Book cover for The Greatest Invention

The Greatest Invention



17 March 2022
304 pages
Imprint: Picador


Brisk, simple to follow and unfussy – though the author has a way with a helpful metaphor, for which we non-experts are grateful. Only occasionally does it turn complicated; but this is where much of the fun is to be found [ . . . ] Ferrara’s book is an introduction to writing as a process of revelation, but it’s also a celebration of these things still undeciphered, and many other tantalising mysteries besides.
In Silvia Ferrara’s conception of it, writing is a fragile object, nurtured over many phases of human development . . . The Greatest Invention is a celebration not of achievements, but of moments of illumination and 'the most important thing in the world: our desire to be understood.'
Ferrara says she wrote the book the way she talks to friends over dinner, and that’s exactly how it reads. Instead of telling a chronological history of writing, she moves freely from script to script, island to island . . . She is constantly by our side, prodding us with questions, offering speculations, reporting on exciting discoveries . . . . her book doubles as a manifesto for collaborative research.

[An] intellectually stimulating, chattily written survey of the invention and significance of writing in both the ancient and modern world.