I just got an email from a student which basically asked, "Do we have to read the book?" This is by far the most common question that students ask me at the beginning of each semester.
Here is the answer that I will never give them.
Thank you for your query. No, of course you do not have to read the book. It does not need to be studied in order to prepare you for class or to deepen your understanding of the material. Studying the book, an outdated practice engaged in by our cave-dwelling ancestors back in 1988, when I was an undergraduate student studying books in a cave, is not the reason that the book was written, that the university purchased the book in bulk, and that copies of these book currently sit on bookstore shelves in the university.
Still, the book does serve many useful purposes in our fast-moving post-literacy world. The book serves the role of a cushion, if your chair is too hard or you backside too bony. If you like to study in a park, placing the book upon your Powerpoint slides keeps them from blowing away. Carrying the book around town has the added benefit of making you appear to be intelligent. If you like to eat paper, your book's 655 pages can satisfy a full month of cravings. Placed atop of the head as you traverse your bedroom, the book can improve your posture. If you find yourself in prison, opening the book and taping it around your midsection can prevent you from being shivved by another inmate. (See The Wire.) Furthermore, the book can act as a helmet while bike riding, at the admitted expense of reduced peripheral vision and comfort. The book can prop a door open. Setting it upon the gas pedal of your car provides for a makeshift cruise control. It can stop most bullets (unless you have eaten it). Because it can cause bruise-free pain, the book can be used with immunity to beat a younger sibling. It can also be used as toilet paper in a pinch, but not if you also plan to use it as a mouthguard to prevent the grinding of teeth. In short, the book is a multipurpose wonder. You would be wasting your time and greatly reducing the utility of the book by doing something as elementary as reading it.