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Publisher's Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of How Not to Be Wrong - himself a world-class geometer - a far-ranging exploration of the power of geometry, which turns out to help us think better about practically everything

How should a democracy choose its representatives? How can you stop a pandemic from sweeping the world? How do computers learn to play Go, and why is learning Go so much easier for them than learning to read a sentence? Can ancient Greek proportions predict the stock market? (Sorry, no.) What should your kids learn in school if they really want to learn to think? All these are questions about geometry. For real.

If you're like most people, geometry is a sterile and dimly remembered exercise you gladly left behind in the dust of ninth grade, along with your braces and active romantic interest in pop singers. If you recall any of it, it's plodding through a series of miniscule steps only to prove some fact about triangles that was obvious to you in the first place. That's not geometry. Okay, it is geometry, but only a tiny part, which has as much to do with geometry in all its flush modern richness as conjugating a verb has to do with a great novel.

Shape reveals the geometry underneath some of the most important scientific, political, and philosophical problems we face. Geometry asks: Where are things? Which things are near each other? How can you get from one thing to another thing? Those are important questions. The word "geometry", from the Greek for "measuring the world". If anything, that's an undersell. Geometry doesn't just measure the world - it explains it. Shape shows us how.

* This audiobook includes a downloadable PDF of images and shapes.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Jordan Ellenberg (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“[Jordan Ellenberg] is up to the engaging standard of his prior book...almost anyone is likely to enjoy Ellenberg’s prose, and mind.” (Harvard Magazine)

“Serious mathematics at its intriguing, transporting best...[a] humorous, anecdotally rich dive into numerous mathematical theories.” (Kirkus)
 

“Shape is a triumph of mathematical exposition, exposing profound truths - from the nature of distance to the predictability of randomness - as well as profound mistakes - from historical misattributions to Supreme Court justice hardheadedness - with eloquence and hilarious wit. Ellenberg's evident affection for both his subject and his reader makes us feel like the lucky ones who get to hear him hold forth in an intimate setting about his favorite subject, mathematics.” (Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction)

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Shape's about reason, logic, mathematics & more...

I love the scope of this book; from explaining the rigor of Abraham Lincoln immersing himself "till I could give any propositions in the six books of Euclid at sight" to applying the inherent reasoning and logic of demonstrating proof to far-flung human undertakings.

Ellenberg is a math professor who can write. His speaking style, while forthright, cannot fully contain his enthusiasm for his subject matter. His narration is conversational and reminds me of the best of the Great Lectures books I've enjoyed.

Rational thought and reasoning can be applied to everything from geometry to maps to politics, artificial intelligence to genealogy and biology. The best arguments are "self-evident," and Ellenberg weaves mathematical, cultural and political history into Shape, elucidating great advances in math and other endeavors, from Ancient Greece to the American Revolution; from the thinking of Abraham Lincoln, to gerrymandering today.

Shape will make you think...without making your head hurt too much in the process. What a treat! I'll be up for a second, and perhaps a third listen. And based on Shape, I'm up for trying Ellenberg's other work as well.

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Excellent, but not suited for an audiobook

Jordan Ellenberg is an excellent mathematician, and very open and enthusiastic. If he writes a popular book you should read it.

In this case, the operative word is "read." You don't have to use lab equipment or go out into the field to do mathematics, and to get any feeling at all for it, the reader is going to have to work through some concrete examples. That's natural enough in a printed book, where you can embed figures in the text, but what's the point of an audiobook version if you're going to end up walking through PDF diagrams anyway?

I've given this a low rating, but what that's meant to convey is only that I don't think it works as an audiobook, simply by the nature of the material. It's not a criticism of the book itself, and I do think the audio version of it was about as well done as it might have been.

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I’m a curious person...

But I’m not a mathematician. There were topics providing insight, but overall this book didn’t fit my interests. I wish he’d included a mentioned chapter on the geography of maritime navigation. If you’re not mathematically inclined, I’d suggest you review an audio sample before committing to the book.

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What is it all about?

Read the intro and the first chapter but couldn’t get what it is all about. This usually portents a bad book, especially if it is supposed to be a science book. And the narration is awful.