Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read” as Want to Read:
Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  1,209 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
"Brings together the cognitive, the cultural, and the neurological in an elegant, compelling narrative. A revelatory work."
-Oliver Sacks, M.D.

The act of reading is so easily taken for granted that we forget what an astounding feat it is. How can a few black marks on white paper evoke an entire universe of meanings? It's even more amazing when we consider that we read us
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Penguin Books (first published August 30th 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Reading in the Brain, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Reading in the Brain

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: francia, non-fiction
In questo viaggio corticale, scopro che il mio cervello da primate compie acrobazie immani per leggere. La lettura è frutto dell'evoluzione umana e uno dei maggiori artefici della sua esplosione culturale. L'espansione della corteccia prefrontale ha permesso alla nostra specie di inventare la scrittura. Questa invenzione ha sviluppato una memoria supplementare, esterna e duratura. Per questo motivo la lettura è la prima "protesi della mente".
Siamo dotati di circuiti neuronali capaci di imparare
This book seemed a little forbidding at first, The first chapter was readable enough, but Chapter 2, which is clearly critical to an understanding of the rest of the book, got very hairy very fast. Scads of diagrams of the brains from various angles and a veritable cornucopia of fMRI scans, rounded out by that sad, inevitable procession of case studies whose weirdly specific malfunction* proved essential in nailing the link between a particular brain activity and the location of the region that ...more
This was a really, really fascinating read, and surprisingly easy to grasp considering the technical subject. I actually read it surprisingly fast, and it was definitely the sort of book that provoked a lot of turning to my partner to ask “did you know that…”. It also made me ask a ton of questions of my mother about how I learned to read, why I learned to read late, etc, and honestly had me wondering if I should volunteer for a study on reading — the methods of reading and learning to read that ...more
Lars Guthrie
Aug 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This joins the go-to books on my shelf for anyone who cares about how we read and how we learn to do it. It's next to Maryanne Wolf's 'Proust and the Squid' and the already-dated 'Understanding Dyslexia' by Sally Shaywitz.

It's definitely denser matter than the other two, though, and taking it in requires effort. There were a couple of things that made the task harder than it needed to be.

Since 'Reading in the Brain' generally maintains a conversational tone and does not talk down to lay people,
Ashish Narain
Nov 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John Brown
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I previously read Caplan (Harvard Medical School) in his 1996 book on "Language". He discussed the psychology experiments that revealed that the brain contained 8 different dictionaries, organised conceptually into a tree by speech/text, input/output, and whole-word/grapheme_phoneme.
This model formed the basis of theories on dyslexia.
Now Dehaene updates this psychological model into a neuroscience model, based on functional MRI and other experimental techniques, applied to show brain activities
Eric Rasmussen
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading in the Brain is a very challenging book, but the effort, head-scratching, and re-reading was more than worth it - as an educator, neuro-psychology enthusiast, and appreciator of new and and interesting insights into the ways the people work, this book was one of the more significant texts I've read, ever.

From a content perspective, this book wove well-explained data into profound insight into the ways something specific like reading works, which continually built toward much grander and
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I found it utterly fascinating, and very well written (I kept marveling that the author's first language is not English. If you're a reader, and you want to find out more about how this mysterious and wonderful process works, I highly recommend this book.
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
If I knew more about neuroscience I would have loved this, but as it was I had to skip a lot of the dense parts and just read the simple summaries to understand a lot of it.
Jonna Higgins-Freese
I read it because it was often referenced in _Proust and the Squid_ -- interestingly, because the content seems almost 100% identical. Not sure which book was first, but I'm surprised it was thought there was a market for both.

There was some interesting stuff about the invention of the alphabet, and the way in which it happened because Egyptian signs were used to transcribe a Semitc language. "Because the scribes were writing for a new language, [they could] jettison old rules and converge on to
May 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There is something wonderfully ironical about this book: It purports to defend from enemies everywhere the act of reading, while doing so in a way that makes even the lustiest reader temporarily hate the written word.

This book is terribly written; its author encapsulates a goodish number of ideas "in a nutshell" and likens three or four sets of ideas to "tip(s) of the iceberg" and feels compelled to finish many nearly unreadable sections of chapters with "in summary." Its largest value is a refl
Fraencis Daencis
Allein schon der Titel des Buches hat mich sehr angesprochen und ich war sehr neugierig, ob der Inhalt genauso anziehend wirkt auf mich. Zu Beginn war es für mich etwas schwierig, in die ganze Materie hineinzukommen gedanklich. Doch da die Inhalte gut erklärt und mit vielen anschaulichen Beispielen untermauert werden, war ich nach kurzer Zeit vollkommen in dem Thema drin. An dieser Stelle ist aber eine kleine „Warnung“ angebracht: Dieses Buch ist – wie die meisten Sachbücher – keines für zwische ...more
Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author Dehaene, who has some very impressive credentials, has made an exhaustive exploration of how the human brain reads. What he has concluded is that we ‘recycle’ parts of the brain that were evolved to do other things. Humans have been evolving for several million years, but only reading for a few thousand- a new structure just for reading couldn’t have been created in that time. And reading arose in several geographical areas around the same time- the chances of a special mutation for readi ...more
Jul 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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 ...more
Diana Sandberg
Dehaene is somewhat difficult to read; he is discursive and not spectacularly well organized. But it’s generally worth wading through the verbiage for the information. This one is about the nitty-gritty details of brain structure and function as they relate to the skill of reading. Recent advances in brain imaging have given us surprising new insights.

It is indeed astonishing that readers from all cultures almost invariably use precisely the same relatively minute portion of the brain for this a
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My guess is that this book will only be of interest to people who care a great deal about brain research; it's a jargon-heavy, very detailed analysis of what happens in the brain when we read -- and why we can read at all. We evolved to get quick fixes on shapes in nature, for our survival. So when we moved to farming and larger communities, away from hunting and gathering, and we needed to keep records, we used the same simple shapes we saw in nature -- circles, triangles, stick figures. Letter ...more
Feb 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dehaene offers a very technical explanation of what happens in the brain when one reads. He suggests that although there is no specific "reading gene", there appears to be evidence that there are structures or mechanisms that facilitate reading within the brain, features that are recycled in the purpose from what nature had originally intended. He is informed by a good deal of research that shows some universal similarities suggesting that human creativity did not come up with the various alphab ...more
Notes so far:

Generic "he". Ugh. Come on, people, it's the 21st century.

From the intro: "Nothing in our evolution could have prepared us to absorb language through vision." So, is he arguing that sign language is as amazing a thing as reading? Checking the index, he doesn't address sign language anywhere.

Didn't end up having time to finish before it had to go back to the library; I'll give it a try later when I have more time and when I'm willing to put up with the generic "he". (The problem with
Lara Amber
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I highly recommend this book to ANYONE who is teaching children to read or designing curriculum on reading. It would also be excellent for anyone with school aged children who want a better understand on how the human brain works while reading.

I will caution this is a dense book, lots of ideas and studies, and best read in small chunks. The author does assume the reader is college educated with a strong background in science.
Sophie Ho
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfictions-sci
Absolutely an eye-opener! Dehaene skillfully explained how reading, a mundane and often taken-for-granted activity, is nothing but a miraculous feat that we human are blessed with. Being fluent in reading both Chinese and English, I am especially impressed by the findings that show reading the two seemingly different languages utilizes the exact same neural pathway. A highly informative and interesting read!
Bravo! This is a marvelous book - clearly and elegantly written (not in the author's native language) and on the cutting edge of the neuroscience of reading. I savored it, reading a few pages a day for several months. It is well worth becoming acquainted with this brilliant mind and the exciting ideas (many of which are documentable, thanks to fMRI's and other imaging techniques) about how the brain works.
Pam Skelton
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great detailed and clear explanation of the current state of the neurology of the brain while reading. Clear well-explained illustrations. Includes discussion of learning to read, reading and perceptual issues such as dyslexia, and particularly evolutionary issues.
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This idea of the reading paradox is interesting, but I still feel like all these books are too focused on pedagogy and dyslexic children vs. what is physically going on in the brain during reading.
Steve Anderson
This is a difficult book, but it has great insights into how humans read!
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic and illuminating read about reading. Highly recommended.
This is turning out to be a startling treasure. Astounding information; and very well-articulated.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ub
Lots of pictures and diagrams, and sentences starting with "In summary" (all good things). Some fascinating insights, but also sometimes too much brain-anatomy. So I did skip some parts, including Chapter 6 on the dyslexic brain, because I'm less interested in that.

P30 on irregularity of pronunciation in English:?GB Shaw pointed out that "fish" might be spelled ghoti: gh as in enough, o as in women, ti as in lotion.

P46 in adult expert readers, the time to read a word is essentially independent o
K. Bird Lincoln
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the last chapters opens with an epigraph from Umberto Eco "If God existed, he would be a library."

Which tickled my fancy, but doesn't necessarily portray Dehaene's stance about how inborn structural properties of our brain are co-opted and retrained (neuronal recycling)in order for humans to develop the ability to recognize words and understand them (no matter if Chinese or French.)

"Recycling, on the other hand, implies that before cortical regions convert to other uses, they already poss
Jul 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

It's appropriate that this book should test the reader's stamina as it is about the very fact of the amazing human feat of literacy!

The main thesis is that our brains recycle circuits and neurons designed by evolution for our survival and use them for reading and writing, and in the larger picture, for inventing culture. Brain studies show areas of the brain which are used in all cultures for responding to and processing written language. All writing uses phoneme and morpheme representations wh
Geoffrey Fox
Dec 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading requires rapid and successive interpretations of small sets of visual marks (in alphabetic writing, no more than 5-7 letters per saccade) by neurons from several regions of the brain, interrogating the symbols until the most likely hypothesis of their meaning is established. The very first operation in each saccade is to recognize the symbols as letters (rather than corporate logos, or numbers, or something else) and attribute possible sounds to them. If the symbols invariably represent ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Psychology: Reading in the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene 1 6 Apr 08, 2013 10:37AM  
  • Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
  • On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction
  • Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique
  • The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God
  • The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind
  • The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach
  • A User's Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain
  • Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain
  • The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience
  • Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are
  • Making Up the Mind
  • Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning
  • Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences
  • In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind
  • Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding
  • The Other Brain: From Dementia to Schizophrenia, How New Discoveries about the Brain Are Revolutionizing Medicine and Science
  • A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness: From Impostor Poodles to Purple Numbers
  • The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain