- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (6 Nov. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1848310307
- ISBN-13: 978-1848310308
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain Paperback – 6 Nov 2008
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'An inspiring celebration of the science of reading.' -- The Guardian, April 2008<br \><br \>'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, March 2008
`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, The Independent, February 2008
`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.' --The Times, November 2008
'An inspiring celebration of the science of reading.'See all Product description
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All in all, I enjoyed the book. I have to agree with a lot of what Donald Mitchell says, especially as regards the writing style and the weakness of the 'Proust and the Squid' metaphor - it's nothing more than an attractive title to pique interest. I also found that the author liked to blow her own trumpet a little too much - naturally, she focuses on her own research and any other work that backs it up, but unlike true scientific spirit and philosophy would decree, she does not admit much to the great inaccuracy and inconsistency in the field. Her theory does not represent the consensus in the literature, although you'd be forgiven for thinking that was the case by the way she writes about her work! At times the book felt like a desperate attempt to impress the reader, either with her research, her family history, or her use of vocabulary.
The big focus on neuroscience and brain imaging is hardly unsurprising given her background, but neuroscientific findings are so limited on their own. There is good evidence for the Phonological Deficit Hypothesis as an explanation of dyslexia, which, as a cognitive-level theory, is not mentioned in the book.
The book did teach me about the development of writing systems (cuneiform, hieroglyphics, etc.) and about Socrates' contention with written language, representing "unguided and uncritical access to information". I'm not sure whether to view the internet debate as positive or negative - it certainly speared me on to further work on the subject (e.g. Untangling the Web, Aleks Krotoski), although on the other hand it did seem as though perhaps the book had enough on its plate as it was.
Above all, the book reinforced the message that "reading never just happens" - learning to read is a long and onerous process that relies on so many 'primitive' capacities. As a result, there is a lot of possibility for malfunctioning and cross-wiring, which have disasterous consequences in societies that place huge emphasis on decoding and extracting meaning from text.
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