Proust and the Squid
The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
By Maryanne Wolf
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780060933845, 336pp.)
Publication Date: September 2008
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"Human beings were never born to read," writes Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and child development expert Maryanne Wolf. Reading is a human invention that reflects how the brain rearranges itself to learn something new. In this ambitious, provocative book, Wolf chronicles the remarkable journey of the reading brain not only over the past five thousand years, since writing began, but also over the course of a single child's life, showing in the process why children with dyslexia have reading difficulties and singular gifts.
Lively, erudite, and rich with examples, Proust and the Squid asserts that the brain that examined the tiny clay tablets of the Sumerians was a very different brain from the one that is immersed in today's technology-driven literacy. The potential transformations in this changed reading brain, Wolf argues, have profound implications for every child and for the intellectual development of our species.
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.
“[Maryanne Wolf] displays extraordinary passion and perceptiveness concerning the reading brain, its miraculous achievements and tragic dysfunctions.”
“Everything Wolf says makes sense....She clearly knows her stuff.”
-Washington Post Book World
“Brilliant and eye-opening.”
“Brilliant and eye-opening.”
-Albany Times Union
“Fascinating....Wolf restores our awe of the human brain.”
“[Wolf’s] conversational style, reflective comments and insights from work with children...create a narrative flow and bright tone.”
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The squid of Wolf’s title represents the neurobiological approach to the study of reading....Given the panic that takes hold of humanists when the decline of reading is discussed, her cold-blooded perspective is opportune.”
-The New Yorker
“A book worth talking about.”
-U.S. News & World Report
“Enjoyable....Wolf, with remarkable agility in a relatively compact book (intended for both aficionados and the uninitiated), transitions seamlessly between disciplines as diverse as linguistics, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and archeology, among others. Her voice comes through clearly; she is fascinated by reading and shares that energy.”
-New England Journal of Medicine
“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.”
-Sunday Times (London)
“This humane and fascinating book...is a paean to what Proust, über-reader, called ‘that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude,’ to all that has been and can be achieved for individuals and for mankind through literacy.”
-The Evening Standard (London)
“Blindingly fascinating...detailed and scholarly....There’s a lot of difficult material in here. But it’s worth the effort....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.”
-The Sunday Telegraph
“Proust and the Squid is an inspiring celebration of the science of reading....Wolf’s insights are fascinating....Proust and the Squid has much to offer on this important--perhaps the most important--subject”
-The Guardian (London)