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A Beautiful Mind [Paperback]

Sylvia Nasar
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 10.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Feb 2002
At the age of thirty-one, John Nash, mathematical genius, suffered a devastating breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Yet after decades of leading a ghost-like existence, he was to re-emerge to win a Nobel Prize and world acclaim. The inspiration for a major motion picture directed by Ron Howard, Sylvia Nasar's award-winning biography is a drama about the mystery of the human mind, a triumph over incredible adversity, and the healing power of love.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Tie-In - Film edition (4 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571212921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571212927
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 119,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

A Beautiful Mind in some ways could join the ranks of stories of famously eccentric Princetonians--such as that of chemist Hubert Alyea, the model for The Absent-Minded Professor, or Ralph Nader, said to have had his own key to the library as an undergraduate. Another much-related story on campus concerns the "Phantom of Fine Hall", a figure many students had seen shuffling around the corridors of the maths and physics building wearing purple sneakers and writing numerology treatises on the blackboards. This was in fact John Nash, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of his generation, who had spiralled into schizophrenia in the 1950s. His most important work had been in game theory, which by the 1980s was underpinning a large part of economics. When the Nobel Prize committee began debating a prize for game theory, Nash's name inevitably came up--only to be dismissed, since the prize clearly could not go to a madman. But in 1994 Nash, in remission from schizophrenia, shared the Nobel Prize in economics for work done some 45 years previously.

Economist and journalist Sylvia Nasar has written a biography of Nash that looks at all sides of his life. She gives an intelligent, understandable exposition of his mathematical ideas and a picture of schizophrenia that is evocative but decidedly unromantic. Her story of the machinations behind Nash's Nobel is fascinating and one of very few such accounts available in print (the CIA could learn a thing or two from the Nobel committees). This highly recommended book is indeed "a story about the mystery of the human mind, in three acts: genius, madness, reawakening". --Mary Ellen Curtin, Amazon.com

Review

(This)brilliantly combines an intellectual history of an abstruse branch of mathematics, a love story, and an investigation into genius and madness. -- Sunday Telegraph, 18 July 1999

A compelling book about a phenomenal figure. Sylvia Nasar manages to illuminate both the man and his maths. -- Roy Porter, The Times, 10 September 1998

A detailed, sensitive and multi-sided account of the bizarre life of the mathematician John Nash. -- Daily Telegraph, 21 November 1998

An intriguing analysis of the tortured life of John Nash, mathematical genius and Nobel laureate extraordinary. -- Observer, 20 September 1998

As a gripping narrative, as an account of mental illness and as a study of a very interesting scholar, I think this book should find many readers. -- Times Higher Educational Supplement, 23 October 1998

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
AMONG JOHN NASH'S EARLIEST MEMORIES is one in which, as a child of about two or three, he is listening to his maternal grandmother play the piano in the front parlor of the old Tazewell Street house, high on a breezy hill overlooking the city of Bluefield, West Virginia. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Insight 8 July 2002
Format:Paperback
Nasar provides an exhaustive account of the life of John F. Nash, Jr, who is perhaps one of the great geniuses of the past century, and could have been greater still if paranoid schizophrenia had not intervened.
What is so important about this work is that Nasar is equally skilled in communicating the extent of Nash's illness and the significance of his battle against it as she is in communicating the extent of his mathematical genius. She does not simply examine Nash, but also the effect that Nash had on those around him, whether positive or negative. Although it is blatantly obvious that Nash is a hero of Nasar's, she is certainly not afraid to criticise specific actions or attitudes of his when she feels that such criticism is justified. Perhaps the most potent examples of this occur when Nash's personal life is described in a large amount of detail. This produces a tremendously balanced, no-holds-barred, biography.
The fact that this book shares its title with Ron Howard's latest film is misleading to some extent, since this book devles much deeper than a two-hour film ever could. So, even if you have seen the film, as I had, you will be shocked and captivated by new revelations about Nash, and come away with a much more complete picture of the man. The sheer volume of the footnotes at the end of the book is a testament both to its accuracy and the effort that Nasar invested in it.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I went with dubious mind to see the film. Being a psychology student i could see a certain appeal to its core subject however. I was blown away.
Both accurate and moving, the book provides a detailed and facinating account of a great, yet flawed man. This adds a human element to the events told. In fact 'told' is too simple a word to describe the painstaking lengths that must have gone into this accomplishment.
The book was a joy to read from start to finish, and ANYONE with a passing interest in the way the mind works or how genius is attained, should certainly read this book as soon as possible.
Cannot be higher recommended!
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
The size of this book may seem overpowering, but do not, as I did, think it will be too cumbersome to just sit and read. Nash's world of mathematicians grabbed me immediately as they were all such interesting characters. I was intrigued to read of names I'd heard like Einstein - and see how these geniuses fitted together. The author has researched endlessly about the mathematical theorists, and explains their theories in a layperson's terms. But the star of the book is of course, John Nash. He is not always likeable, but he is always fascinating. The title sums him up perfectly. His "beautiful mind" was in his youth, above the rest of us, and he needed praise and stimulation. I was glad to learn more of the games theory which was covered in the film, and feel I have learned something valuable from the explanations. Nash's breakdown is described without sentimentality so that the reader feels even more the subject, knowing his potential. Schizophrenia has become more undertandable for me now I have read about a real person, and I can feel the torment he must have felt trying to suppress the delusions. This is one of the best biographies I have ever read, and recommend it to anyone who likes to feel they have learned something from their reading.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts on A Beautiful Mind 10 Feb 2004
Format:Paperback
I have not seen the film by Ron Howard and I must admit that I knew nothing of John Nash prior to reading this book. My main reason for reading A Beautiful Mind, was an interest in mental illnesses that impede with such catastrophic affect upon people's lives, an interest that stems from reading several books by Oliver Sacks. In this sense I misinterpreted the book's main objective.
Sylvia Nasar's aim has been to document Nash's life from his earliest childhood, and she does so with such a sense of time and place that the reader is immediately enthralled. It is not, as I had assumed before reading it, a book that sets out to expose a hidden truth of Schizophrenia or Mathematics. It is the story of a man whose character and ideas struggled to find a place in the world; a genius who was forced to live through the most debilitating of mental illnesses, to emerge to belated credit for his achievements. Although Mathematics is a central feature of the story, Nasar only touches on the substance of Nash's theories, focussing instead on their impact on the Mathematics and Economics communities, and his own mind. The same is true of Nasar's approach to Schizophrenia; there are no real medical descriptions of the illness, but her depictions of life for the schizophrenic and those around them, has a depth and clarity that goes beyond any medical diagnosis. The undertones of predisposition and of defining the borders between illness and health are carefully managed throughout the book and leave the reader, if not wiser, certainly more open-minded.
The volume of research, (easily assessed by a quick flick through the notes), Nasar invested in her book is truly impressive and the result is a biography that deserves the acclaim it has won.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Hubris of Genius 9 July 2004
Format:Paperback
This biography of the Nobel Prize winner and schizophrenic mathematical genius John Forbes Nash surprisingly brings to mind the main character in Dostoyevsky's great novel, "Crime and Punishment." Like the intense, reclusive student, Raskolnikov, Nash in this biography comes across as an extremely anti-social and arrogant young man, convinced that his genius gives him certain rights and freedoms beyond the petty restrictions, rules, and manners that govern normal human conduct.
But whereas Dostoyevsky's character commits a murder, Nash's main offense is merely to be an arrogant and boorish lout, forever trying to show off to his fellow students at Princeton. When he is later struck down by mental illness after achieving so much so young, we can't help feeling there is an element of hubris involved.
Nash also fits into the popular paradigm of the lop-sided genius, the person of incredible talents who can't deal with the simpler aspects of daily life. As in the case of the notoriously absent-minded Albert Einstein -- whom Nash meets in the book -- or the equally eccentric Isaac Newton, we somehow feel reassured that these supreme geniuses have their weaknesses. For all these reasons, this is a story that resonates on a mythic and psychological level. We keep rooting for Nash, but also secretly look forward to him tripping up. This reflects the ambivalent attitude to the sciences that most people have -- we are both intrigued by new discoveries but afraid of their ramifications.
Around the age of 30, Nash's quest to find greater meaning in the Universe sparked off his insanity as he started to discern complex codes implanted by extra-terrestrials in the random occurrence of certain letters of the alphabet in daily life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Granular and balanced
After the abominable feature film on his life that misrepresents and sanitises to the point of defamation, I had been yearning to read this biography of this living genius for... Read more
Published 1 month ago by coronaurora
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
i got this book for my draughter for christmas she said she liked it . i went to see the film a few years ago it was a very good film.
Published 2 months ago by pauline bolger
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible item
This book was terrible, there were brown spots all over the pages and it smelt awful, obviously not ideal at all. Very disappointed.
Published 8 months ago by Mrs C Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellently executed account - don't bother with the film
As an economist, I was eager to get stuck into a biography of John Nash and it was a pleasant surprise that there was a nice balance between the more technical details of Nash's... Read more
Published 13 months ago by M Knight
4.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read but worth the effort.
I read this book because I had seen the film. The book was a very precise portrayal of the life of John Nash; As such I found it to be hard going, especially the first part of the... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jeanne Price
2.0 out of 5 stars Book
Unfortunately the print size is so small I cannot read this book. Even with my glasses on it is a strain, so unfortunately I cannot give this book a decent rating. Read more
Published 15 months ago by A. M. Knight
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is a very good book. It seems to be a well balanced looks at Nash's life. Its' one of the rare examples of great film even better book.
Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful Mind
Bought this book on behalf of a friend and who reviewed the book as a good read and would recommend it.
Published 16 months ago by chessplayer62
4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting read
I thought it was a bit dragged out for the first couple of chapters, there was a lot of detail on the mathmathic institutes john nash attended and the works that he did, its more... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Eddie
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful biography
Not drawn to the "living biography" section in bookshops written by the very young for the even younger, I actually physically veer of the course when I see it. Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2011 by RR Waller
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