Wednesday, July 4, 2018

What I Read: Proust and the Squid

I looked back at my Goodreads a couple days ago and realized I hadn't finished anything in June. I don't know what happened—a combination of the worldwide dumpster fire getting worse, reading too many books at once, getting ready to move—but I didn't like it. There's a pretty strong correlation between "not finishing books" and "not feeling well" when it comes to my mood, so it was a relief to finish up Proust and the Squid.

Also it was fucking delightful and a welcome distraction from said dumpster fire. There's a lot to despair of when it comes to humanity, but have you ever realized how incredible it is that we came up with written language and taught ourselves to read?

Image courtesy Icon Books, Limited
Wolf tackles the subject from three perspectives: the history of reading and written languages, what happens in the developing brain when it learns to read, and what goes wrong in some brains that makes reading hard (dyslexia and other reading disorders).

Wolf is a neuroscientist by trade, so Proust and the Squid draws heavily on her research and the research of her peers. However, she's also an engaging writer (perhaps unsurprising for someone who is also an avid reader) and presents the research with clarity, so that the non-neuroscientst layperson can also follow along. (Shout-out to the copyeditor who worked with her; I'm sure they contributed a great deal to this book's engaging readability!) I also appreciate her casually mentioning the titles of other interesting books as they pertained to the subject, because I could add them to my own reading list. (As if it weren't long enough...)

The one downside is that Proust and the Squid was published in 2007, which means it's over ten years old, and a lot of research can happen in that time! I don't know if there's an updated edition but I'd love to read one either way.

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