors, who are already well aware of all the choices available, this is an agonizing truth. The proficiency of a Readers' Advisor lies in the ability to glean as much as possible from as many books as possible, place them in cultural context, and maintain perspective regarding the relationship of one book to another. In this way "anyone who truly cares about books...masters all of them at once."
Interesting theories to chew on.