Tag: Metamorphosis

What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund

Posted November 8, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 3 Comments

What We See When We Read by Peter MendelsundTitle: What We See When We Read (Goodreads)
Author: Peter Mendelsund
Published: Vintage, 2014
Pages: 419
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When reading Moby Dick, does Ishmael look like Richard Basehart? How about Anna Karenina? Please don’t tell me she looked like Keira Knightley. What We See When We Read takes a look at the activity of reading with such depth and insight. Looking at not only the way our brain fills in the images but also what the author is trying to say. Take for example Karenin in Anna Karenina; his ears are described a few times within the novel but they get bigger. The size of his ears is an artistic simulacrum that changes as Anna Karenina’s feelings toward him change.

Peter Mendelsund is Knopf’s Associate Art Director and has been responsible for some of their most iconic book covers. Just looking at his book cover designs I get the sense that he loves reading and the artistic side of literature. His book covers really capture a feeling; they stand out and often work well with the written word inside. He is major is in Philosophy and Literature and the two work well together in looking at the idea of reading and how our minds interpret the written word.

This is very much like Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, it explores the idea of reading in different ways and explores different concepts. We all read slightly different and Mendelsund is able to go into different methods. A stand out for me is the way Vladimir Nabokov read Kafka’s Metamorphosis; there is an image of his copy of the book and it looks like he edits and rewrites the book to make it his own. It is an interesting way to get involve with the written word.

What We See When We Read is a combination of written words and images, which allows Mendelsund to illustrate his point and give the reader a better understanding of the feelings. A big bonus is the fact that he references other books, which gives me a huge TBR pile of books that explore this idea further in different ways. I love books about books so I am pleased to have a reading list.

I have to say What We See When We Read is a must for all book lovers. This book will be a joy to read and will look good on the shelf. I own the new Vintage edition, which is a paperback but it also has French flaps so it looks nice. I like how he went for a simple cover design; it stands out and works well with this book. I know this book is rising in popularity and I hope more people get a chance to read this one as soon as possible.