‘We were never born to read’, says Maryanne Wolf. ‘No specific genes ever dictated reading’s development. Human beings invented reading only a few thousand years ago. And with this invention, we changed the very organisation of our brain, which in turn expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species.’ In “Proust and the Squid”, Maryanne Wolf explores our brains’ near-miraculous ability to arrange and re-arrange themselves in response to external circumstances. She examines how this ‘open architecture’, the elasticity of our brains, helps and hinders humans in their attempts to learn to read, and to process the written language. She also investigates what happens to people whose brains make it difficult to acquire these skills, such as those with dyslexia.Wolf, a world expert on the reading brain, brings both a personal passion and deft style to this, the story of the reading brain. It is a pop science masterpiece on a subject that anyone who loves reading will be sure to find fascinating.
‘Everything about her book, which combines a healthy dose of lucid neuroscience with a dash of sensitive personal narrative, delights … a beautifully balanced piece of popular-science writing’Boyd Tonkin, Independent.
‘Wolf’s alarm about the spread of semi-literacy among the young is obviously justified, and her book provokes thought about it as only reading can.’John Carey, Sunday Times
‘There’s a lot of difficult material in here. But it’s worth the effort. I kept wanting to read more about how written language changed history, and more about the invention of the alphabet. This is a tribute to Wolf, who could not possibly cram everything in here. For people interested in language, this is a must. You’ll find yourself focusing on words in new ways. Read it slowly – it will take time to sink in.’William Leith, Sunday Telegraph
‘’Proust and the Squid’ is an inspiring celebration of the science of reading.’P.D. Smith, Guardian
‘Wolf is excellent on reading as a supreme accomplishment too often taken for granted precisely because of the achievement of automaticity.’ Literary Review
‘This is a paean of praise for, and a rewarding exploration of, the creative reciprocities between writing, reading and thinking, it is especially good on dyslexia.’Times
‘An entertaining, comprehensive, delightfully clear account of how our brain allowed us to become word magicians. A splendid achievement!’Alberto Manguel, author of ‘A History of Reading’
‘Child development Professor Wolf maintains the tone of a curious, erudite friend as she synthesises cutting-edge interdisciplinary research – psychology and archaeology, linguistics and education, history and neuroscience – in a pathbreaking look at the reading brain.’Publishers Weekly, Books of the Year
‘As booksellers, we don’t need to be convinced of the importance of reading, but Maryanne Wolf’s sage book goes far beyond what even we imagined. Wolf … is not content to discuss the cultural significance of reading; she asserts with convincing evidence that this activity has radically changed the very organization of the human brain.’Barnes and Noble
‘Wolf displays extraordinary passion and perceptiveness concerning the reading brain, its miraculous achievements and tragic dysfunctions.’Bookforum
‘What a timely, passionate meditation on the miracle of reading! Wolf’s words provide the very pleasure she describes: we feel the precious excitement that is contact with another mind and are duly illuminated, provoked, steadied, and renewed.’Gish Jen
‘Wolf’s learned but light-footed work is excavating – with a zest that blends authority and accessibility – the deep mystery of why and how we can read at all.’Boyd Tonkin, Independent
‘Her book is a remarkable excavation of something we take largely for granted, and throws up plenty of thought-provoking ideas along the way.’Sunday Times
‘A brilliant book about how human beings learned to read and write. There’s a superb explanation of the conditions that cause dyslexia – which Wolf points out, wouldn’t have conferred an evolutionary disadvantage until very recently, and might even have been beneficial to some people.’William Leith, The Spectator