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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 Diego Tribune.
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 Times.
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 Inquirer.
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 Times.
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, Syndicated Columnist.
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 Association.
... 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.

Beyond Numeracy

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 Allen Paulos, who does for mathematics what The Joy of Sex did for the boudoir interface. ..... Paulos painstakingly presents even the most recondite ideas in concrete, easily visualizable terms. ..... But Paulos's principal genius 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 anyone, who ever sat rapt at the austere beauty of a proof and later wondered where the wonder went, it's here. -- Curt Suplee. Washington Post
This is a book full of details, but its real aim seems to be to convey not any specific fact so much as a style, even a spirit. A book of the spirit should be deeply personal, so Paulos has chosen his format wisely. ..... P.B. and J.S. Medawar compiled a sometimes cranky, sometimes brilliant 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. ..... this inviting book shows that those of us who aren't in touch with that realm are the poorer for it. --David Berreby. Philadelphia Inquirer
His brief essays are arranged alphabetically by topic, and as with one of its precursors, Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, it makes for an often jolly little book. ... If there is much to take 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 triangles, he was so transported that he sacrificed 100 head of oxen to the gods as a token of gratitude. On this scale, Mr. Paulos's book is surely worth an ox or two. -- Jim Holt. Wall Street Journal
Maybe there is a royal road to mathematics, after all. If so, Paulos is motoring on it in the driver's seat with this wide-ranging book ..... Paulos tells it like the gifted teacher he is, combining mathematical lore with asides on culture and personalities ..... And on and on in what one would like to see become an infinite series. - Kirkus Reviews
Beyond Numeracy will uundoubtedly entertain and educate many people and open up for them the mysterious and closed book - the book of the universe, as Galileo had 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 online magazine.

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." - Kirkus Reviews
" A funny, insightful little volume" ... "Playful and informative, Paulos's book will be appreciated by investors with a sense of humor." - Publishers Weekly.
"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 Beautiful Mind
"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 Angeles Times.
"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, Library Journal.
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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