Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Once Upon A Number: The Hidden Mathematical Logic Of Stories” as Want to Read:
Once Upon A Number: The Hidden Mathematical Logic Of Stories
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Once Upon A Number: The Hidden Mathematical Logic Of Stories

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  182 ratings  ·  14 reviews
What two things could be more different than numbers and stories? Numbers are abstract, certain, and eternal, but to most of us somewhat dry and bloodless. Good stories are full of life: they engage our emotions and have subtlety and nuance, but they lack rigor and the truths they tell are elusive and subject to debate. As ways of understanding the world around us, numbers ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 8th 1999 by Basic Books (first published 1998)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Once Upon A Number, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Once Upon A Number

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Daniel Wright
Paulos introduces a number of new and insightful ways of thinking about the world, which will surely raise the consciousness of most readers. On the other hand, he isn't the most engaging writer in the world, and is almost intolerably smug, but never mind.
Jared
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
My statistics teacher, knowing that I was more literary- than mathematically-minded, asked me to read this book for a final project. I can't thank her enough for bridging the gap between math and my interests. A good read indeed!
Lynn
Feb 19, 2010 rated it liked it
This is my least favorite of the three Paulos books I have read; Innumeracy and Irreligion are both great. I was expecting something more interesting, since the comparisons and contrasts between mathematics and stories should have been fun to read.

I got the feeling that he wrote this too fast, not really spending a lot of time making sure what he was writing and what he was thinking made sense to the reader. At times it felt like I was immersed in his stream of consciousness, without any effort
...more
Anthony Bello
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I was interested in this book because I heard the author on the radio show "In Our Time." He did not get many points across and I expected that his book would better illustrate his ideas. I was wrong.

As someone very interested in math, science, and stories, I thought that the book would look at all three in an interrelated manner. Again, I was wrong. The entire book reads like an episode of "Bullshit!" and, while this isn't bad in and of itself, I expected an episode of "In Our Time."

Having said
...more
Stef Smulders
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ironically the author has chosen to use a rather "narrative" approach to bring his point across. As a result you sometimes feel a bit lost as to where the story is going. There are enough surprises and funny facts to keep you continuing reading however.
Bart Van Loon
I'm afraid Paulos was experimenting with one of the principles from his own book a bit too much: if you just assemble enough words, someone is bound to find a pattern and make sense of them.

I'm not that person however.

I enjoyed the premise of the book (bridging the gap between two intellectual cultures), and the first two chapters were actually very interesting. But the third one couldn't hold my attention, the fourth one didn't seem well researched at all and the fifth one was completely superf
...more
Anthony Faber
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
The author applies mathematics to storytelling, sort of. A lot of cute & counter-intuitive things here.
Mark Kloha
Jan 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
It's terrible. Don't waste your time with this book. The entire book has no logical flow to it. The writing is so disjointed that it's impossible to figure out what the author is talking about.
Liedzeit
Mar 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
I liked the title. But unfortunately, there is not that much in it. Certainly "the hidden mathematical logic of stories" is not revealed.
Davis Pan
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mathematica

One upon a number is an important book that attempts to bring understanding to the proliferation of everyday common discourse, especially that which fuses narrative and statistics to give an impression of authoritative truth. The author Paulus commands the pen in a highly stylistic manner that in some cases adds to confusion where a little more grounding in simple language would have benefited the clarity and meaning of critical passages. Literary style aside, this book is a fascinating excursio
...more
dejah_thoris
Nov 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Lots of good insights about the relationship between statistics and stories but it wasn't as tightly written as his first book on the mathematics of humor. So, if you're expecting actual mathematical analyses of various plots or how character traits interact with each other to build an inner world, you won't be getting much of that here.
Jan
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
I had to give up on this book, not something I do often. I have been trying to read it for a couple of months now, and just can't get into it. I have read one other of John Paulos' books and found it enjoyable, so maybe I need to try this when I'm in a different frame of mind...
Trever
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: math-education
Decent book. It was ok as far as math books go.
Muhammad al-Khwarizmi
Neat little book, a bit too basic and obvious (for me) at points though.
Melissa
rated it liked it
Jun 25, 2013
Erin
rated it liked it
Dec 17, 2011
Vdimascio
rated it really liked it
Feb 12, 2012
Alisa Klinger
rated it did not like it
Oct 10, 2017
Scott Weeks
rated it really liked it
Apr 12, 2012
Gail
rated it it was amazing
Apr 26, 2015
Noonlit
rated it really liked it
Oct 23, 2013
Paul Pseudo-Expert
rated it it was ok
Jan 09, 2016
Mark
rated it liked it
Mar 19, 2009
Pedro
rated it really liked it
Jun 05, 2013
Gerardo
rated it really liked it
Sep 14, 2010
Karla Cristina
rated it liked it
Sep 22, 2016
Nirav
rated it liked it
Feb 27, 2009
Sam Bledsoe
rated it liked it
Aug 02, 2014
Leslie
rated it really liked it
Jul 04, 2015
Benjamin
rated it did not like it
Jun 17, 2017
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Magical Maze
  • The Mathematical Universe: An Alphabetical Journey Through the Great Proofs, Problems, and Personalities
  • The Art of Mathematics
  • Archimedes' Revenge: The Joys and Perils of Mathematics
  • The World of Mathematics: A Four-Volume Set
  • Math and the Mona Lisa
  • A Tour of the Calculus
  • Linear Algebra and Its Applications
  • Schaum's Outline of Differential Equations
  • Mathematics: The New Golden Age
  • The Colossal Book of Mathematics
  • The Art of the Infinite: The Pleasures of Mathematics
  • The Riemann Hypothesis: The Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics
  • Probability And Statistics For Engineering And The Sciences
  • The Collapse of Chaos: Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World
  • Mathematics for the Million: How to Master the Magic of Numbers
  • Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You
  • Numerical Analysis
“Partiendo del hecho geométrico y existencial de que nuestro ser está en el centro de nuestra historia y en la periferia de las historias de los demás, muchos llegamos al mismo tiempo a la algo extravagante conclusión de que nuestra vida abunda en coincidencias y sucesos notables, mientras que las de los demás es más bien típica.” 0 likes
More quotes…