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“Reading isn’t only a matter of our brains; it’s something that we do with our bodies.”

Nov 16, 2012

“Reading isn’t only a matter of our brains; it’s something that we do with our bodies.”

Slate has an interesting excerpt up from Andrew Piper’s Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times.

Love this bit on the hands and handbooks:

Books, like hands, hold our attention. As early as the 12th century, writers began drawing hands in the margins of their books to point to important passages. Such a device gradually passed into typescript and became a commonplace of printed books. It looked like this: ☞. The pointing hand in the book stood for the way books themselves were like pointers, making the world graspable. If books open us out into the world, they also constrain. They bring the world down to size, inoculations against the problem of patternlessness.

The child’s first drawing is often of his or her own hand. The footprint may be the first mark we make in the world (for hospital records), but the handprint is the original sign of self-reflection, of understanding ourselves as being in the world. The “handbook” or “manual”—the book that reduces the world into its essential parts, into outline form—is an extension of this art of measurement.

And why reading is an excellent way to free up your mind so you can think:

New research continues to emphasize the importance of mind wandering for learning. It turns out that not paying attention is one of the best ways of discovering new ideas. Reading books, whether silently or aloud, remains one of the most efficient means of enabling such errant thinking. As our bodies rest, our minds begin to work in a different way… How can one know where reading books ends and dreaming in books begins?

Thx, Alan Jacobs, who wrote his own excellent book on reading.

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