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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

Critic reviews

"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 ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kevin
  • Crowborough, East Sussex, United Kingdom
  • 10-07-09

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).

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sara
  • 17-02-15

Learning To Read & Write

A fascinating exploration into how the brain learns to read and to write. This is not dry science but a mix of stories and complex theory on how the brain works and why things go wrong as in dyslexia.

I think the title has to do with the contrast between the high functioning exploration of thoughts and detail, the Proust part of the title, and the base, more automatic functioning of a simple creature like the Squid. Much of reading and writing is a mix of these two ends of the spectrum. An interplay of the automatic and the carefully focused and dwelt upon. Just a thought.

I throughly enjoyed the book and Potters narration. Recommended if you like seeing things you do each day explored and explained by an expert.

27 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Roy
  • 28-06-09

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.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Benjamin N. Powers
  • 24-06-16

Incredible resource for the reading and dyslexic community

This book does such an excellent job of identifying how the reading process works, from early reading skills like onset, rhyme, and phonemic awareness to the more complicated aspects of reading like fluency and comprehension. It also provides a clear understanding of the different subtypes of dyslexia, as well as the latest neuroscience on the reading brain, dyslexia, and The strengths typically associated with people in the dyslexic community.

Bravo Dr. Maryanne Wolf.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Barry
  • 13-09-12

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."

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Judith
  • 17-04-10

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.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Bernie
  • 05-02-18

Interesting

I thought found this book interesting I wished the author would have addressed more directly how to to help individuals with these issues. Even more how children impacted by trauma impacts a child's ability to learn and retain reading.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Iread
  • 13-05-17

Reading Science

Oh that all educators would partake of this morsel of educational science! A great read that increases our understanding of how fascinating and complex the brain is.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Nicole W.
  • 28-03-17

Fascinating stuff but probably better in print

Any additional comments?

This was a really interesting book but I think that I would have enjoyed it more in print. There are diagrams that the print book has to illustrate what the author is discussing and I think this is the type of book that I would have wanted to underline and make notes in the margin. A truly fascinating subject matter and well written. You can tell the writer is passionate.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 17-08-13

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-04-12

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful