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Review Excerpts of John Allen Paulos' Books
"To combat [innumeracy] John Allen Paulos has concocted the perfect vaccine:
this book, which is in many ways better than an entire high school math
education! Our society would be unimaginably different if the average
person truly understood the ideas in this marvelous and important book.
It is probably hopelessly optimistic to dream this way, but I hope that
Innumeracy might help launch a revolution in math education that would do
for innumeracy what Sabin and Salk did for polio." - Douglas
Hofstadter, author of Godel, Escher, and Bach
This elegant survival manual is brief, witty, and full of
practical applications. - Stefan Kanfer, Time Magazine.
Like carrying on a conversation with an engaging, articulate
math whiz who easily shifts from the profound to the funny. -
Christopher Farrell, Business Week.
Paulos makes numbers, probability, and statistics perform
like so many trained seals for the reader's entertainment and
enlightenment. - Jon Van, Chicago Tribune.
The innumerate will surely profit from this entertaining
book. - Morris Kline, New York Times Book Review.
This admirable little book is only 135 pages long. You can
read it in 2 hours. Chances are that they could be among the most
enlightening and even profitable 120 minutes you ever spent. -
Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times.
The world, as seen by Paulos, is less mysterious, yet
somehow more elegant, less magical, yet more wonderful. So many
apparently strange events do, in fact, become all the more
magnificent in their not-so-fearful symmetry. - Arthur Salm, San
He takes us a couple of steps closer to numeracy, and it is
all in all an enlightening place to be. Christopher Lehman-Haupt,
New York Times.
One wonders why no one ever explained it this way before. -
Sheila Tobias, author of Overcoming Math Anxiety.
Innumeracy would improve the quality of thinking of
virtually anyone. - Isaac Asimov
A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper
But the dirty secret about the media's contribution to
American "Innumeracy," first examined in a delightful book by that
title by John Allen Paulos, is about to be revealed in his sequel,
A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. -- Max Frankel, New York Times.
This is press criticism, but not of the usual kind .... This
is press criticism of the sort that George Orwell had in mind when
he observed that what's important isn't news, and what's news isn't
important. ..... This is a subversive book. Paulos argues that the
world is so complex that it cannot be accurately described, much
less manipulated. ...... a wise and thoughtful book, which skewers
much of what everyone knows to be true. -- Lee Dembart, Los Angeles
It would be great to have John Allen Paulos living next door.
Every morning when you read the paper and came across some story
that didn't seem quite right - that had the faint odor of illogic
hovering about it - you could just lean out the window and shout,
"Jack! Get the hell over here!"..... Paulos, who wrote the
bestseller Innumeracy (the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy),
has now written a fun, spunky, wise little book that would be
helpful to both the consumers of the news and its purveyors.
-- Joel Achenbach, Washington Post.
Even better, Paulos' wit and humor - admirably displayed in
Innumeracy - are in top form. His irreverent and pointed comments
entertain as well as educate. Though Paulos writes about a
bewildering number of topics, he has something fresh and
interesting to say about each. -- Charles Seife, Philadelphia
This book will bring a great deal of pleasure to many - as it
did to the reviewer. It is full of fun, full of information, full of
insights. -- Peter Hilton, American Mathematical Monthly.
Although the combination of math and newspapers sounds
uniquely unappetizing, John Allen Paulos creates a truly thought-
provoking book from that mixture. -- Best Bet, USA Today.
In his new book, the mathematician John Allen Paulos continues
his witty crusade against mathematical illiteracy ...... Mr.
Paulos's little essay explaining the Banzhaf power index and how it
relates to Lani Guinier's ideas about empowering minorities is
itself worth the price of the book. -- Richard Bernstein, New York
As intriguing as these examples may be, Paulos' book is much
more than an assortment of helpful hints for news readers. As a
lifelong fan of newspapers, Paulos provides a wide-ranging
collection of musings on mathematics, the media and life itself.
-- Jon Van, Chicago Tribune.
To the rescue comes our hero John Allen Paulos, that
mysterious masked mathematician on a white horse, with his new
book, "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper." ...If paranoia could
be cured by math, Paulos would be the Jonas Salk of the disease.
His dissection of conspiracy theories is delicious. -- Molly Ivins,
Paulos uses his considerable talents and a breezy style to
discuss many ways to apply simple, or at least simply explained,
mathematics and logic to analyze the contents of the newspaper. ...
the book is a compendium of unusually sound advice, which, if
widely read and understood, could improve a lot more for us than
the way we read the newspaper. -- Journal of the American Medical
... this book should be mandatory reading for every journalist
- as well as the readers, viewers and former tutors they supposedly
serve. -- Robert Matthews, New Scientist.
... A Mathematican Reads the Newspaper is irresistible. -- Rudy
Rucker, Scientific American.
If you've ever wanted to recapture that sense of near-mystical
rapture, there is no better place
than this book, and no more humane and enthusiastic mentor than John
Paulos, who does
mathematics what The Joy of Sex did for the boudoir interface. .....
even the most recondite ideas in concrete, easily visualizable terms.
But Paulos's principal
lies in the recognition that many of those humans are "unknowing
mathophiles" who "have been
thinking math all their lives without realizing it." For those, for
who ever sat rapt at the
austere beauty of a proof and later wondered where the wonder went,
here. -- Curt Suplee.
This is a book full of details, but its real aim seems to be to
not any specific fact so
much as a style, even a spirit. A book of the spirit should be deeply
personal, so Paulos has
his format wisely. ..... P.B. and J.S. Medawar compiled a sometimes
survey of biology called Aristotle to Zoos in this format, and Beyond
Numeracy, though not as
magisterial, can hold its own as the mathematical equivalent. .....
inviting book shows that
of us who aren't in touch with that realm are the poorer for it. --David
His brief essays are arranged alphabetically by topic, and as
of its precursors,
Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, it makes for an often jolly
book. ... If there is much to
issue with in Beyond Numeracy, there is also much to be amused and
enlightened by. The lore has
it that when Pythagoras discovered his great theorem on right
was so transported
he sacrificed 100 head of oxen to the gods as a token of gratitude. On
scale, Mr. Paulos's
is surely worth an ox or two. -- Jim Holt. Wall Street Journal
Maybe there is a royal road to mathematics, after all. If so,
motoring on it in the
driver's seat with this wide-ranging book ..... Paulos tells it like
gifted teacher he is, combining
mathematical lore with asides on culture and personalities ..... And
on in what one would
to see become an infinite series. - Kirkus Reviews
Beyond Numeracy will uundoubtedly entertain and educate many
and open up for
the mysterious and closed book - the book of the universe, as Galileo
it - of mathematics. --
Brian Rotman. London Times Literary Supplement.
Once Upon a Number
John Allen Paulos is one of the greatest mathematical
storytellers of all time, one of those rare individuals who can so
beautifully use the medium of story to communicate math and
statistics. In this pathbreaking and immensely entertaining work,
he also does the reverse: he uses the medium of math (and
statistics) to tell us about the medium of story. Each of his
insights and one-liners is great and together they offer a
profound, new view of the relation between math and stories. --
Doron Zeilberger, winner, 1998 Steele prize in mathematics. (Zeilberger's
musings on the book.)
Around the relations between formal mathematics and informal
narrative, Paulos has woven a rich tapestry of jokes, paradoxes,
logic, probability, statistics, semantics, philosophy and other
wonders. One never knows what delightful surprise is coming next.
You will learn a lot from this entertaining yet far from
superficial book. -- Martin Gardner, science author and former
Scientific American columnist.
A stimulating discussion of the benefits and pitfalls of
applying mathematical reasoning to stories and everyday life.
-- Gregory Chaitin, Author of The Limits of Mathematics.
Paulos' goal is nothing less than lofty. He hopes to reconcile
the personal aspect of human life, which refers to the stories we
tell and live by, and the impersonal, which is essentially
mathematical, statistical and scientific. Literature and science,
he says, share an uneasy complementarity, a complementarity Paulos
explores in this collection of linked essays. ... Both delightful
and wise, this little book cries out to be kept close at hand, to
be looked into from time to time, to be treasured as an old friend.
-- Anthony Day, Los Angeles Times.
The idea that the mathematician is essentially
concerned with the same questions as the novelist -- and for that
matter, the secretary and the accountant -- is intriguing and
strangely comforting. That Paulos pulls it off without veering too
far into the technical -- or careening into the patronizing -- is
a testament to the success of his book. -- Heather Chaplin, Salon
A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market
"Investors would do well to heed his entertaining, frequently
counterintuitive, always useful bean-counting methodology. A first-rate
exploration into the math of the market: heuristic numeracy at its best." -
" A funny, insightful little volume" ... "Playful and informative,
Paulos's book will be appreciated by investors with a sense of humor." -
"The world's wittiest mathematician has done it again! Paulos' hilarious account
of getting trampled while running with the bulls will leave you laughing-and mo
re than a little wiser." - Sylvia Nasar, Columbia University, author of A
"Paulos is the real McCoy, and his newest offering, "A Mathematician Plays the S
tock Market," is a double-chocolate nougat of a book - a rich, densely packed
delight. It is also rueful, funny and disarmingly personal." -
Kai Maristed, Los
"Throughout this wide-ranging survey, the writing is spirited, funny and
clear. Mr. Paulos is continually imaginative in finding apt metaphors and
anecdotes for the mechanics he dissects..." - Andrew
Rosenheim,New York Observer.
"John Allen Paulos is a genius at translating the arcane and complex for the
rest of us in ways that go down as easily, and enjoyably, as vanilla
ice cream. ... His tour of the literature takes in all the paradoxes,
fallacies and theories about markets, skillfully blending the math and
economics and, most important, the psychology of it all. You won't come
away with any surefire investment strategy, but you will understand why
anyone who purports to have one almost certainly doesn't. This book should
be required reading for anyone opening a brokerage account." -
Steve Pearlstein, Washington Post
Popularizers of mathematics often rely on a standard
collection of tried and trusted tales to illustrate particular topics
painlessly, and anyone who regularly reads books on the subject will
have had the experience of encountering the same old stories again and
again. These stories are often so delightful that we do not mind being
reminded of them, but one of Paulos's great strengths is his ability
to invent new stories or at least new twists to old ones. -- Simon
Singh, Scientific American.
Raleigh Durham News & Observer review of IRRELIGION: "He is as sure-footed as a tiger as he prowls through the theocratic landscape pouncing on sloppy thinking. To a large extent he succeeds in demolishing the arguments of believers."
Toronto Star review of IRRELIGION: "Paulos's latest offering is a slim but explosive volume whose title is self-explanatory"
IRRELIGION in Publishers Weekly: "Few of the recent books on atheism have been worth reading just for wit and style, but this is one of them: Paulos is truly funny."
Skeptic Magazine review of IRRELIGION:"Irreligion will, I'm confident, take a distinguished place in what one might call the canonical literature of the New Atheism."
John Allen Paulos has done us all a great service. Irreligion is an elegant and timely response to the manifold ignorance that still goes by the name of 'faith' in the 21st century. -- Sam Harris, author of the New York Times best sellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
He's done it again. John Allen Paulos has written a charming book that takes you on a sojourn of flawless logic, with simple and clear examples drawn from math, science, and pop culture. At journey's end, Paulos has left you with plenty to think about, whether you are religious, irreligious, or anything in between. -- Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History and author of Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries
I Think, Therefore I Laugh
Paulos is brilliant at capturing difficult ideas in a memorable joke.
I've never laughed so much while thinking so hard. -- Brian Butterworth,
author of What Counts: How Every Brain Is Hardwired for Math.
If, like me, you find fun in logical conundrums and absurdities, you will
find plenty [here]. On the other hand, if you're of the type that finds
people like Paulos and me tedious, you should look into his book anyway,
just to see what you've been missing. -- Ted Cohen, author of
Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters.
Mathematics and Humor
Mathematics and Humor is an original, sophisticated, and
scholarly treatment of the logic and mathematics of humor. --Joseph Ercolano,
Many scholars nowadays write seriously about the ludicrous. Some merely
manage to be dull. A few - like Paulos - are brilliant in an odd endeavor.
-- Harvey Mindess, Los Angeles Times.
A Numerate Life
"There’s nothing more enlightening than a view of life’s nuances as seen through the lens of a mathematician. Especially when that mathematician is John Allen Paulos, a brilliant educator who persistently empowers the reader to think in ways that render transparent much of what is opaque in the world around us."— Neil deGrasse Tyson — Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History
"A Numerate Life is the engaging history of a mathematical mind. As always, Paulos displays his genius for making the abstract and abstruse entirely intuitive."— Sylvia Nasar — Author of A Beautiful Mind
"A quirky and surprisingly poignant book about the struggle to make sense of one’s own life story. With the help of logic and statistical reasoning, Paulos shines a light on the paradoxes and delusions that so often bedevil our remembrance of things past."— Steven Strogatz — Professor of mathematics, Cornell University, and author of The Joy of x
"A wonderful book. Paulos’s life is a rich tapestry embroidered with mathematical gems."— Mario Livio — Astrophysicist and author of Brilliant Blunders
"Paulos surprises us once again. . . . A thought-provoking, path-breaking ‘meta-memoir"— Doron Zeilberger — Professor of mathematics, Rutgers University, and winner of the Leroy P. Steele Prize and the Euler Medal
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