Brian's Reviews > Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read

Reading in the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene
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Jul 26, 10

bookshelves: reviewed
Read from July 07 to 25, 2010

It's always great when a scientist who knows a very specialized topic -- in this case cognitive neuroscience -- is also a good writer, who can render accessible what might otherwise be difficult. Dehaene is mostly a delight to read, and several times reading this book, I had to stop and think of how profound it is that reading -- what you're doing at this exact moment if I haven't bored you yet -- is mostly a mystery to scientists. Dehaene goes into great detail to explain precisely what is now known about how we actually read, and it's mind-boggling, but his main contribution is that he's suggested, with some evidence, that in order to read, certain parts of our primate brain have been "recycled" (though repurposed would be a better word) for the task of reading. Without getting into it in detail, he says we couldn't possibly have evolved the complex structures necessary for reading in a mere few thousand years. There *has* been recent evidence that evolution *can* happen in fits and starts, leaping forward when conditions are right, rather than in the increments of deep-time, but a lot of Dehaene's evidence is very compelling. If you ever wanted to feel special about yourself just for reading a book, read this one and then amuse yourself pondering the miracles of the reading ape.
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