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  • Nov 30, 2013
Tammet is a young (born in 1979, which makes him mid 30s; he looks much younger in the picture on the flap of the book cover) autistic savant and this is his third book.  I had never heard of him before but picked up this slim book of essays about numbers through my favorite method of  browsing the new nonfiction at my local library and waiting for serendipity to strike.  Since we moved about six months ago I live about a mile from our new library and have really rediscovered that joy because the librarians there apparently have enough money to spend on new books and have a profile of a reader like me in mind when they are buying. 

This book was one I wouldn't have walked in looking to find, but I'm glad I found it.  Tammet is the eldest of 9 children born in London to apparently somewhat lower middle class parents; from the few clues he gives in these essays, his was no "reality show" big-family upbringing.  Perhaps he gives more details on his childhood in his other books, but here the focus is on numbers--what they mean, how they group in patterns, how we use them, how we memorize them, even how we say them (in Icelandic, for example, how you count to 4 depends on what you are counting).  Tammet is clearly able because of his unique intellectual gift to see numbers in ways most of us never will (one essay describes his five+ hours reciting pi to over 22,000 plays to set a world record), but he is also a good enough writer to help the reader see something of what he sees in numbers.

In his concluding essay about the art of math he applies math to analogy as a tool to enable "the quintessentially human ability to make connections . . . between disparate things."  That is the spirit and the wonder that drives my reading and helps me decide which of those cherished sets of words in ink on paper bound and cataloged on the shelf at the library will be my next adventure for the catholic reader.

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December 01, 2013
Thanks for sharing.
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
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I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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