Just One Reader's Opinion!

What We See When We Read

What We See When We ReadWhat We See When We Read By Peter Mendelsund

Source Purchased

Published by Vintage on August 5, 2014

Rating: four-stars

Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:

What do we see when we read? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like?

The collection of fragmented images on a page - a graceful ear there, a stray curl, a hat positioned just so - and other clues and signifiers helps us to create an image of a character. But in fact our sense that we know a character intimately has little to do with our ability to concretely picture our beloved - or reviled - literary figures.

In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Knopf's Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund combines his profession, as an award-winning designer; his first career, as a classically trained pianist; and his first love, literature - he thinks of himself first, and foremost, as a reader - into what is sure to be one of the most provocative and unusual investigations into how we understand the act of reading.

I first heard about this book on the Book Riot ‘Reading Lives’ podcast. It’s such a fascinating idea. It was so interesting, to me, to really pay attention to and think about what’s going on in my mind’s eye when I’m reading.

I liked the graphics/images used throughout. This was actually a faster read than I thought it would be because of all of the graphics – I think I read this in two or three sittings.

I do wish it had delved deeper into the subject – more of a ‘why do we see what we see when we read’ – but perhaps that was outside the book’s scope. But as a result, it’s got me interested enough to seek out some further reading on this subject.

I don’t read much nonfiction but I really enjoyed this book. Recommended!


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