Book review of A Numerate Life by John Allen Paulos

Dilip D'Souza in LiveMint:

ScreenHunter_1804 Mar. 24 14.57You might pick the book up anticipating an autobiography, but A Numerate Life is not one in the sense you probably understand that word. Not least because Paulos nurses a “scepticism about the biographical enterprise” and that’s partly why this book’s “progression will be episodic and non-linear”. But through it all, he “hopes to show that the points of correspondence between mathematics and biography are … quite profound”.

And it’s in that spirit that Paulos takes us on a vivid, thought-provoking, free-spirited tour of his life, that mathematical lens firmly in place. Over here it’s his love interest, her shattered Coke bottle taking him, yes, two-thirds of the way. There it’s someone he knew who was “completely conventional, totally banal and utterly unimaginative”—except that Paulos finds out that he is given to “gluing five-dollar bills to the sidewalk (and) giggling at people trying to scrape them off”. Paulos uses this intriguing person as a springboard to show—mathematically, of course—how most of us are best characterized as strange, not normal. In doing so, he raises the question of what, indeed, is “normal”.

More here.