National Book Critics Circle Award, Biography/Autobiography, 1999
John Forbes Nash, Jr., a prodigy and legend by the age of 30, dazzled the mathematical world by solving a series of deep problems deemed "impossible" by other mathematicians.
But at the height of his fame, Nash suffered a catastrophic mental breakdown and began a harrowing descent into insanity, resigning his post at MIT, slipping into a series of bizarre delusions, and eventually becoming a dreamy, ghostlike figure at Princeton, scrawling numerological messages on blackboards. He was all but forgotten by the outside world - until, remarkably, he emerged from his madness to win the Nobel Prize.
A true drama, A Beautiful Mind is also a fascinating look at the extraordinary and fragile nature of genius.
©1998 Sylvia Nasar; (P)1999 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"A Beautiful Mind tells a moving story and offers a remarkable look into the arcane world of mathematics and the tragedy of madness." (New York Times Book Review)
"Nasar tells a story of triumph, tragedy, and enduring love." (Library Journal)
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This book is nothing like the movie. The movie skipped everything that would make you dislike John Nash and that is a lot. Nash was an A##hole. Yet the book is more true to life. My wife is a coach to the math team from our state and she will tell you that many geniuses are similar to Nash, mostly unsociable. Of course that is because our society puts down overachievers. In school it is not cool to be the smart kid. If you liked Einstein by Walter Isaacson, then you will like this book. There is a lot in here not only about Nash, but also about the geniuses he was around. There is also a lot in here about his disease. I found this book more informative then entertaining. It was real, it was good, it just was not real good.
A Beautiful Mind Book Review
The movie entitled A Beautiful Mind was a romanticized tribute to the best of Dr. John Nash. A Beautiful Mind the book is researched truth, a tribute to the family and friends of Dr. John Nash who cared for him at his worst as well his best. I commend the author for the depth of research that went into this book as is inferred in the book's Acknowledgments. I commend the reader who read this book aloud. This documentation of the life of a mentally ill mathematical genius was not easy or light hearted reading.
I am neither a mathematician nor a genius. The math in the book went in one ear and out the other. However, the math could not have been omitted because math made the man. Math was John Nash's mental anchor. It was the product of his genius.
I read this book because like so many of the people referenced in this book, I have loved ones who suffer with mental illness. This book shines a bright light of hope into the dark side of mental illness. It honors those who care for the mentally ill and gives insight into the needs of the mentally ill. Mentally ill persons need a community in which they can be protected as well as productive . they need this peaceful place to connect as much if not more so than they need pills and psychology,
Seeing the reviews below, I have to say: Its a biography of a mathematician. If you don't have any idea of what game theory, set theory, or quantum mechanics is... you might not get many references in this book. That being said there is very little "actual" math in the book; so math hesitant listeners need not beware. Most listeners with a well-rounded knowledge in mathematics and science will be able to understand and enjoy this book.
It does delve, perhaps slightly obtusely, into the history of Princeton, the IAS, etc. but the author uses this to help the listener really understand the environment and world that Nash was living in. Plus there are lots of anecdotal stories about Einstein, Von Neumann, etc. that are actually quite interesting.
There were a few times in the first few chapters I laughed out loud. :) I would recommend this book for anyone who is not already familiar with the real story of John Nash (not the movie) and has an interest in learning about how one of the great mathematicians of our time lived.
Worth the listening!
Of course, Nash himself, but his wife Alicia played a crucial role over all the plot, so she deserves a lot of credit for his remission.
The narrator changes the voice intonation when quoting a man's voice, and Nash's voice in a special way, so it's really entertaining and it helps following a dialogue!
Comparing to the movie, it's much better (as usual) and portraits the real issues and struggles.
It's not only about Nash's life, but the way the author contextualizes every relevant moment, providing background on places, people, science and world history, causes you to really immerse in that period of time, so you will be able to understand why and how the things developed the way they did. Great general knowledge update!
This was an interesting story that is characteristic of so many brilliant people. There seems to be a very fine line between genious and mental illness. The book was filled with information different than the movie and it contained a great deal of information about advanced topics in mathematics. I recomend this for anyone interested in mind and math.
I'd listen to this book again. I'm almost one third thru the story, so I can't give much away, but what I've heard so far has been very interesting
I like biographies, I enjoy happy endings. This is a roller coaster ride for Nash, so I'm also along for the ride!
Like I said, I'm only finishing the 1st section of the book, it's all been building towards his decline.
You think you know the ending, but what a story!
I almost didn't finish this book. The introduction was overwhelming. I'd get interested, then it would drone on into mathematical information, but then, fortunately, it would get interesting again. I'm glad I persevered!!!
I never saw the movie so I had no basis for comparison except with other biographies that I've read. John Nash is a fascinating man and I appreciated this detailed look into his life. I think that the author treated him with respect but did not hold back on sharing the tragedy of his life. I love biographies and this one did not disappoint me.
Yes, I have listened to several of her books but this is the first biography. I thought she did a great job.
Above average I would say but some of the math ideas and game theory explanations were complex to a regular guy such as myself. The story of Nash itself was interesting and held my attention. If you understand some of Nash's ideas or are familiar with his work then I would say this book is a must, and you shouldn't be reading my reviews anyway. I gave it 3 of five stars
One of the rare situations where I should have gotten the abridged version, which I can only assume is minus the complicated theories discussed in way too much detail. I had hoped to hear about John Nash's life, but can't get past the author's intellect. This was too difficult to listen to for me, and I suspect it would be the same for most people who are not mathematicians.
Her narration was excellent overall, with no particular character being better than the others.
This is a standout biography that manages to combine some fairly detailed discussions of mathematics as a field, the scientific milieu of the 20th century, and mental illness and treatment in the 20th century, with a meticulous exploration of Nobel winner John Forbes Nash's life. The book is wonderful and the depth and breadth of the interviews conducted to make it possible is astounding. Sensitively written, but unflinchingly honest, this is a book well worth the time.
"Very different to the movie"
It seems to be a commonly held belief that genius often goes hand-in-hand with mental illness. I've often wondered if this is actually the case or whether it's just that most people have never heard of most genius level intellects that aren't afflicted in this way. How many of us could honestly say we'd ever have heard of John Nash if it weren't for his prolonged battle with schizophrenia (if 'battle' is even the right word)?
I admit that I'd not heard of him until my wife recommended the movie to me after watching it with friends. I quickly bought it and loved it (I know which side my bread is buttered, folks) and this lead me to read the book the movie is based on.
Having now finished the book, I have to say that it's made me reappraise the film. While I'm sure I'd still enjoy the movie, I now see that it is an extremely idealised version of Nash's life. It has left out large chunks of the less sympathetic aspects of the man's personality. It's almost impossible to say how much of Nash's (how to put this?) dickish behaviour was due to his as-yet-undiagnosed schizophrenia but it is clear (to this reader, anyway) that the man was a rather unlikeable individual long before he became ill.
I don't, however, only want to read about people I'd like to have a drink with and, despite the rather unsavoury aspects of Nash's character, this is undeniably a fascinating book and I'm very glad I read it. It manages to be a 'warts-and-all' autobiography without ever stooping to sensationalism and remains respectful of its subject even while recounting some of his worst facets. I recommend it to anybody who has seen the movie version that would like to know the truth behind the Hollywood fairytale.
It's also made me want to read more about game theory...
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