The ability to fluently, and seemingly effortlessly, read words is one of a few unique human attributes, but one which has assumed inordinate significance because of the role that this activity has come to have in modern society. A disadvantage in reading ability not only has profound personal impact for the individuals concerned, but in terms of economic and social problems also has a wider negative influence on society at large. According to current government figures in the United Kingdom, some 22% of 11-year-olds do not reach the minimum standard required in English national curriculum tests. Despite its importance, the scientific understanding of the neural basis of reading, and more particularly the visual aspect of visual word recognition, is relatively poorly understood. Thus far, a coherent overarching model that spans the various conceptual levels from behavior through functional description to neuroanatomy has proven extraordinarily challenging to elucidate. A fuller understanding of the computational processing and neurophysiological basis of how the reading system functions would therefore represent significant progress.