I started reading this book on December 29 and finished it yesterday, February 7. That’s according to the ReadMore app, an app I’ve been using to track my reading. It took me 11.5 hours over 41 days and 16 reading sessions, with an average reading time of 44 minutes per session. The app does all this computation for you. What I’m learning about all this self-tracking is that I’m way slow with my reading. More than I liked to. On Goodreads I challenged myself to read 25 books this year but at that rate I’ll get around 10 books. But having this data lets me see what I need to do.
Lets get to the book.
Reading in the Brain is by the author and cognitive psychologist Stanislas Dehaene. I read his previous book, The Number Sense, and like that book, this one is a bit heavy on brain research and brain mapping. But once you get past the heavy region name dropping like the occipito lobe and the temporal lobe, you’ll see that this is a wonderful book about the amazing ability we humans are lucky to have: reading.
One the main thesis of the book is that it’s a “miracle” we can read. Dehaene postulates his theory of neuronal recycling of how the brain region we use today for reading was probably used for something different. In the short period of 2000 years or so since the invention of reading and writing, our brains have recycled and fine tuned neurons to recognize symbols as signifying speech sounds and meaning.
Dehaene takes you on a journey on how it all works. From how the eyes see words to were they go in your brain to be processed. He gives a brief history of writing. A big part of the book deals with dyslexia and “mirroring” errors when reading. This is important to understand reading in the brain because it reveals a great deal on what’s happening, particularly before we become fluent readers. One of Dehaene theories is that if it wasn’t for the brains’ plasticity, we would all be mild dyslexics and make mirror errors (confusing b with d) more frequently.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves reading and to parents and teachers.