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The Grapes of Math: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life Hardcover – June 10, 2014

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The Grapes of Math: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life + Here's Looking at Euclid: From Counting Ants to Games of Chance - An Awe-Inspiring Journey Through the World of Numbers + How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Another sparkling romp through the world of numbers, with the inimitable Alex Bellos as your friendly, informed, and crystal-clear guide. A brilliant successor to Here's Looking at Euclid." (Ian Stewart, Professor of Mathematics, University of Warwick, and author of Visions of Infinity)

"Love the book! Fresh, fascinating and endlessly charming. A splendiferous book altogether." (Tim Harford, Financial Times, author of The Undercover Economist Strikes Back)

"See, numbers don't have to be scary!" (Evan Davis)

"Alex Bellos’ The Grapes of Math is a delicious grab bag of mathematical miscellany that includes Benford’s law, fractals, exponentials and imaginary numbers, the Game of Life, among many other goodies, all presented in a most entertaining style. Both fun and instructive." (John Allen Paulos is the author of several books including Innumeracy and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper)

"Think of the best storyteller you know and the coolest teacher you ever had, and now you’ve got some idea of what Alex Bellos is like. His Grapes of Math taught me something new on every page. Better yet, it made me laugh and want to tell someone what I’d just read. Math has never been so much fun." (Steven Strogatz, professor of applied mathematics, Cornell University, and author, The Joy of x)

“[A] first-rate survey of the world of mathematics by a British practitioner of the art.... Great reading for the intellectually curious.” (Kirkus)

“Channeling the spirit of Martin Gardner, the Guardian's math blogger Bellos (Here's Looking at Euclid) reveals—and revels in—the pleasures of mathematics, which he has dubbed ‘the most playful of all intellectual disciplines.’… Bellos introduces fascinating characters, from the retired cabdriver in Tucson whose hobby is factoring prime numbers, to swashbuckling astronomer Tycho Brahe, who lost his nose in a duel over a math formula. Through intriguing characters, lively prose, and thoroughly accessible mathematics, Bellos deftly shows readers why math is so important, and why it can be so much fun.” (Publishers Weekly (starred))

“An excellent book on what could be called ‘mathematics appreciation’” (Library Journal)

“A charming and eloquent guide to math's mysteries…For its witty flourished, it’s never shallow. Bellos doesn’t shrink from delving into equations, which should delight aficionados who relish those kinds of details.” (New York Times)

“Bellos’ background as a storyteller makes Grapes of Math enjoyable whether you like math or not.” (Metro)

About the Author

Alex Bellos has a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from Oxford University. Curator-in-residence at the Science Museum and the Guardian’s math blogger, he has worked in London and Rio de Janeiro, where he was the paper's unusually numerate foreign correspondent. In 2002 he wrote Futebol, a critically acclaimed book about Brazilian football, and in 2006 he ghostwrote Pelé's autobiography, which was a number one bestseller. Here’s Looking at Euclid was shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize and was a Sunday Times bestseller for more than four months.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451640099
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451640090
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alex Bellos is an author and broadcaster whose specialises in mathematics and Brazil. When he was the Guardian's correspondent in South America he wrote Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, a look at contemporary Brazil seen through soccer. It was a huge critical success, and led to his being asked to ghostwrite Pelé: The Autobiography. He is also the author of the popular math books Here's Looking at Euclid and The Grapes of Math, which were both international bestsellers. The former has had more than 20 translations and won awards.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 71 people found the following review helpful By destroying angel on June 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I loved "Here's Looking at Euclid," and have been eagerly awaiting this new book, but I'm not really sure who it's written for. If you have a strong enough math background to understand the book, you probably don't need to be told much of this. If you have a weak math background and want to fill in your knowledge gaps, you may find this pretty incomprehensible.

If you enjoy passages like this (where numbers in parentheses should be read as exponents):

"Thanks to Cartesian coordinates, the quadratics were revealed to be the conic sections. In other words, every quadratic equation describes a conic section, and every conic section can be described by a quadratic equation. Two of the most researched and pondered-over areas of mathematics were nothing but alternative representations of each other. The general quadratic equation Ax(2) + Bxy + Cy(2) + Dx + Ey + F = 0, where A, B, C, D, E and F are constants, and at least one of A, B and C is nonzero, always plots a conic section on a coordinate graph, and vice versa: any conic section drawn on a graph can be expressed by the above equation. In the illustration above, the equation for the ellipse is 2x(2) + y(2) + 8x = 0, and the equation for the parabola, which sits diagonally on the page, is 16x(2) - 24xy + 9y(2) - 38x - 84y +121 = 0."

Then you'll love this book. Also, if you think this (not from the book) is hilarious:

A: "What is the integral of 1/cabin?"
B: "log cabin."
A: "Nope, houseboat--you forgot the C."

You'll probably also love this book. Don't get the joke? You won't get the book either.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C.A.T. on July 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love math....love this book. I am a mathematician and a retired analyst and accountant. The topics in the book appeal to my fascination with the study of number theory and geometry. Bellos writes with clarity and humor. Some math formulas and derivations may not be obvious to the average reader, but for those with math background or a love of math, they are well defined. In either case, the reader can skim the proofs and continue the lesson without math analysis. It is thought provoking and filled with "I never knew that!" I wish that this portal of info had been opened for me years ago, and I would have had the opportunity to branch out into some of the underlying thoughts and history of math. My college courses did not accommodate that, but now I am eager to find the reasons why I and others truly love the study of mathematics... it reaches far deeper than mere memorization and rote processes. This books takes the reader to a sub-level which brings new dimension to the study of math and numbers.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Art Shapiro on November 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is very simply the best, most engaging popular book on mathematics that I have read--and I've read a lot of them. It renders abstruse and difficult concepts comprehensible for the educated layman; most importantly, it conveys the excitement and beauty of doing mathematics. For people used to cringing in fear of math, it's a potential revelation -- an introduction to a world they had never imagined. For those already in the thrall of mathematics, it's a vindication of what they feel, not that they need a vindication! Excellent. (There is a kids' book also called "The Grapes of Math"--don't confuse the two.)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By George M. Dunne JR on July 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The math nerds handbook for useful historical fact and fresh insight into concepts your teachers and professors probably skipped over.
Caution: Do not read before bedtime as it will stimulate your mind with thoughts of the abstracts of algebra and irrationality of numbers.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By ubpdqn on August 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very enjoyable read. The author has a very entertaining and engaging writing style. The book starts looks at psychological aspects of human relationship to numbers. Thereafter, we are taken on a journey through triangles, circles, conic sections, complex numbers, calculus, cellular automata and proof and more. Pi, e, and i are characters and the amazing appearance and connectedness is expressed. This is a very rich journey through history and exposition of the variety of applications some seemingly esoteric areas have found. I particularly enjoyed the sections on roulettes.

The book is not a technical explanation but invites the reader to play: whether it is origami to produce a parabola, rolling one coin over another, or looking for patterns in your cup to tea. However, the concepts are expressed clearly and convincingly.

The complex dynamic interaction between development of mathematics and its applications: motivations, personalities and serendipity in complex feedback loops , shows what a wonderfully human endeavour Mathematics is.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mark D. Horowitz on October 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Drapes of Math - Artfully Opened to Reveal History and Secrets

I loved this book. Although many of the topics are long-time favorites - Benford's Law, Euler's formula, Game of Life, Ulam and von Neumann, Bellos' treatment added new levels of both background and depth in satisfying and useful forms - more history of the participants in the development of the mathematical topics, information on recent developments, including interviews with current players in the various fields, and enough actual equations to see some of what was going on behind the drapes which few other authors ever open to display the workings of the machinery. Bellos was smart to put many of the details into appendices to avoid distraction.

Now I need to go back and read his first book.
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