Proust and the Squid
The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
“Wolf restores our awe of the human brain—its adaptability, its creativity, and its ability to connect with other minds through a procession of silly squiggles.” — San Francisco Chronicle
How do people learn to read and write—and how has the development of these skills transformed the brain and the world itself ? Neuropsychologist and child development expert Maryann Wolf answers these questions in this ambitious and provocative book that chronicles the remarkable journey of written language not only throughout our evolution but also over the course of a single child’s life, showing why a growing percentage have difficulty mastering these abilities.
With fascinating down-to-earth examples and lively personal anecdotes, Wolf asserts that the brain that examined the tiny clay tablets of the Sumerians is a very different brain from the one that is immersed in today’s technology-driven literacy, in which visual images on the screen are paving the way for a reduced need for written language—with potentially profound consequences for our future.
Praise For Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain…
“For everyone who has wondered how reading and writing happen, here is 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
“Wolf’s intriguing combination of linguistic history, sociology, psychology, and neuroscience is engaging and clear. The figures and illustrations as well as the wonderful literary quotes enrich her readable prose...Recommended.” — Library Journal
“[Maryanne Wolf] displays extraordinary passion and perceptiveness concerning the reading brain, its miraculous achievements and tragic dysfunctions.” — BookForum
“Everything Wolf says makes sense....She clearly knows her stuff.” — Washington Post Book World
“Wolf restores our awe of the human brain its adaptability, its creativity and its ability to connect with other minds through a procession of silly squiggles.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“Brilliant and eye-opening.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
“[Proust and the Squid] rises from a merely professional tome to a personal and highly accessible project.” — California Literary Review
“Brilliant and eye-opening.” — Albany Times Union
“Wolf’s knowledge of and appreciation for her subject are apparent....fascinating....Wolf restores our awe of the human brain its adaptability, its creativity and its ability to connect with other minds through a procession of silly squiggles.” — Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers
“[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)
“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 (London)
Harper Perennial, 9780060933845, 336pp.
Publication Date: August 26, 2008
About the Author
Maryanne Wolf, the John DiBiaggio Professor of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University, was the director of the Tufts Center for Reading and Language Research. She currently directs the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at UCLA, and is working with the Dyslexia Center at the UCSF School of Medicine and with Curious Learning: A Global Literacy Project, which she co-founded. She is the recipient of multiple research and teaching honors, including the highest awards by the International Dyslexia Association and the Australian Learning Disabilities Association. She is the author of Proust and the Squid (HarperCollins), Tales of Literacy for the 21st Century (Oxford University Press), and more than 160 scientific publications.