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Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain | [Maryanne Wolf]

Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain

Interweaving her vast knowledge of neurology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy with fascinating down-to-earth examples and lively personal anecdotes, developmental psychologist, neuroscientist, and dyslexia expert Wolf probes the question, "How do we learn to read and write?" This ambitious and provocative new book offers an impassioned look at reading, its effect on our lives, and explains why it matters so greatly in a digital era.
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Publisher's Summary

Interweaving her vast knowledge of neurology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy with fascinating down-to-earth examples and lively personal anecdotes, developmental psychologist, neuroscientist, and dyslexia expert Wolf probes the question, "How do we learn to read and write?" This ambitious and provocative new book offers an impassioned look at reading, its effect on our lives, and explains why it matters so greatly in a digital era.

©2007 Maryanne Wolf; (P)2008 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

"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)
"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (133 )
5 star
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4.0 (60 )
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4.0 (64 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 06-28-09
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 06-28-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worth the Effort"

    "Proust and the Squid" is the title of this book, but I am not certain why. Here, Maryanne Wolf sets out to describe how reading came into being, the human brains adaptation to accommodate that process, and how children learn to read. This is well worth the listeners' time and will reward the effort, but it has little to do with Prouse (or squid for that matter).

    That said, there are passages which are technical. Those are handled well by Wolf and I hope that she will continue to write for the general public. Over time, she will develop a lighter style. Her topic is certainly important to all of us and she needs to heard.

    I personally want to hear more about her theories concerning how access to Google, the World Wide Web and other technology will change our culture and how we process information. She hints at changes that might be on the horizon, but left me wanting to hear more.

    The second half of the book is devoted to dyslexia. I benefited greatly from hearing what she has to say. However, the second half did really link to the sections which preceeded. The first and second sections were related to "reading" but could have been separate works. I hope that she will develop a book on dyslexia alone. She speculates that the human brain has adapted to accommodate reading. The dyslexia is a through back to the past. I would like to know more.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith 04-17-10
    Judith 04-17-10 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "what a great book"

    I was amazed at how captivating would a book on reading be, at how enlightening some of the facts about the culture and the neurology of reading are.
    I was amazed at the number of times I have cited this book since reading it. It seems to be relevant to so many areas of our lives and our culture, as if reading is a metaphor for everything else.
    I highly recommend this gem of a book. The writing is great, the reading is great, the lesson learnt is amazing.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 09-13-12
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 09-13-12 Member Since 2006

    My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.

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    "Great premise, lousy title"

    Sadly the premise turns out to be misleading. I thought this would be a book about the neuroscience of the brain as it related to reading. That does come up in this book, but primarily this is a book about child development. Oddly, it's not the kind of book that would be targeted toward parents or teachers or other researchers. I'm not sure who she thought her audience would be. It seems to be the sort of monograph on a particular field by someone with so much enthusiasm that she just can't help herself. I have to admit that there were quite a few bits of the book that I found mildly interesting. However, so much of the book felt repetitive, if not obvious, that it was hard to get excited about it. One of the interesting things was that she paid serious attention to Socrates's concerns about the potential dangers of reading. Most of the time, she seems more concerned with diagnosing and rescuing children with reading disabilities. However, just the fact that she was open to discussing the pitfalls of reading in overall intellectual development is a point in her favor. For someone who spends so much time on the problems of dyslexia, there is precious little discussion of what can actually be done about it or how effective it is. One thing I really liked about this book is the quotations she came up with at the start of each chapter. Of course, in an audiobook, it is sometimes hard to tell where the narrator is lapsing into a quote. In particular, this one from Stephen Jay Gould: "I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops." The title continues to baffle me. The Proust thing almost makes sense, but what's up with the squid? Better she should have given it a typical monograph title: "A review of the current state of research on the early acquisition of reading skills among young children in the first 7 years of life with digressions on the historical origin of writing, personal reflections on the rewards of reading, observations on related work in neuroscience, with special emphasis on dyslexia."

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer United States 04-18-12
    Amazon Customer United States 04-18-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Exceeded expectations"

    I bought this book because it was on sale, but found it to be quite a gem. If you're interested in the history of reading, or have kids learning to read I would highly recommend this book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer CAMBRIA HEIGHTS, NY, United States 08-17-13
    Amazon Customer CAMBRIA HEIGHTS, NY, United States 08-17-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A Great Read"
    Would you listen to Proust and the Squid again? Why?

    Yes, I would listen to Proust and the Squid again because reading along with the book gives you a better understanding of what the author is writing about.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    My favorite scene was how wolf shows us how the dyslexic brain works


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    The book open my eyes on how people treat others when they learn differently from them.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendi Oswego, IL, United States 02-06-12
    Wendi Oswego, IL, United States 02-06-12 Member Since 2012
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    "A must-read for every teacher and parent!"
    Where does Proust and the Squid rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It was excellent, but all of my audiobooks have been excellent so far. It was technical, not a story really, but it was time and effort well-spent.


    Have you listened to any of Kirsten Potter’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have never listened to Kirsten Potter before, but I thought she was perfect in her reading of this book.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I was very excited by the information in this book, both about the brain and its elasticity and about the reading process itself. Enthusiasm was almost a constant emotion as I listened to the book and learned amazing information.


    Any additional comments?

    I have already started listening to it again, and I ordered the book so I am able to read it for myself (over the summer when I am not teaching and have more free time). There were numerous times I wanted to highlight passages and annotate!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sara Mobile, AL, USA 10-20-08
    Sara Mobile, AL, USA 10-20-08
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    "So dull."

    I was enthralled with the topic--reading and the difficulties presented by it--but it was so incredibly dull that I didn't listen past 2 hours. I hope I never hear the word "multi-syllabary" for a long time.

    4 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Oak Ridge, NJ, United States 08-21-11
    Carol Oak Ridge, NJ, United States 08-21-11 Member Since 2010
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    "You are getting sleepy, very sleepy . . ."

    This book is about learning reading and writing, from the past to the present, ending with an explanation of learning disorders. Much of it is very good and interesting, but the reader sounds like her target audience is small children. It's a danger to listen to while driving because it puts me to sleep.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Parola138 United States 02-14-13
    Parola138 United States 02-14-13 Member Since 2005

    We bite

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I am petty"

    This book was slow, getting into it. Then I began to really like it, but I could not get over one annoying thing about this book. I found it a bit showy that the author felt compelled to say, BCE or Before Christ Existed instead of just BC. The first few times, it sounded discordant to my ears and I kept listening but finally I gave up for that simple fact... to keep hearing Before Christ Existed. You can call that petty, but I call it a case of an author trying to be too pc or what have you. If it was just BC, or even read as "BCE" in the audio, that would have been fine, but you keep hearing in 56 Before Christ Existed. Sorry, but I tossed the audio because of that. I am petty, but just be aware of this thing as it might bother you as well. Otherwise narration and everything else is fine.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-9 of 9 results
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  • Kevin
    Crowborough, East Sussex, United Kingdom
    7/10/09
    Overall
    "Inspiring Science!"

    Being a sucker for a quirky title I was instantly drawn to this book only to find there is more hard science in it than would normally be to my taste. Admittedly much of the scientific terminology does pass me by but the author makes very clear the potential implications of the science which is the bit I'm interested in.

    I find the authors concern for literacy a little worthy as her own analysis of would seem to suggest we are heading for a new form of literacy rather than some form of "sub-literate" state. It's not a barrier though and the the book is both informative, moving and inspiring.

    Other texts which touch on dyslexia I find a little patronising whereas this one is not.

    A wonderful listen that I'd recommend to every educator, parent and person interested in language and reading (for the educators I'd make it compulsory).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • S. O'NEILL
    London UK
    6/24/10
    Overall
    "Read this?"

    I found this book fascinating. It's very scientific, and you do have to concentrate hard, but the author really explores how we learn to read, what happens in our brains when we do; how reading developed; and then goes on to explore why these things go wrong and what causes dyslexia etc. I would have given it 5 stars - but it is a book that is, unsurprisingly, written to be read rather than listened to. This occasionally leads to the frustration of being asked to read a passage and see what happens - when, of course, all you can do is sit and listen (and Ms Wolf is clear to point out that listening fires different centres in your brain to those fired up by reading). If you are interested in what goes on in the little grey cells when you pick up a book - and it is quite literally mind blowing - then this is an accessible and fascinating listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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