While nonmathematicians may have trouble comprehending Roberts’ mathematical achievements, they will enjoy this entertaining...

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GENIUS AT PLAY

THE CURIOUS MIND OF JOHN HORTON CONWAY

A biography of the brilliant mathematician John Horton Conway (b. 1937).

Roberts (Wind Wizard: Alan G. Davenport and the Art of Wind Engineering, 2012, etc.) met her subject when he helped vet a manuscript of her award-winning earlier work, King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry (2006). Now a distinguished professor of applied and computational mathematics at Princeton and a fellow of the Royal Society of London, Conway got his start at Cambridge, where he first achieved fame for his invention of the Game of Life in 1970. The “game” is now incorporated into computer programs that explore the possibilities of simulating human cognition and the potentialities of artificial intelligence and self-reproducing robots. Initially, participants played the game by manipulating stones on a square grid. At Conway’s instigation, a group of Cambridge friends joined him in investigating the possibility of starting with two groups of colored stones (one representing live cells and the others, dead cells). The aim was to observe how, by moving them according to a few simple rules, they might evolve into complex structures, depending on the initial configuration and the rules. The game gained popularity when Conway's friend Martin Gardner wrote about it in his Scientific American column. With the development of computer capabilities, it has proved to have important scientific applications in simulating the behavior of self-organizing systems in various fields, including population studies and artificial intelligence. The emergence of unexpected patterns provides an analogy for evolution. In the appendices, the author describes some of Conway's other contributions in applied mathematics, including the invention of new numbers that he named “surreal.” While he was becoming famous as a mathematician, Conway was cultivating an over-the-top personal style as a campus eccentric with an unconventional lecturing style. The book is enlivened by anecdotes provided by family, colleagues, and friends.

While nonmathematicians may have trouble comprehending Roberts’ mathematical achievements, they will enjoy this entertaining portrait of a charismatic genius.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62040-593-2

Page Count: 472

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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