Models of the "visual word form system" postulate that a left occipitotemporal region implements the automatic visual word recognition required for efficient reading. This theory was assessed in a patient in whom reading was explored with behavioral measures, fMRI, and intracranial local field potentials. Prior to surgery, when reading was normal, fMRI revealed a normal mosaic of ventral visual selectivity for words, faces, houses, and tools. Intracranial recordings demonstrated that the left occipitotemporal cortex responded with a short latency to conscious but also to subliminal words. Surgery removed a small portion of word-responsive occipitotemporal cortex overlapping with the word-specific fMRI activation. The patient developed a marked reading deficit, while recognition of other visual categories remained intact. Furthermore, in the post-surgery fMRI map of visual cortex, only word-specific activations disappeared. Altogether, these results provide direct evidence for the causal role of the left occipitotemporal cortex in the recognition of visual words.