(Books!) What we see when we read

what we see© GoodReads

I’ve already heard about this book here and there and, so it seems, everywhere.  And everywhere, people, that is, readers, are enthusiastic.  And so am I.

This is what is says on GoodReads:

A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading-how we visualize images from reading works of literature, from one of our very best book jacket designers, himself a passionate reader. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL.
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.

How can someone who loves books not want to read this?  I certainly do. And then I heard Rebecca Schinsky, one of the editors of BookRiot, rave about it on Episode 70 of the Bookrageous podcast, And then I’ve heard Ann Kingman of the popular podcast Books on the the Nighstand talk about it. (By the way, if you are not familiar with these podcasts, do check them out, they are great!).  And because these are all people I trust in their book choises, my mind was made up.  I have to read this.  The book came out here in Belgium on the 10th of September, and the book shop I usually go to did not have it in its collection, but I could order it, and of course I will do so.  However, I still haven’t found the time or the occasion to do it, because the last months of 2014 were rather hectic.  But it sits on top of my to-do list, and I will order it as soon as possible.

This is what The Boston Globe, The New York Times, Literary Exploration and the Paris Review think about the book.

Here’s an interview with the author on The New Yorker.


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