"Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did," came the answer. "So I took them seriously."
Thus begins the true story of John Nash, the mathematical genius who was a legend by age 30, when he slipped into madness. Thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community, he emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize and world acclaim.
The inspiration for a motion picture starring Russell Crowe, Sylvia Nasar's award-winning biography is a drama about the mystery of the human mind, triumph over incredible adversity, and the healing power of love.
©1998 Sylvia Nasar, All Rights Reserved; (P)1999 Blackstone Audiobooks
"A remarkable look into the arcane world of mathematics and the tragedy of madness." (The New York Times Book Review)
"One of the few scientific biographies that could plausibly be described as a three-handkerchief read." (Wall Street Journal)
"Rarely has the fragility of the boundary separating genius from madness been illustrated with more compelling insight than in this biography." (Booklist)
I have found few books online that I have not been able to put down, but this was one. I am amazed as to how much information survived about John Nash's history--the author has done an admirable job of pulling it all together.
Dont let the mathematical themes scare you either. Although the technical side of John Nash is well represented, the focus of the biography is on Dr. Nash's personal story--a story that is both inspirational and disturbing.
I have not heard the unabridged version, but found no trouble getting through the full version. In fact, by the end of the recording I was sorry it was so short.
In contrast to the first reviewer, I found the narrator to be very good. The comment that the narrator sounded like a psychiatrist may be because psychiatric topics are discussed (a key part of Nash's life was his scitzophrenia), not because the reading is dry.
This book is a great stand-alone history of mathematics in its own right and worth the investment for that alone. The addition of a thorough biography of an interesting person is quite a bonus. The reader's presentation is, for me, flawless as she captures the mood of the text very well and makes the passages on extremely complex math come to life (along with Nasar's help). I strongly recommend this audio book.
Loyal member since 1998
This story does an outstanding job of illustrating the very thin line between madness and genius. "A Beautiful Mind" is much more compelling than one might think. Discovering that Nash had a nervous breakdown at the age of 31 is astounding, espicially when you comprehend that he was at the top of his career. The reality of his illness is even more amazing considering that he stunned the mathematical world by solving "unsolvable" problems. Do not think this is a dry academic tome. It is not. It is a fascinating look at a true genius struggling with insanity.
The world of John Nash and mathematics that make up this biography truly kept me captivated. This book relates a rich and complicated life. I may have skipped the book if I had watched the movie first (I was very disappointed with the movie).
The story of John Nash as presented in the movie made from this book is similar to the superficial story that is told of Vincent van Gogh. Movies emphasize the psychosis displayed by the individual and often the viewer goes away with the simple impression of that "the guy was crazy".
Books like "A Beautiful Mind" provide greater insight into the complexities of the genius and the mental anguish that go along with it. After finishing this book, much like finishing the letters of van Gogh to his brother, one recognizes that what appears on the surface is only a glimpse of the drama and intensity which make up the life of creative genius.
I love biographies, and this one didn't let me down. Not only was it an interesting view into one of the most interesting mathematical minds of our time, it also provided an interesting view into the beginnings of some of today's mathematical institutions.
The author does a fine job of translating very complex mathematical concepts into language the everday reader can understand well enough to follow the story. You don't have to be a math major to understand and enjoy this book.
I saw the movie before reading the book, and the movie just doesn't do Nash justice. It was a good movie, but it really wasn't Nash's life story. Nash was a much more interesting and sometimes bizarre person than the movie showed.
Throughout the book, I couldn't help but feel sympathy for Nash. This biography really had me feeling sympathy for Nash and the lives he affected. The story is perhaps even more interesting because Nash isn't history, he's part of my world today, and he's beat the disease and is still doing mathematics at Princeton.
Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres.
I hadn't realized how much the story had been glamorized, modified and "expanded upon" for the movie until reading this book. I loved the movie AND really liked the book, even though their demeanor (and factual content) is quite different.
Tremendous amount of detail on Nash's life, except for the period of 1970-1990. The story of the how the Nobel prize was given to Nash was a great ending to the book and is very, very interesting.
I was puzzled by one thing in particular though. The story moved at a very steady, methodical pace from Nash's early years up until about 1970. Then, the years 1970-1990 were summed up in about 1 chapter, after which the author proceeded to resume a similar pace from 1990 or so until the end of the book. Don't know if there was too little information from this time period or what, but I thought it a bit "out of pace" with the rest of the book.
All in all a fascinating look at schizophrenia and a mathematical genius. The book presents an unvarnished look at Nash's successes & failures and is well worth the time! If you've seen the movie, it's a great chance to have the record set straight on a large number of points and to learn more about Nash's life.
It takes a little time, but this book will captivate you. It is worth the wait to be captured. It is the story of one of history's greatest mathematicians, John Forbes Nash, another one of those tormented geniuses, e.g. Newton, Cavendish, Turing, VonNuemann, Wiener, Zwicky.
Filled with a detailed history of Dr. Nash's loves, lusts, sudden and lengthy fall into mental illness, and long, slow, return to normalcy, or as close as such a brilliant mind can get to that state, it is riveting indeed. The story is largely told by people who knew Dr. Nash personally, and includes a significant amount of background material that is important to the appreciation of the story, the major characters, and events. The book is primarily statements of fact, interspersed with comments about the thoughts that might have been behind some of his extraordinarily odd personality, again by people who knew him or the author. It is a wonderfully candid portrait of both the man, and his mind, and ultimately a triumph of regaining control of ones own self.
If you are interested in mathematics or psychology, or want to read another example of how genius and mental illness are frequently intertwined, you will not want to stop listening to this book.
Just some impressions from listening to the samples: The unabridged version, spoken in a stern (or rigid?) tone, seems to focus more on his mysterious unconventional genius and give numerous amusing nuggets on how strangely he had often behaved. The abridged version, narrated in a more congenial tone, seems to focus more on his years of madness (delusions, etc.) and dramatic recovery in the 1990s.
Somehow, given Nash's eccentric personality, it's perhaps more appropriate to listen to stories about him in a tone such as Anna Fields'.
Like another reviewer, I found I could not put this "book" down. No it is NOT like the movie (which was spell-binding), and those who expect the movie's intense drama will be disappointed. The book delves much more deeply into Nash's place in the math/applied math firmament, and takes a more scientific approach to his mental illness and treatment. All that was fine with me -- the detail was fascinating and rewarding.
BUT some of the pronunciation gaffes by the reader were like chalk squeaking on a black board. Examples: John Von Neumann's name is not pronounced "Von Newman;" CarNEgie Tech is not pronounced the same as CARnegie Hall; Paul Erdos' name ends with an "sh" sound. Granted, I have a math degree from one of the Ivies, but that is not why I know these things -- a brief consultation with almost any math or science academic would have avoided these annoying errors and others. The publisher should be ashamed that no one involved in producing the recording caught these.
Nonetheless -- it was a terrific "listen"!
This was wonderful. I heard this before seeing the movie, and I liked the book better. I know there was controversy, but I thought that the book had some really important things in it which were omitted or misleading in the movie. Anyway, I really enjoyed it and it gave me insight into the human mind.
"A Wonderful Story"
Well written, well read and true. What more can I ask for. It goes some way beyond the movie of the same subject and paints a picture of a troubled and gentle genius. It?s also heart warming, in that he gets the girl and keeps the girl and finally ?manages? his problem. Well worth it.
Great audio book, read by a competent female actress. Well researched content, and excellent historical contextualisation. Recommended!
well read audiobook, would recommend . . . . .. .. ... ...
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