What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund is a uniquely crafted book and uniquely written book. With a large typeface and lots of pictures, the 419 page book doesn’t take long to read.
Did I like the book? There are some interesting thoughts here and there scattered throughout the book, but mostly Mendelsund seems to repeat the same thing over and over again. In quick summary…
We are what we read. Reading is as individual to the reader as it is to the writer. As a reader, we can never know the mind of the writer and we will never know the full scope of the novel in our hands.
But is it a good book? It’s repetitious and too easily skimmed. As an English major, an avid reader and having friends who are avid readers, I felt like I knew and/or agreed with most of his conclusions. As a result, I didn’t learn anything new which is the main reason I reach for non-fiction books. So for the individual voracious reader, I would give What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund a thumbs down.
However, this might make an excellent book for a book club discussion. Based on the points that Mendelsund presents, I imagine it could lead to a lively discussion between club members regarding how different people see different characters, places and things in a commonly read book. Did everyone that read The Hunger Games see a yellow-orange cat and then silently (or not so silently in my case) rage when they saw the first movie?
For the individual reader who is looking to examine how they read, or for the book club looking for a potentially lively philosophical discussion this book could be a thumbs up. For the practiced (and/or trained) reader, this book, in my opinion, doesn’t hold much value and gets a thumbs down.