Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf
The Story and Science of the Reading Brain

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Synopsis

The act of reading is a miracle. Every new reader's brain possesses the extraordinary capacity to rearrange itself beyond its original abilities in order to understand written symbols. But how does the brain learn to read? As world-renowned cognitive neuroscientist and scholar of reading Maryanne Wolf explains in this impassioned book, we taught our brain to read only a few thousand years ago, and in the process changed the intellectual evolution of our species.

Wolf tells us that the brain that examined tiny clay tablets in the cuneiform script of the Sumerians is configured differently from the brain that reads alphabets or of one literate in today's technology.

There are critical implications to such an evolving brain. Just as writing reduced the need for memory, the proliferation of information and the particular requirements of digital culture may short-circuit some of written language's unique contributions—with potentially profound consequences for our future.

Turning her attention to the development of the individual reading brain, Wolf draws on her expertise in dyslexia to investigate what happens when the brain finds it difficult to read. Interweaving her vast knowledge of neuroscience, psychology, literature, and linguistics, Wolf takes the reader from the brains of a pre-literate Homer to a literacy-ambivalent Plato, from an infant listening to Goodnight Moon to an expert reader of Proust, and finally to an often misunderstood child with dyslexia whose gifts may be as real as the challenges he or she faces.

As we come to appreciate how the evolution and development of reading have changed the very arrangement of our brain and our intellectual life, we begin to realize with ever greater comprehension that we truly are what we read. Ambitious, provocative, and rich with examples, Proust and the Squid celebrates reading, one of the single most remarkable inventions in history. Once embarked on this magnificent story of the reading brain, you will never again take for granted your ability to absorb the written word.

 

About Maryanne Wolf

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Maryanne Wolf is a professor of child development at Tufts University, where she is also the director of the Center for Reading and Language Research. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
 
Published January 1, 2008 by ICON BOOKS LTD. 320 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Proust and the Squid

Kirkus Reviews

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Wolf (Child Development/Tufts Univ.) rehearses the history of reading, reviews the latest research in what our brains are doing while we read and summarizes what’s known about the complexities of reading, including causes of and remedies for dyslexia.

Sep 04 2007 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

The Guardian

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Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop Compared with madeleines, molluscs lack literary resonance.

Jan 04 2009 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

The Guardian

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If you're reading this section of the paper, then there's a good chance you like reading.

Oct 25 2008 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

The Guardian

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Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf 308pp, Icon, £12.99 According to Herodotus, the Egyptian king Psamtik I (664-610 BCE) conducted an experiment to discover the first spoken language.

Apr 12 2008 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

Examiner

"Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain" by Maryanne Wolf (hardcover published 2007, paperback in 2008) would be a great asset to reading teachers and parents of young readers.

Sep 21 2009 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

The Bookbag

Lehrer in Proust was a Neuroscientist weaves an intriguing argument about the relationship between recent neuroscientific discoveries and the novels of George Eliot, Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf.

Apr 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

The Bookbag

Summary: A book about how and why we read, jam-packed with fascinating information from the developing of writing systems to the latest research on dyslexia.

Oct 24 2009 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid (2007) borrows Proust’s recollections of his childhood reading as entry point for, as her subtitle puts it, “The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.” Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist (2007) investigates how many important discoveries in neuroscie...

Jul 10 2010 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

About.com

Wolf calls our attention to the crippling language deficiencies of children from impoverished language environments as evidence that during these critical years the simple acts of speaking and reading to our children are the greatest tools we can give them on their paths to literacy.

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PopMatters

There has been no time, she writes, “when the complex beauty of the reading process stood more revealed, when the magnitude of its contributions was more clearly understood by science, or when these contributions seemed more in danger of being replaced by new forms of communication.” Because “the...

Sep 26 2007 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

PopMatters

Reading about reading: meta-reading.

Dec 04 2008 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

California Literary Review

It turned out that Luke did not have any reading disabilities per se, but Wolf’s team had never come across “a child with a more profound problem in the time it took to name a letter and read a word.” That is, Luke’s was a case of moving from “accuracy to fluency in the higher stages of learning....

Sep 26 2007 | Read Full Review of Proust and the Squid: The Sto...

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