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What We See When We Read
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What We See When We Read

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  3,035 Ratings  ·  534 Reviews
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
Paperback, 425 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Vintage (first published August 2014)
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(showing 1-30)
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We perform a book, and we attend the performance.

Words have a unique power to impose pictures into the inward eye of the mind In a recent thread, a friend commented on how Homer, despite his supposed blindness, had the ability to create metaphors which were more visual and imaginatively stunning that modern CGI has been able to manage. Words have a power that even visual stimulation cannot capture. It is interesting to consider the cliche that ‘the book is better than the movie’ which—in most
Oct 25, 2015 Maxwell rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
What an utterly absorbing and fascinating read. Mendelsund, a renowned cover designer, looks into exactly what the title suggest, what we see (or think we see) when we read. He dissects everything from first lines and impressions to the performative nature of reading; the reader as a part of the text to how memory implants itself on the mind's eye while reading. It's packed with illustrations and provides an excellent starting point to further examine what we are doing exactly when we read words ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I somehow forgot to review this one despite reading it in preparation for my Reading May Experience course, and using some of the quotations and bits from it in reflection prompts.

This is a visual study on what we know about reading. This is a book I'd like to own and dip in and out of from time to time, a real pleasure. Most people who read will get something out of it.
“The openings of To the Lighthouse and Moby-Dick are confusing for the reader – we haven’t yet been given sufficient informati
Stephen P
Sep 23, 2014 Stephen P rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
I must begin this review by stating my prejudice of supreme enjoyment when reading about reading. I find this enterprise endlessly fascinating. The more I examine it the more there seems to examine.

Along with the purity of sheer enjoyment there was nothing which shattered my world, nor though was it a dry review of what I already knew. By including drawings, pieces of conceptual art-he is best known for designing book covers for well known works-he conjured from his imagination pictorials which
Nov 29, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-usa, g-não-ficção, e4
Com gráficos, fotografias, desenhos e um mínimo de texto, Mendelsund - utilizando exemplos de alguns romances clássicos - elabora um exercício muito divertido sobre o acto de leitura; como cada leitor "vê" as personagens, os lugares...

"Não faça isso, por favor não o faça! O inseto não pode ser representado. Não pode sequer ser mostrado ao longe."
Esta é a mensagem enviada por Kafka ao editor de Metamorfose, talvez com o objetivo de proteger os atos imaginativos dos seus leitores.

Agora percebi bem
Aug 24, 2014 Jafar rated it it was ok
I started off liking this book. I thought Mendelsund was on to something interesting and original. But the more I read, the more I felt I was reading something by a postmodernist writer. You know the type. They sound high and mighty, but in the end it's impossible to tell what their point is, assuming they have a point.

Mendelsund makes a great deal of how we imagine the characters of a novel look like. Well, I, for one, make no attempt to imagine how Anna Karenina looks like when I read the nov
Peter Mendelsund’s “What We See When We Read” might almost be useful to those just coming to the idea of immersive, experiential reading, analytical reading, especially non-fiction, does not figure into this work, but for those who’ve been following, or studying, the phenomenon of non-critical reading this will be a tedious read.

The graphics are excellent, but they are disguising the fact you are reading a very, very short book—only 21k. The problem with this is that what you are getting is les
Sophie (The Uneducated Reader) Aylmore
In some places I was all like WOAH NO WAY and other places I was all like YEAH NO SHIT and other places I was all like LOL and other places I was all like PICTURES. 4 stars.
Okuması pek bir keyifli.
Aug 06, 2014 jeremy rated it it was amazing
once a reading of a book is under way, and we sink into the experience, a performance of a sort begins...

we perform a book - we perform a reading of a book. we perform a book, and we attend the performance.

(as readers, we are both the conductor and the orchestra, as well as the audience)
jacket designer (and knopf associate art director) peter mendelsund has produced some of the most iconic cover art of recent years (a quick google image search is revealing). what we see when we read is an exam
Ryan Dejonghe
Jul 30, 2014 Ryan Dejonghe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 narrati
Dec 27, 2014 Holly rated it really liked it
This book was incredible and a must-read for any bibliophile. It explores what we picture when we read novels, in particular focusing on characters. Mendelsund is a graphic designer who specialises in book covers, so the design of this book is superlative. Filled with maps, drawings and diagrams, each page is a pleasure and a surprise. I devoured this book. It made me think really deeply about what I visualise when I’m reading. My only complaint was that it wasn’t longer and therefore didn't go ...more
Mairita (Marii grāmatplaukts)
Autors teoretizē kā mēs redzam un ko mēs redzam, kad lasām. Noskaidrojas, ka ļoti sīka detalizācija nemaz nepalīdz "ieraudzīt" lasīto. Tāpat mēs pilnīgi skaidri varoņus neredzam, tie vairāk līdzinās sliktiem fotorobotiem. Un tā tālāk. Tāda lasīšanas pieredzes preperēšana ir interesanta, tikai autora akadēmiskais stils brīžiem ierobežoja teksta izprašanu.
Oct 31, 2015 Miguel rated it really liked it
Shelves: resenha-sqf

Excertos do livro:
«Enquanto leitores, somos tanto o maestro quanto a orquestra, assim como audiência.» (p. 160)
«(...) lemos porque os livros nos concedem prazeres únicos; prazeres que os filmes, a televisão e outros não podem oferecer.» (p. 192)

Francesca Marciano
Sep 21, 2014 Francesca Marciano rated it it was amazing
Peter Mendelsund is one of the best jacket designer (and knopf associate art director) out there. What we see when we read has to be one of the smartest books ever written (and designed) about reading and imagining....I absolutely loved it.
Elizabeth A
Dec 28, 2015 Elizabeth A rated it really liked it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Bookrageous
Shelves: 2015, non-fiction
Book blurb: A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading - how we visualize images from reading works of literature. What do we see when we read? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like?

This book clocks in at 425 pages, but don't let that scare you away, and is a must read for anyone who loves to read. It explores what happens in our brains when we read novels, especially as it relates
Aug 10, 2014 Eleanore rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was fantastic and I tore through it. It's designed to be read quickly, though, but that doesn't hinder it. The only thing keeping this from a 5 star rating is I feel there could've been even more material explored; it really only scratches the surface. It's not a shallow examination of this concept, though, and what it covers, it covers very well. This one passage in particular grabbed me and demanded rereading:

"River, the word, contains within it all rivers, which flow like tributaries in
Sarah SE
Feb 06, 2016 Sarah SE rated it liked it
Shelves: visual-reads
Pretentious, but interesting, and cleverly/beautifully laid out. A better name for the book might be, "What Peter Mendelsund Sees When Peter Mendelsund Reads." To be fair, the man is a brilliant cover designer and artist (although I gather that he thinks so too), so I do value his opinion on the process of reading--even if it's mostly limited to his experience. I would never call this book a "sacred text" (as one of the back blurbs (amusingly) does), but it certainly wouldn't be a waste of time ...more
Sep 05, 2014 Cathy rated it it was ok
It's really beautifully illustrated, but it doesn't really say much. Not having read the classics that he uses for examples (Anna Karenina, Dickens, books many people will have read) didn't help my disconnect, but I don't think that was the problem. It just didn't say much that illuminated how I read, there was nothing that made me say, "ah, interesting." I was hoping to get it at the same time as his other new book, Cover, since I read that they work well together, but the library has a will of ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Sep 08, 2014 Mary Ronan Drew rated it it was ok
What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund should have been a delightful and insightful book. It wasn't; not for me. It's unusual, with many pages black with white print, clever (and not so clever) illustrations. Bits of text from novels shown in ways that purportedly illustrate how we see them. None of this worked for me. Next time you're in the library or a bookstore take a look at it. I'm sure it would appeal to somebody; maybe that's you.

I read a library copy. This is not a book for the
Apr 22, 2015 Jo rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, kindle, non-fiction
This was an excellent book on the visual image provoked by good writing. It was interesting to me because I typically don't see images when I read. I see the words on the page. My daughter thinks I am very strange as she sees things like a movie in her head when she reads. I would love to be able to do that. After reading this book, I am wondering if perhaps I am just not a careful reader and that is part of the problem.
Mar 13, 2016 Orçun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okuma eyleminin ilginçliği üzerine, ilginç bir biçimde hazırlanmış kitap. Sadece içerik olarak değil, bir nesne olarak da gayet güzel.
May 18, 2015 zxvasdf rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Like physics, reading is an experience we don't really think about until someone points it out. The laws of gravity are taken for granted by those who adhere to the Earth's surface, and so is the act of imagery the reader experiences during the consummation of reader and book.

Mendelsund picks apart the solipsistic existence that is the reader's immersion in an author's carefully crafted universe. What do we see when we read? Definitely not what we think we see. He pieces out the process in this
Feb 13, 2015 Mary rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, read-2015
I thought this would be a scientific explanation of how the brain processes words into images, but it's really a showcase of graphic design. Sure, there is an essay about reading, but it's tedious, not illuminating.
Nov 08, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
A very fascinating piece of work! It definitely made me think about the act of reading in a different way, and it proposed some really interesting ideas. I also loved how the book had so many visual aspects to it.
Christine Baese
Oct 04, 2014 Christine Baese rated it it was ok
I wanted to read this book. I expected to love it, and I didn't. While there were some interesting discussions about reading and what we visualize, a lot of it seemed excessive to me. Of course, we don't see the same Anna Karenina when we read. For that, I am thankful.
Sep 04, 2014 Carrie rated it liked it
Visually beautiful, but it did become a bit tiresome. Seemed more gimmicky than insightful at times.
Jun 30, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
So fascinating. Definitely recommend for anyone who loves to read. Full review to come.
Jan 06, 2015 Tiffani rated it it was amazing
What We See When We Read is Peter Mendelsund’s written and pictorial meditation on the act of reading. It asks the question, aside from words on a page what do you see when you read? How clearly can you picture the character or the setting you read about? Sure you know the character has big brown eyes because it says so in the book, but what does the nose look like? After reading this book I think the answer to the question of what I see when I read is both more and less than I thought.

If you as
Feb 18, 2015 Shruti rated it liked it
I am a Reader. I have been a Reader from so young an age that I can't even remember a time when I wasn't a Reader. It's arguably one of my most defining characteristics. Hence my interest in this book.

The book is intriguing, at least theoretically. Understanding what my brain sees or how it processes as I read is fascinating. It is also something that I've never really thought about while reading, because I'm too busy being immersed in the book. Once I stop reading, I can try to go back and proc
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Peter Mendelsund is the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf and a recovering classical pianist. His designs have been described by The Wall Street Journal as being “the most instantly recognizable and iconic book covers in contemporary fiction.” He lives in New York.
More about Peter Mendelsund...

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“If books were roads, some would be made for driving quickly - details are scant, and what details there are appear drab - but the velocity and torque of the narrative is exhilarating. Some books, if seen as roads, would be make for walking - the trajectory of the road mattering far less than the vistas these roads might afford. The best book for me: I drive through it quickly but am forced to stop on occasion, to pull over and marvel.” 16 likes
“Once a reading of a book is under way, and we sink into the experience, a performance of a sort begins...

We perform a book-we perform a reading of a book. We perform a book, and we attend the performance.

(As readers, we are both the conductor and the orchestra, as well as the audience.)”
More quotes…