What We See When We Read is a book written by Peter Mendelsund that was published in 2014. Mendelsund is a cover artist, book jacket designer, pianist, and the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf publishing house. He is a distinguished artist in this respect, as many of his designs are distinctly iconic and easily recognizable. Because he is artistically talented, What We See When We Read is full of many illustrations, always purposeful and sometimes whimsical.
The main question posed by What We See When We Read is “What do we see when we read?” Obviously, we see the words on the page as we read through books, but what Mendelsund is really asking here is what we picture in our minds. Through his illustrations and wonderfully fluent language, the reader is able to follow Mendelsund around as he tries to answer this question.
Mendelsund references many famous authors, including Dickens, Woolf, Tolstoy, and Melville, and their works to form his argument that he explores through the book. What is written in words on pages of books are discrete images, and those fragmented clues are what build up a character in the reader’s mind, though our emotion and mental connections to these characters have nothing to do with our physical imaginations of them, according to Mendelsund.