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Non-Fiction Book Club to Discuss – “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain” by Maryanne Wolf – Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 6:30PM

Apologies for this entry being so late in the month. I would like to give a hearty and humble thank you to those souls who came to February’s “Fiery Trial” Non-Fiction book club meeting. We certainly had a fiery discussion and I appreciate all the insights folks shared.  And I think we all appreciated the maple sugar treats one member of the group brought along with the story of how nineteenth century abolitionists were major supporters of the maple sugar industry given its operations were 100% without the use of slave labor. Which reminds me maple sugar season is just beginning here in New England. Time to plan a visit to a local sugar house. But I digress.

Proust and the Squid Book Cover

The Non-Fiction book club has set its sights on the next truthy tome and will discuss Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 6:30pm.

From the Book Jacket:

The act of reading is a miracle. Every new reader’s brain possesses the extraordinary capacity to rearrange itself beyond its original abilities in order to understand written symbols. But how does the brain learn to read? As world-renowned cognitive neuroscientist and scholar of reading Maryanne Wolf explains in this impassioned book, we taught our brain to read only a few thousand years ago, and in the process changed the intellectual evolution of our species.

Wolf tells us that the brain that examined tiny clay tablets in the cuneiform script of the Sumerians is configured differently from the brain that read alphabets or of one literate in today’s technology. There are critical implications to such an evolving brain. Just as writing reduced the need for memory, the proliferation of information and the particular requirements of digital culture my short-circuit some of written language’s unique contributions—with potentially profound consequences for our future.

Turning her attention to the development of the individual reading brain, Wolf draws on her expertise in dyslexia to investigate that happens when the brain finds it difficult to read. Interweaving her vast knowledge of neuroscience, psychology, literature, and linguistics, Wolf takes the reader from the brains of a pre-literate Homer to a literacy-ambivalent Plato, from an infant listening to Goodnight Moon to an expert reader of Proust, and finally to an often misunderstood child with dyslexia whose gifts may be as real as the challenges he or she faces.

As we come to appreciate how the evolution and development of reading have changed the very arrangement of our brain and our intellectual life, we begin to realize with ever greater comprehension that we truly are what we read. Ambitious, provocative, and rich with examples, Proust and the Squid celebrates reading, one of the single most remarkable inventions in history. Once embarked on this magnificent story of the reading brain, you will never again take for granted your ability to absorb the written word.

About the Author:

Maryanne Wolf Author Photo

Maryanne Wolf is a professor of child development at Tufts University, where she holds the John DiBiaggio Chair of Citizenship and Public Service, and is the director of the Center for Reading and Language Research. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and two sons.

The Pollard Library Non-Ficiton book club meets at 6:30pm on the first Thursday of every month (although there are a few months in 2013 that the group will not meet) for full details and a list of upcoming and past titles please visit our webpage.