The world of maths can seem mind-boggling, irrelevant and, let’s face it, boring. This groundbreaking book reclaims maths from the geeks. Mathematical ideas underpin just about everything in our lives: from the surprising geometry of the 50p piece to how probability can help you win in any casino.
In search of weird and wonderful mathematical phenomena, Alex Bellos travels across the globe and meets the world’s fastest mental calculators in Germany and a startlingly numerate chimpanzee in Japan.
Packed with fascinating, eye-opening anecdotes, Alex’s Adventures in Numberland is an exhilarating cocktail of history, reportage, and mathematical proofs that will leave you awestruck. Shortlisted for the 2010 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.
Author: Alex Bellos
Narrator: Alex Bellos
Publisher: Audible Studios
Run Time: 12hrs 33mins
My Rating of ‘Alex’s Adventures in Numberland’: 4 out of 5
I’ve been on somewhat of a non-fiction binge for a good while now and have been devouring it at a steady rate. I was never one for maths when growing up but, having taken an interest in physics in the past few years I’ve warmed to it a lot more. So I go in to this book with only a recent love of numbers and no real background with them.
Which is about all you need to enjoy it. Admittedly, being a full on math-lover would help you gain full enjoyment (as there are certain parts that go very heavy on math when Alex goes into his deep dives), but I managed to enjoy it enough that I felt it warranted four hard-earned stars.
His deep-dives do, indeed, go incredibly deep. We learn the very origins of counting and how different cultures throughout the ages have represented counting. We learn how different places in the world count today and where our numbers originally came from (they are arabic numerals, by the way). If there is a root to a number’s historical significance, Alex finds, explores it and explains it. Whilst these deep dives are very informative and enjoyable, I did find that they dragged on a tad long in places, giving the book somewhat of a dry feel.
My only other slight negative (and this is audio book specific) is that I really don’t think his accents were needed. When discussing numerous American mathematicians, he used the same accent just to get across they were American. Likewise with other nationalities. This is an intellectual book. If people can’t tell who you are talking about, when their name is regularly used in the passage, maybe it’s not for them.
All in all, I really enjoyed this but do feel that, due to the mathematical nature, it may well have been better as a physical read. However, having it as an audio book certainly helped to get me through those dry parts that I otherwise may have struggled with if reading myself.