How Does Control of Navigation Through Words Impact a Reader’s Experience?

What We See When We Read

What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“At once (at a gulp) we readers:
1) Read a sentence…
2) Read several sentences ahead…
3) Maintain consciousness of the content of sentences we have already read…
4) Imagine events down the line.”

I’m so grateful to Peter Mendelsund for creating this book. And doing it so masterfully with his design mind.

His is a unique perspective, influenced by the central challenge of his life’s work– designing book covers. The problem he is tasked with solving, or the way of seeing he is tasked with understanding, is… how can one encapsulate the reading experience visually?

In this book he runs down the underlying assumptions, preconceptions and misconceptions we all bring to our attempts to answer such a question. He explores the possibilities, the experiences, the sensory and mental realities of reading- the essential connection between language, meaning, imaging, imagining.

All the while relentlessly reminding the reader that words function differently as symbols than images do. He never allows the reader to encounter words in this book in a conventional way. He is constantly, often playfully, demonstrating how visual cues impact meaning.

Why I’m grateful…

The love of reading may be the most stable constant of my life. And has evolved into a driver of my professional life and the pursuit of my dreams. How reading functions in the learning process is the central challenge of my life’s work and what inspired my own design mind to ask this question:

How does control of navigation through words impact a reader’s experience?

This book has given me a city full of new avenues to explore as I continue to pursue this inquiry:

  • “The eye-voice span is the distance between where one’s eyes are looking on a page and where, on the page, one’s (inner) voice is reading.”
  • Proust “the frantic career of the eyes”
  • “we do not apprehend words as we are reading them
    When we read, we take in whole eyefuls of words. We gulp them like water.”

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