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: