Review: What We See When We Read

What We See When We Read
What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I round the corner to my 140th of the year, I can say WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE READ stands atop as the most brilliant I’ve read of all. Arranged both conceptually and visually in mouth-gaping magnificence, genius Peter Mendelsund captures the very essence—the shared bond—of our reading pleasure. The author is a master artist, both visually and now narratively. This is his magnum opus. This is why we read.

“When we read, we take in whole eyefuls of words. We gulp them like water.”

In a mix of narrative and art, Mendelsund stretches our imagination and believability: he says exactly what we think, without us perhaps realizing what we have thought. Absurd, maybe, but once you begin his book, you’ll find a close association to the truth he speaks. Every reader, every writer, every artist needs to read this book.

“As readers, we are both the conductor and orchestras, as well as the audience.”

As a reviewer of books, I have the onus to present the image and flavor of a book, but at the same time not to spoil the opportunity for you to co-create your experience as the author intended. As Mendelsund writes, “Among the great mysteries of life is this fact: the world presents itself to us and we take in the world. We don’t see the seams, the cracks, and the imperfections.” This quote is set atop a darkened map with white cracks outlined. You flip the page. The author writes, “We haven’t missed a thing.” This is sided with a picture of Anna Karenina, x-ed out from the parts unknown, with her beauty intact.

“Good books incite us to imagine—to fill in an author’s suggestions.”

I can give no higher praise to this masterpiece. It is something you need to read and own. And for that, I thank Vintage Books and Penguin Random House for sending this book to me for review. It clarifies and presents my reading passion anew.

You can find this book’s preview and other reviews on Amazon: What We See When We Read (Vintage Original)

You can also find the book at the independent bookstore Powell’s:

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7 thoughts on “Review: What We See When We Read

  1. A.M.B.

    “As a reviewer of books, I have the onus to present the image and flavor of a book, but at the same time not to spoil the opportunity for you to co-create your experience as the author intended.”

    That’s a good description of what book review bloggers should do. “What We See When We Read” sounds fascinating. I’m always amused by the differences between the way I picture characters and the way my husband does. The same words, filtered through different imaginations built on different life experiences, result in different characters.

    Reply
    1. ryandejonghe Post author

      Yeah, I highly recommend this for you. The author also addresses the part movies, and even video games, plays in our inner reading mind. Included is a police sketch based on narrative alone: turns out not so like what the reader imagined. All great stuff.

      Reply
  2. lauratfrey

    You’ve convinced me. I was just thinking today that I’m sick of Buzzfeed style lists of “why reading is so great” with accompanying overused gifs and definitely sick of “reading makes you a better person/girlfriend/parent/whatever” studies. That’s not what I want to read about reading. This might be!

    Reply
    1. ryandejonghe Post author

      I think I read that same list today. Ha! I think you’ll find affinity with a fellow reader in this. Not sure the format you’re going, but I read it bound, which was really something special.

      Reply
      1. lauratfrey

        I think this one needs to be in print!

        Yes, I don’t mind lists and gifs, I use them, but the current one going around Twitter is terrible and people will NOT stop retweeting it!

  3. citygirlscapes

    “As I round the corner to my 140th of the year” — Your 140th book? That’s amazing! Congrats.

    And thanks for bringing this book to my attention, it sounds like a great read and something every reader should at least look into, if not own. I’m definitely going to pick it up. Thanks again.

    – ashley

    Reply

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