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Book of Numbers

2.94  ·  Rating details ·  992 ratings  ·  210 reviews
When the enigmatic billionare founder and CEO of Tetration, the world's most powerful tech company, is diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, he hires a failed novelist, Josh Cohen, to ghostwrite his memoirs. This tech mogul, known only as 'Principal', takes Josh deep into his own mind, and outlines the history of Tetration, which started by revolutionising the search ...more
Hardcover, 592 pages
Published June 4th 2015 by Harvill Secker
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Average rating 2.94  · 
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Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1) None of the people giving this bad reviews here have read the whole book and/or they are incapable of reading serious literature at all (see: the reviewer who confuses the 'racist' ideas of characters with the ideas of the author [doing her own bit of quasi-racist thing with a veiled anti-Jewish comment about Brooklyn] OR the other reviewer who complains about being forced to expand her vocabulary).

2) This is an ambitious novel, and it is very good. My bias is to like ambitious books more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Joshua Cohen’s Book of Numbers may well be the only hot ticket/hot number I read this year. Leon Forrest’s Divine Days and Schmidt’s Abend mit Goldrand just arrived and I doubt very much whether anything being published this year and flirting with The Millions and/or the NYT’s Breast=selling list will come anywheres near touching either of these two BURIED works of GENIUS. But I could be wrong.

Cohen I got curious about because he had published a first novel, a FAT novel, with Dalkey Archive, and
Sep 24, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1.5 stars

I can't say that Book of Numbers was a disappointment (that 2.93 kept my expectations low) but the handful of folks that lauded this thing like it was some kind of 'Ulysses Meets the Internet Age' drew me to see what I was missing out on. I was not prepared, though, for this barely readable, technobabbly mess Joshua Cohen foisted upon us. I don't want to waste a bunch of time writing about a book I almost completely hated, but a few things:

Without question, Cohen is an intelligent guy,
MJ Nicholls
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The supersonically skilled word-spinner, whose incredible novel Witz (although overlong and insufferable) showed the young man’s smarts with language to have almost no limits, has managed to combine his torrential lexicon with something approaching a “plot”, and secure well-deserved mainstream attention. For those Witz-lovers, or those who read his prolific previous (two novels, a story collections, and chapbooks precede this epic monstrosity), worried about a dilution of ambition or language ...more
L.S. Popovich
A masterpiece. Relentlessly clever. The demented techno wordplay will ripple into the future, endlessly perplexing jaundiced, crusty historians of so-called traditional literature as it astounds and speaks to every savvy and savage child of our screen-dependent age.

A big book of inside jokes, which, in DFW-fashion, elicits a gut-reaction on every page via the reflexive verbal elbowing the reader receives from the author. The biggest workout for my Kindle's touch-definition function since
This is the bread of affliction. Eli Eli lama shavaktani? Father, Father, why didn’t Christ quote the Psalms in Hebrew—was he that inept, or does excruciation always call for the vernacular?

This isn't for most people. Even the intrepid biosphere of goodreads will find this alarming, if not unnecessary. I do appreciate Cohen's project, even if it is maddening. There is a dash of Trollope, lanced with Sade, pushing a ready mirror to our media-drunk rictus. The result isn't pretty.

Technology has
Jun 22, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Un roman de écrivain dédaigneux
Mr. Cohen is no doubt very clever, "but sometimes his brains go to his head."*

Do you find Québécois friendly to non-Québécois or Parisians to Americans?

Do you tend to deify Ivy Leaguers?

You could well love this novel.

Myself, I find literary haughtiness tedious and vexatious, and the writing in this novel to have acted as the literary equivalent of a Benzo-Nyquil cocktail.

*Borrowing and modifying a 1953 quote of Margot Asquith referring to Lord Birkenhead.
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoughts about this masterpiece that are not actually about this masterpiece:
1. Goodreads / NetGalley / Publishers must stop sending galleys/pre-release copies of books to people in exchange for an "honest review." The "honest reviews" piling up here like dead leaves in a gutter that give the book "1 star." The reviewers openly acknowledging having read "like maybe 100 pages" which means "like maybe the first six paragraphs." The "reviewers" attacking the author for "trying to make them feel
Yukari Watanabe/渡辺由佳里
I was so excited to receive NetGalley copy because it received a Starred review from Publishers' Weekly.

Unfortunately, I soon realized this novel is not for me. I was constantly reminded by the author that I am not worthy of his novel.

I'm sorry that I'm not one of Manhattan intellectuals. I'm sorry I couldn't laugh when it's supposed to be funny. I am a poor country bumpkin who stumbled into a very fashionable Manhattan party wearing a hand-me-down flower pattern dress.

But, I have a feeling
Fucking frustrating, offensive, but a masterpiece.
Apr 09, 2015 marked it as tried-but-not-for-me  ·  review of another edition
unreadable junk posing as postmodern literature
I was sold on the knockout first line of this novel - one of the best openers since Du Mauriers ‘Rebecca’.
Described as ‘brilliantly exhausting’ by Mark Sarvas and adorned with a blurb by James Wood, of the New York Times - “Reads as if Philip Roth’s work were fired into David Foster Wallace’s inside the Hadron particle collider” – Book of Numbers went straight to the top of my TBR pile.
However, faced with a massive hardback doorstopper of 600 pages, my enthusiasm has waned somewhat, so I am
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am feeling totally whipped by this book, stretched and poked. Reviewers on Goodreads have said they quit after 50 pages or 100 pages, and I get that. They probably went out and did great things with the hours they saved. This strange book is, however, entirely readable even if it did not readily pull me in. I sighed early on and figured I had to know where Cohen was leading. I’m glad I made the investment, but it was a wild ride.

For starters, the voice changes from time to time, and it takes a
May 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, I hate to do this, but I'm calling it. I simply can't finish this book. I received a copy on Netgalley almost a month ago, and I dove right it. The writing is different from most contemporary fiction today, with wordy sentences, full of humor and depth. The plot was a great premise for this day and age, and if I weren't someone who has so much to read, if I were the type of person who only read two books a year, this one would be a wonderful choice. The sentences are some to savor and the ...more
Apr 15, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I think one or more of the Joshua Cohens really loves to write but holds his readers in very low regard. This never-ending exercise holds some gems within it, but they are so cleverly disguised and concealed within a monstrous text, that merely interested and patient readers will miss them. Only the most fanatic readers, or possibly best friends, relatives and fictional readers of the Joshua Cohens will love this book. The rest of us will feel sad and disappointed that so much talent is wasted.
Jun 15, 2015 marked it as sidetracked-in-2015  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010s
The first thing to realize is that this is not an average novel. If you're looking for a breezy read, this is not it. While I've seen comparisons to David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon, I'm not finding it anywhere near that difficult, but I can see why someone might make that comparison: it's just absolutely packed with quick-witted asides, and it would be easy to either get frustrated trying to follow it, or think you're following it when you're actually missing a great deal. So you need to ...more
Ben Bush
I interviewed Cohen for Los Angeles Review of Books

The part of the interview where I talked to Cohen about his work translating porn CD-ROM product copy while living in Eastern Europe is up at The Rumpus

Here's a listicle for Flavorwire. Book of Numbers explained, if not through animated GIFs, at least adjacent to them, which was sort of a byproduct of the interviews.
L.M.S. Rosa
Jul 07, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Philip Roth's influence looms upon this novel like a mountain's shadow upon a blade of grass. It's not so much the question of Jewishness as the author, successful novelist called Joshua Cohen, writing about a "failed novelist" called Joshua Cohen. Cohen started publishing young, has received wide acclaim and even published with the prestigious Dalkey, so the nostalgia for the "woe-me-I'm-a-poor-little-writer-nothing-works-in-my-life" clichés that permeate this novel is manipulative, even ...more
Marc Kozak
For this weighty and modern book about the Internet and search engines, it seemed appropriate to click around on random links and just include chunks of text from various places to serve as a review.

"The problem with internet quotes is that you cant always depend on their accuracy." -Abraham Lincoln, 1864. (A popular internet meme re: validity of accurate info on internet. Original source unknown, unknowable?

"Book of Numbers is a 2015 novel written
I wouldn't have looked out for this book's release had it not been for Random House rejecting my request for an ARC on NetGalley. I was surprised and more than a little curious, because Random House as a rule doesn't reject my requests. (Then I learned that my approval to review ratio was the pits, even for a normally lenient publisher). But still, the curiosity was there, only increased when I saw great reviews on different publications. Then I saw the reviews on GR.

Then I read them. Most
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Previous reviews seem to confirm that Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers is becoming the Book No One Can Finish of 2015.

What to do about this? Spend more time reading the rest (I'm about 1/4 of the way through this 600-pager), because I hate leaving a book unfinished -- or, for that matter, reviewing a book I haven't finished? Or spend my time reading something more worthwhile, getting other work done? God knows time is not a thing I have a surplus of. So I'm torn. I might trudge on for a while and
Marc Nash
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
A book in 3 movements.

First it's all fractured narrative as unlucky novelist Joshua Cohen (his debut novel published on the day the Twin Towers fall) leads a peripatetic meander through his lifes and loves and the securing of a commission to biographise Tech king Joshua Cohen (no relation) who is modelled on Steve Jobs, Wozniack et al. This meander has some sumptuous writing in parts, with very serrated images and neologisms a plenty.

Second movement is the biographical tale of Joshua Cohen
Leo Robertson
If a reader quits a book 250 pages in (I am not the first, by the looks of other reviews), it's not the reader's fault. When you exchange money for a piece of text, "hoping it will be intelligible" is, like, a given, about four or five layers down beneath many more expectations, all of which get dashed if a reader is compelled to quit reading.

There's a difference between a literary brain workout-type challenge and just a "trying to overlook unnecessary flaws in the basic function of the
I just finished "Book of Numbers" and it seems a different novel than I started, though it begins and ends in nearly the same place, with the same character, one Joshua Cohen (of two)— hapless, returned to sender, temporarily unplugged.

Many novels finish about 4/5 of the way through, then stall, like when you are talking to someone you love and don’t want to get off the phone. Not Cohen’s. It’s not that it starts slow but that it puts its most smelly foot forward. The first—what? 150 pages?—
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At its core, this is the story of a Larry Page/Sergey Brin/Steve Jobs-type who hires a struggling writer to ghostwrite his memoir. However, to look at it in such a simplistic way is to ignore what makes this novel so captivating. The time period in which most of the action takes place is that of our current day, with the prevalence of social media and the hyper-availability and interconnectedness of people and information. The majority of the book is written in a fast-paced, texting-ish style, ...more
I. Finished. This. Fucker.

Difficult to believe I have been struggling with this monster since July. While there is no doubt as to the brilliance of Cohen, namely his verbal gymnastics, combined with his seemingly inexhaustible general knowledge, this takes a heavy toll on the casual reader.

Maybe therein lies the rub: is this book only meant for acolytes and/or literati? I feel that, as a postmodern experiment, it threatens to alienate the reader to the extent that he/she feels removed from the
4.5 rounded up to 5 stars. My review appears in New York Journal of Books. Read that review first. Additional remarks that appeared in a different and now defunct publication begin with the next paragraph.

Jewish books: Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers is a high tech epic

What happens when a down on his luck luddite novelist is hired to ghostwrite a memoir by a math whiz tech mogul who shares his (and the author of this novel’s) name? That’s the basic premise of Joshua Cohen’s novel Book of Numbers
Jun 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
Brilliant and challenging all at once. Don't believe the hate...longer review to come.

This novel winds and warps itself into a hundred different directions only to finish at home. Cohen is clearly a talented writer whose prose is second to none. I can understand how some people might be turned off by this book, but it is worth the effort. And it takes effort to follow the narrative through different points of view.

I guess some people were looking for something far different than what's
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Jun 14, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cohen
Is Long, Is Good

Nominee for the 2015 "Is Long, Is Good" Award [550 to 600 Pages Division]
Josh Pendergrass
A brilliant novel. This is probably the best writing (fiction or non) I’ve read in terms of examining what the internet is doing to us as a species; or more accurately, how we are co-evolving with the internet and the algorithms behind it. Kind of amazing that this novel was released before the Snowden leaks. It manages to anticipate much of what they (and Wikileaks etc.) have revealed about how algorithms have become powerful enough to influence and predict human behavior. I still don’t think ...more
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Joshua Aaron Cohen (born September 6, 1980 in New Jersey) is an American novelist and writer of stories.
“All books have to be researched, but readable books have their research buried.” 4 likes
“NYers are cruel enough to neglect a bond due only to trackwork on the L.” 2 likes
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