Hunting for the next book to listen to around the house I decided to go back to non-fiction and try and find a topic to expand my knowledge of a weak area. Maths certainly counts as one of my weaker subjects. I can get by, obviously, but I haven’t done things like quadratic equations since school, let alone probability, geometry or much else come to think of it.
Adventures in Numberland was a bit odd then, less a book exploring in greater depths of mathematics, more a series of chapters like TV documentaries where the author talks of meeting people who do unusual things with numbers, such as the popularity of abacuses in Japan, or discusses significant historical developments, such as the invention of zero (by the Indians, no less).
Most of the book deals with abstract concepts, therefore, which work well, but it does stray into computations which don’t really work too well in audiobook form and I assume work much better when you can see the sums and shapes on the page in front of you (though that could be my lack of ability to envisage and hold these calculations in my head).
I will confess that I lost interest in some of the topics at various points, the better ones are tied to the real world, rather than simple ideas that may or may not have revolutionised the subject.
The book is read by the author himself and he does a good job, showing obvious enthusiasm for his subject.
One criticism is that it seems to end very abruptly, with no conclusion or summation, it just reaches the end of the last topic and… finishes (it looks like the audiobook is missing the final chapter).
All in all a good book with some interesting topics. If you’re a fan of Louis Theroux’s documentaries or Bill Bryson’s more recent work, I’d say it was worth a look.
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Audiobook copy of the book
Reviewed: 25th August 2012