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Summary and book reviews of A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

A Beautiful Mind

The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash

by Sylvia Nasar

A Beautiful Mind
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  • First Published:
    Jun 1998, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2001, 464 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

'A brilliant book -- at once a powerful and moving biography of a great mathematical genius and an important contribution to American intellectual history.'

How could you, a mathematician, believe that extraterrestrials were sending you messages?" the visitor from Harvard asked the West Virginian with the movie-star looks and Olympian manner.

"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 thirty when he slipped into madness, and who -- thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community -- emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize and world acclaim. The inspiration for a major motion picture, 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.

CONTENTS

Part One: A Beautiful Mind

    Part Two: Separate Lives

    1. Singularity
    2. A Special Friendship (Santa Monica, Summer 1952)
    3. Eleanor
    4. Jack
    5. The Arrest (RAND, Summer 1954)
    6. Alicia
    7. The Courtship
    8. Seattle (Summer 1956)
    9. Death and Marriage (1956-57)

    Part Three: A Slow Fire Burning

    1. Olden Lane and ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Slate - Jim Holt

[An] absolutely fascinating biography..

The Boston Globe

Superbly written and eminently fascinating.

The New York Times Book Review - Simon Singh

Tells a moving story and offers a remarkable look into the arcane world of mathematics and the tragedy of madness.

Wall Street Journal - Charles C. Mann

After suffering with Mr. Nash's family through his madness, the reader greets his recovery--and his ability to reforge a bond with his wife--as a triumph.... A Beautiful Mind is one of the few scientific biographies I have encountered that could plausibly be described as a three-handkerchief read.

Business Week - Michael J. Mandel

[A] fascinating account of creativity barely under control, of a mathematical genius who was driven by--and eventually overwhelmed by--his own inner demons. It represents a staggering feat of writing and reporting, and includes an unprecedented look at the inner workings of the Nobel Prize committee.

Kirkus Reviews

Impressively researched and detailed, but still fails to shed much light on the mysteries of genius and insanity.

Booklist

Rarely has the fragility of the boundary separating genius from madness been illustrated with more compelling insight than in this biography of John Nash, a Nobel laureate in economics and one of this century's greatest mathematicians.... To fully appreciate Nash's career accomplishments, readers must have some grasp of advanced mathematics. But Nasar tells the story of a great mind broken and then healed with subtle sympathy, which will touch any reader who understands what it means to hope--or to fear.

New Scientist - Keith Devlin

[A] must read, with something for everyone ... [a] first-rate biography...

The New York Times

Reads like a fine novel

Author Blurb The New England Journal of Medicine, 1998 - Richard J. Wyatt, M.D.
Nasar has written an intriguing account of a fascinating man, of a beautiful mind, and of terrible madness. She has also written a deeply moving love story, an account of the centrality of human relationships in a world of nightmare and genius.

Author Blurb David Herbert Donald
A brilliant book -- at once a powerful and moving biography of a great mathematical genius and an important contribution to American intellectual history.

Author Blurb Oliver Sacks
Deeply interesting and extraordinarily moving.

Author Blurb Oliver Sacks
A splendid book, deeply interesting and extraordinarily moving, remarkable for its sympathetic insights into both genius and schizophrenia.

Reader Reviews

Trevor Slopden

Title
This book was an amazing insight into the life of John Nash. I had already seen the movie and could not wait to read about one of my heroes (I'm bipolar myself. nb: John Nash shows more signs of being bipolar than schizophrenic and this is backed by ...   Read More

Bruce Carney

Endnotes to Distraction
The New York Times book review says A Beautiful Mind "reads like a fine novel." Except, a fine novel doesn't have endnotes plaguing the entire text. Sylvia Nasar must be German. If not at the end of every sentence, at least at the end of ...   Read More

Alexandra

A Beautiful Mind
Although I was only 11 years old when I read this book, I found many parts of it fascinating. I have interest in mental disorders, and this book showed insight and explanation for one of the more famous cases of schizophrenia in history. I would NOT ...   Read More

Mya Bell

I was inspired to read this aptly titled biography of a brilliant mathematician after seeing Ron Howard's film. This type of subject matter is often avoided by Hollywood filmmakers, so hats off to Howard for tackling a project many filmmakers would ...   Read More

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