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on 20 October 2014
Contrary to other opinions I found Mr Havil's so called "marvellous prose" flowery, unnecessary and, frankly rather self indulgent. The man is clearly a knowledgable mathematician and as a history of irrationals this is a very good book; but please, stock to the maths and less of the wordplay! The mathematics is very advanced in many parts and whilst I don't like my science books to be oversimplified, some warning about the level necessary to understand this would have perhaps suggested that some preparation with slightly less advanced texts was required.
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on 4 January 2015
When ranking the level of difficulty of a mathematical textbook, the phrase "mathematical maturity" is often used. This refers to that general increase in mathematical ability that one expects students to achieve as they study more and more mathematics. The phrase can also be used to describe the mathematical community as a whole as it develops, assimilates and then refines new concepts until they often reach the level of the routine.
One sees this thread throughout mathematics, in this book the maturity of the mathematical community in discovering, developing and refining the theorems of irrational numbers is covered. Although there is scholarly debate on the severity of the reaction to the initial knowledge of the existence of the irrationals, there is no question that it was significant. Havil does an excellent job in describing this collective mathematical process and spares no equation in the process. He captures the spirit and difficulties as generations of mathematics toiled for hundreds of years in order to develop a sound definition of the irrational numbers as well as the logical mechanisms to work with them.
There is no question that this ongoing process was a major success, I do not remember the precise time in my education where I was first exposed to irrational numbers, but believe that it was in the ninth grade. Now, irrational numbers are routinely discussed, manipulated and occasionally cussed in the high schools, which is certainly the definition of a topic that is "mature." In no way a popular book on mathematics, this book is a sound description of this trek from the "bizarre" to the routine.

Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission
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on 25 February 2014
A extremely enjoyable history of the irrationals and related mathematical theories. I found it highly readable - but it isn't for you if mathematical symbols and equations aren't your cup of tea. The author expresses a joy in the development of the ideas relating to the irrations from the Greeks to mdern times, clearly taking delight in the inventiveness of mathematicians in this field. I found it very enjoyable.
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on 2 May 2014
Havil's book on Irrationals, just like his book on Euler's Constant is a wonderful, wonderful read, coupled with his marvellous prose, is perfect for lovers of mathematics. Beware this book is not for numpties!

More books please Mr Havil.
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on 12 January 2015
A fascinating discussion of irrational numbers, clearly presented and explained (or so my husband tells me - it's a load of Greek letters to me!). Great service from the supplier, as the book arrived well before the expected date.
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on 26 January 2015
excellent
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on 18 March 2014
not what i expected but that is all in the game. sorry but cannot recommend this book, no tears however here
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