A biocultural approach seeks to combine detailed histories and sociologies of reading with the new neuroscience of literacy played out across languages from Chinese to Navajo. Literary theorists tend to dismiss as obvious or irrelevant the ability to read. Reading is mostly employed as a synonym for interpretation and remains invisible unless (as in reception history) it bears a hermeneutic payoff. Reading, however, like writing, holds a distinctive place among the practices that help constitute modern human consciousness. The aim of this essay is to explore the implications of an understanding in which reading is always both cultural and biological.