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A Numerate Life: A Mathematician Explores the Vagaries of Life, His Own and Probably Yours

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  123 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Employing intuitive ideas from mathematics, this quirky "meta-memoir" raises questions about our lives that most of us don't think to ask, but arguably should: What part of memory is reliable fact, what part creative embellishment? Which favorite presuppositions are unfounded, which statistically biased? By conjoining two opposing mindsets--the suspension of disbelief requ ...more
ebook, 206 pages
Published November 10th 2015 by Prometheus Books
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Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book much more than I did. Paulos's earlier book, "A Mathematician Reads The Newspaper," had a major impact on how I read news media. This book is a memoir, or a self-styled "meta-memoir", since Paulos attempts to comment on the genre of biography and autobiography throughout the book. He is particularly interested in the impact of mathematics on memoir.

The book ultimately disappointed me because it was so profoundly disjointed. Paulos chose not to employ a chronological ap
Christopher Moore
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
Life is a puzzle filled with paradox and contradictions. Trying to make sense of one’s life has been the preoccupation of poets, painters, writers, philosophers and playwrights throughout recorded time. When it comes to a person writing a memoir he or she is selecting a few hundreds pieces and leaving countless pieces inside the box that is his or her life. And from how those pieces fit, the public and private records matching, or colliding, the reader of the memoir is made to feel a whole life ...more
David Baer
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Paulos has written several books, and the resultant exposure has exposed him to certain recurrent questions. One of his favorites is, should math students be allowed to use calculators? Short answer: yes. Long answer: the question betrays a completely blinkered view of what math is. Just as literature is not typing, math is not computation. Repeat: math is not computation.

Managing expectations skillfully, Paulos says at one point: “I am that rather odd creature: a mathematician who writes, and t
Manuel  García
Entretenido, a veces divertido, y sobre todo te da una buena visión de cómo poder ver la vida en general (vida como sucesión de sucesos en el devenir de una persona concreta) desde un punto de vista matemático. A mí me tranquiliza ver las matemáticas aplicadas a mi existencia, pues por un lado me muestra las esperanzas (o posibles esperanzas) probabilísticas del futuro, y a veces me enseñan que, tal como Sagan proclamara, no somos más que polvo de estrellas, esto es, al fin y al cabo, que estamo ...more
Kent Winward
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
"A Numerate Life: A Mathematician Explores the Vagaries of Life, His Own and Probably Yours" by John Paulos, the mathematician is more rumination on the mathematical failings of biography and autobiography rather than anything particularly about Paulos.

As a caveat, I'm a little geeky on the math stuff and I find it fascinating that the more you experience that mathematically the more likely you are to end up in the same place as other people with lots of experience. It certainly has proved true
Jim Razinha
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had a four hour flight for the final leg home from Paris and decided to finally devote the time to reading this, as it's been on my shelf for a few years. I've liked all of Paulos's book that I've read, and this didn't disappoint. Less about numbers and math- oh, they're there, as they've been an integral part of his life, so not really much less - and more about parts of his life, it's also a look at biographies and autobiographies in general. Memory is tricky, and despite the courts' accepta ...more
Paulo Glez Ogando
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: matemáticas
This is a mathematically inspired autobiography of the mathematician John Allen Paulos. He gives a vision of how you can see life (life as a sequence of events in the future of a concrete person. He speaks from his own experiencies using a mathematical point of view.

The book has neither a chronological nor a thematic approach, and for that it's a bit difficult to follow. Sometimes he seems to have no clear path or purpose in what he is telling. Besides, there is no depth in mathematical thinking
María Salas
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: regrets
I wonder if someone edited this book, and in that case, I wonder if that person was a mathematician too. I say this because I see no other way this rambling made any literary sense to any reasonable editor.

The premise of the book is great, a mathematician analizing daily aspects of his (and somehow our) life?? Bring it on!..but it turned out to be a mathematician overly trying to analize every aspect of the world, mentioning random thoughts about his previous books, mixing it with complex mathem
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hard to rate because I'm not sure exactly what it was supposed to be, but it was enjoyable. I liked his mathematical look at life itself and different situations. We need more clear thinking like that, although there is some concern that algorithms take all the fun out of life, and the spice out of romance, so temperance is needed. It was a little rambly, as you'd expect from a mathematics professor. Otherwise, it made me want to read some more mathy books (but not math books) and biographies, e ...more
Jacob Negley
Apr 15, 2021 rated it liked it
This was an odd book. Loosely an autobiography while commenting on the genre of autobiography, often involving mathematical formulas and theories (along with a healthy dose of psychology). I didn't necessarily love it, but I feel this might stick with me. It'll be interesting to see how I reflect on this in the future. Very much look forward to reading Innumeracy after completing this one (which sadly is not available as an audiobook). ...more
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Definitely not for everyone, but it's basically exactly what it promises: a meandering anti-memoir. The book is like hanging out with someone you may not always like or agree with, but who you generally find interesting. Requires being reasonably comfortable with math. ...more
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
More fun from Paulos, this time with a little more personal lens, but always with lots of good mathematical thinking.
Konstantinos Papalias
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! A sane choice to merge math and everyday life. This guy is a true math preacher.
Aug 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book was weak enough that I didn’t bother finishing it. When he started talking about sex for no reason for the umpteenth time, I stopped and threw it in my waste basket.
Mar 15, 2016 rated it liked it
A Numerate Life (2015) by John Allen Paulos is a mathematically inspired autobiography of the mathematician and writer John Allen Paulos. Paulos wrote the excellent Innumeracy, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, Beyond Numeracy and other books.
In the book Paulos ruminates over his own life and ponders how well we really know people in biographies, the self, how well we know ourselves and intersperses a lot of mathematical and cultural remarks. The book doesn't, however, provide a great deal o
Richard Fuhr
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Paulos's autobiography is a wonderful combination of anecdotes (some funny, some touching) from his life, bits of mathematics along the way, and reflections on what it means to write an autobiography. Call those parts of the book a meta-autobiography. Early in his story he describes some events in his youth that inspired him to become a mathematician. They involved a disagreement between Paulos and one of his teachers regarding how an earned run average should be properly calculated in baseball. ...more
Ellen Barrett
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Delightful and Enlightening
I just finished reading A Numerate Life and found it delightful and enlightening. More interested in literature, I've never been good at math and have long suffered from math anxiety, but I'd read so much about Paulos' books that I decided to try his new one. I loved the very unusual memoir that runs through the book and was surprised to find that I also understood the math parts, which were intuitively explained and shed real light on the biographical points he made
Ria F
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Not an autobiography although there are autobiographical pieces, somewhat cynical of biographies as a whole, interesting approach to applying math to real life (there is actual maths saying you will not be the most popular person on your chosen social network) Geometry shows why it's weird and bland and boring to be "normal" but don't worry very few of us are!

Really enjoyed this book - will be reading his prior books when I get a chance
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
Paulos writing in this book, though somewhat entertaining, strikes as meandering and convoluted at times, not because of any mathematical or theoretical material (on the contrary, those passages are the best parts of the book), but because he seems to have no clear path or purpose for each chapter. Since it's not an autobiography and it's not presenting any sort of concrete thesis or idea, A NUMERATE LIFE stays true to the tagline in its title--it's a bundle of vagaries, and nothing more. ...more
Lucila Armentano
Muy aburrido, no profundiza nada, es muy liviano y los temas que va mencionando rozan la irrelevancia...
Jan 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Definitely an easier read if you have a math background....I don't but still enjoyed it. Makes one look at everyday occurrences in a new way. Enjoyed the bits of philosophy and humour! ...more
Roberto Gonzalez Mas
rated it it was amazing
Sep 30, 2019
Shreyash Tiwari
rated it it was amazing
Dec 25, 2019
José Plascencia
rated it it was ok
Feb 16, 2020
rated it really liked it
Jan 01, 2016
Alexander Lundervold
rated it really liked it
Apr 17, 2016
Anthony Faber
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Basically a grab bag of math & science stuff. I enjoyed it.
rated it liked it
Dec 02, 2015
Bing Mei
rated it it was ok
Apr 06, 2018
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