Look, now: Buried amid this summer's beach reads, your Grishams and Hilderbrands, is a literary treasure ... keen-eyed, beguiling ... Wilkinson is a beautiful writer, a dry wit who seamlessly blends complex ideas with jazzy anecdotes and the history of math itself, conjuring pivotal figures from Euclid to Bertrand Russell ... There are wonderful riffs on perplexed scientists ... And Amie's affectionate, bemused mentorship enriches the book; we should all have such a brilliant niece on call ... He guides us through thickets of sine and cosine, digressions on Shakespeare and the concept of infinity. In the end he achieves his goal: His book demystifies math, illuminating the godlike, immutable properties of proofs and the ways numbers evolve, like animal species. For readers craving high style during the dog days, A Divine Language is simply divine.
I kept waiting for the kind of happy reconciliation that never quite comes. Instead we get Wilkinson declaring that math 'as a brute, malign and mechanical thing.' He confesses that by the end of his journey, he was still consumed by 'an indignant resistance' ... This, then, isn’t a chipper story of personal growth — and for that I was grateful. Wilkinson has accomplished something more moving and original, braiding his stumbling attempts to get better at math with his deepening awareness that there’s an entire universe of understanding that will, in some fundamental sense, forever lie outside his reach ... As enjoyable as these bits are, Wilkinson can get so frustrated with the actual math part that I wondered at times at his refusal to talk to a tutor.
With his smooth writing, ingenious descriptions, and analogies, this motivational book should be a welcome gift to many readers who have spent decades avoiding math because of early frustrations with learning it in school. Wilkinson explains many mathematical topics in an easy, clear, and understandable way ... Suitable for all ages, this intelligent book on finding new ways to understand things will find eager and welcoming readers.
Mr. Wilkinson gives his journey the quintessential New-Yorker-super-duper-feature treatment. While he struggles with learning math, his capacious curiosity leads him to roam far and wide through the discipline’s history and philosophy. For starters, the question, 'What is mathematics?' generates an illuminating riff...In this context, Mr. Wilkinson is entirely in his element, telling tales with his easily acquired, elegant erudition—especially when he ventures out to meet mathematicians.
In a unique combination of memoir and intellectual spelunking, Wilkinson takes readers into the heart of math’s complex mysteries and the biggest questions that arise. What unfolds is a wide-ranging exploration of identity, philosophy, faith, the history of mathematics, and the nature of the divine. Mathematics has always been a subject pointing its practitioners toward a sense of the unknown, and Wilkinson’s quest becomes something akin to a spiritual pursuit. This is a deeply insightful, lyrical, and erudite work, filled with gems of wisdom and fascinating digressions, all characterized by Wilkinson’s delightfully dry, self-deprecating humor. He proves it’s never too late to learn something new, even if what you learn isn’t what you expected, and even high-school math can blossom into surprising vistas of metaphysical and psychological significance.
Wilkinson’s slyly entertaining prose captures both the frustrations of learning math and the rare exhilarations when it’s mastered. Readers who have stared blankly at a sheet of equations will find this odyssey a treasure.