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Here's Looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math
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Here's Looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math

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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  3,560 ratings  ·  402 reviews
Too often math gets a bad rap, characterized as dry and difficult. But, Alex Bellos says, "math can be inspiring and brilliantly creative. Mathematical thought is one of the great achievements of the human race, and arguably the foundation of all human progress. The world of mathematics is a remarkable place."Bellos has traveled all around the globe and has plunged into hi ...more
Hardcover, 1, 319 pages
Published June 15th 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2010)
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4.09  · 
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 ·  3,560 ratings  ·  402 reviews


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Jan-Maat
While I was reading this book , I noticed it was published by Bloomsbury and I remembered that a few years ago they were doing rather poorly until J.K.Rowling came along with a seven volume Christian parable for children and magically transformed their financial performance.
I might be the ideal audience for this book - turned off Maths at school, yet still mildly interested, bed bound and unwell , with limited reading choices, however I found it largely uninteresting built up of clusters of not
...more
Matt
This was a mixed bag for me. On one hand it’s an easy read, a beach read if you will, and it covers quite a lot of math’s ground in relatively little space. Most of the anecdotes and stories about former mathematicians I already knew, but it’s nice to have them all in one place. On the other hand the bock sometimes lacks a certain depth. It is noticeable that the author is trying to offer something to readers who have little or nothing to do with numbers and maths. Only those people would probab ...more
Ms.pegasus
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in games, puzzles, and mathematical connections
Alex Bellos is a gifted writer who has embarked on a mission to popularize mathematics. He makes a frank observation that should give pause to any reader: “By age 16, schoolkids have learned almost no math beyond what was already known in the mid-seventeenth century, and likewise by the time they are 18, they have not gone beyond the mid-eighteenth century.” What ensues is both a historical tour and spontaneous encounters with some of the most eccentric people currently operating on the fringes ...more
Aamil Syed
This is a fabulous chronicle of the most esoteric subject in existence!

Alex Bellos is witty, serious, engaging and if I may say so, utterly charming in his narration of the history of mathematics. He has organized the book in the way that allows him to be chronological while also taking diversions from time to time to connect with what's happening now in the field of mathematics.

He begins with a systematic exposition of the idea of numbers and the need for them and progresses steadily at a reall
...more
Alan Wightman
Alex Bellos attempts to engage the general public in mathematics by describing maths in a way that anyone can understand. He commences by describing how different cultures use counting and numbers, and in many ways this is the most interesting part of the book. Several cultures, for instance, have no name for any quantity greater than about 4.

I have a degree in mathematics, but there were many things in the book that were new to me, and some that made my jaw drop. My feeling is though, that any
...more
Koen Crolla
The world of maths can seem mind-boggling, irrelevant and, let's face it, boring. This groundbreaking book reclaims maths from the geeks.

This is how the blurb on the back cover starts. Alex's Adventures in Numberland isn't quite as awful as that suggests, but it's very apparent Bellos is a journalist, not a mathematician. He shares with most of his colleagues a subconscious but profound contempt of experts (to his credit, at least it is subconscious), an inability to distinguish substance and le
...more
Priya
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for everyone. Those who love math will enjoy it thoroughly and those who don't are likely to develop a keen interest in the subject.
Sumit Gouthaman
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Didn't believe I'll read an entire book just about math. But this one is just weirdly engaging.
Blair
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Is this a great book, or did I read it at the right time? I am tutoring high-school math and found much inspiration in these pages. While there is little that is completely new for me, most of what is there is well explained. He provides a lot of historical background, starting with tribes using a number system of one, two, many. The author is not afraid of philosophy, as can be seen in this meditation on the number zero:

“Indian philosophy embraced the concept of nothingness just as Indian math
...more
Brian Sison
May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book that delves into the fascinating history of math. Stops along the way include the advent of zero, the use of the abacus and the sliderule, the search for the trillionth decimal in pi, the Fibonacci sequence, the golden ratio, fractals, varying levels of infiniti, counting cards in blackjack, the definition of what's "normal", and straight lines that aren't straight.

Unlike some books that try to cover so many topics, Bellos goes into enough depth in each chapter to educate, e
...more
Nathan
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fact
When I was a kid, I remember reading and loving E.T. Bell's "Men of Mathematics". I later learned that his scholarship leaves something to be desired, but he brought out the humanity and genius of the big names and famous characters of mathematics. Bellos doesn't have a similar goal in "Alex's Adventures in Numberland", as he's just as interested in applications and the quirky patterns of maths as he is in the people behind it, but he captured my interest the way no writer since E.T. Bell has. Y ...more
Dave Hill
Apr 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you read just one book about math this year, it should totally be this one and I am right about everything.
Raquel Evans
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Raquel by: Toby Lansberry
Shelves: nonfiction
The irony of this book is that it was so good I wanted to go through it slowly enough to absorb all the information, which led to me getting distracted and reading other things instead, so it took me approximately forever to finish it.

Entertaining and informative, and occasionally mind blowing, I would recommend this book be read by anyone who is considering whether to study higher branches of mathematics. If the concepts here intrigue you, go for it! If they put you off, go for a different f
...more
Oscar Despard
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent, fascinating read. A comforting mix of history, anecdote and mathematical wonder, it was a brilliant book. While I preferred the style and presentation of the second book in this duo (Alex Through the Looking Glass, which I actually read before this one, and to which I gave five stars), the abstract mathematics in this book far surpassed its successor in the sheer amazement it created. The last chapter utterly stunned me, in particular.

I have always loved maths, but knew on
...more
Ishwarya
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I would highly recommend this book to all high school students, college students and everyone else who have learnt basic Maths. Especially, teachers and parents who teach Maths, pls read!! The beauty of this book is that the history of centuries of Math has been covered in a breezy fun to read way. It is an easy read and yet made me almost spiritual by showing me the beauty of Maths..I pity myself for not seeing it all this time and glad I read this book!
Jitendra Singh
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's an exceptional book but at the same time I must confess that I didn't fully understand some of the portions. But I highly enjoyed it. A must read for anyone who loves math
Howard Tobochnik
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read Here's Looking at Euclid after reading Bellos' other book Grapes of Math. These two books have a very similar style, and I think I enjoyed both equally. Bellos really does a great job explaining big ideas in mathematics, while fitting in history, mathematicians, puzzles, and jokes. Here are a few interesting quotes from Here's Looking at Euclid:

For the Munduruku, [who do not have a counting system past the number 5], the whole idea of counting anything was ludicrous. (4)

When King David co
...more
Libyrinths
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
What a thoroughly fun book! Yes, I got the book because of the title. I figured anyone with a good sense of humor like that might do a reasonable job on a popular math book. It exceeded expectations!

Bellos does a lively romp through various everyday (and some not so everyday) things with little resort to heavy equations or other soporific or brain-wrenching stuff. He covers sudoku, magic squares, number sequences, the probability and statistics of gambling and betting systems, pi and transcenden
...more
Christy
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
This strays so far from my normal read, but I found it very interesting, and Bellos' writing was engaging.

I've been spending the summer feeling like one of the teachers from Pink Floyd's The Wall, forcing my 12 year old to study Algebra in preparation for next school year. It's been shear hell for both of us. Neither of us likes math, but I'm a really stubborn woman & I've been seeking sources that will make math & algebra more accessible, more understandable, maybe even interesting. Who
...more
Jen
Jun 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Ok, some parts of this book made me feel like a mental midget, some made me feel super-smart when I understood what was being discussed and the rest made me realize why I majored in English and not math. Can anyone please explain to me why it is important to know that there are sets of numbers larger than infinity? Some of the stuff made practical sense, but who cares if the numbers between zero and one is a set of numbers larger than infinity? Will it solve a bigger problem some day or is it ma ...more
Emily
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm not a math person by any stretch of the imagination, but I found this book to be a lot of fun...until about halfway through when some of the math discussions started going way over my head (but that's my fault, not the author's). This is basically a book about the history of mathematical thought and Bellos does a good job of pulling it all together in an entertaining and informative way. We learn where numbers come from, how we went from counting sticks to written numbers, the invention of z ...more
Ben Thurley
Deftly written and engaging, and manages to be (mostly) comprehensible to the non-mathematician. Bellos clearly loves him some numbers, and expresses his wonder and excitement well. It's also a fun and quirky ride that covers counting, maths tools from the Rig Veda, gambling, geometry, sudoku and more.

No, I did not know that there are sets of infinities greater than infinity. I wasn't aware that crochet was instrumental in 20th Century breakthroughs in maths and physics. Fibonacci numbers help e
...more
Barbara
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: curious, interested people
Recommended to Barbara by: My Mommie
A bouncy and fascinating history of math.......but that's just the start.

Mr. Bellos also weaves in studies and observations about how math wires the brain, and how children in some cultures learn to count earlier because of the names of numbers.

This is a very interesting and inspiring book, especially for those of us who think in words, not numbers, but who are interested in the very act and method of thinking.
Nelson
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this while traveling to Mt. Everest. Absolutely amazing. Kept me entertained till the end. Found everything Bellos wrote about incredibly fascinating. I learned a lot from this book; lots of new things. Considering it's about math and I'm almost 30 and read tons about the subject, that's extremely difficult to do. Props.
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics
A very delightful approach to mathematics. It was lighthearted and touched on subjects that would interest most audiences. I think the statistical gambling section would be of particular interest to a few friends of mine and I will have to pass along at least these sections.
Mark
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent introduction to Maths - how could i ever have found it boring...? And why did no one ever tell me at school what Pi was for, or quadratic equations?

There have only been a couple of pages when I've glazed over. Really loved the section on Fibonacci numbers...
Valeria
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
4.5--one of the better popular math/science books I've read. Not too technical, very engaging, though sometimes his comments can be a bit...
Eric Roston
I haven't read this yet but it's the greatest book title in the history of written language.
Marcy Stearns
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed getting to know mathematics better through this book.
Robert Høgh
The most sacred object in Islam is a Platonic solid: the Ka'ba, or Cube, is the black palladium at the centre of Mecca's Sacred Mosque, around which pilgrims walk anticlockwise during the Hajj. (In fact, its dimensions make it just off a perfect cube). The Ka'ba also marks the point that worshippers must face during daily prayer, wherever they are in the world. Mathematics plays more of a role in Islam than in any other major religion. More than a millennium before the advent of GPS technology, ...more
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"I was born in Oxford and grew up in Edinburgh and Southampton. After studying mathematics and philosophy at university I joined the Evening Argus in Brighton as a trainee reporter. I joined the Guardian in 1994 as a reporter and in 1998 moved to Rio de Janeiro, where I spent five years as the paper’s South America correspondent. Since 2003 I have lived in London, as a freelance writer and broadca ...more
“Mathematicians have, according to Wright, been "unreasonably successful" in finding applications to apparently useless theorems, and often years after the theorems were first discovered.” 3 likes
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