A Beautiful Mind

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In this powerful and dramatic biography Sylvia Nasar vividly recreates the life of a mathematical genius whose career was cut short by schizophrenia and who, after three decades of devastating mental illness, miraculously recovered and was honored with a Nobel Prize.

“How could you, a mathematician, believe that extraterrestrials were sending you messages?” the visitor from Harvard asked the West Virginian with the movie-star looks and Olympian manner. “Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did,” came the answer. “So I took them seriously.”

Thus begins the true story of John Nash, the mathematical genius who was a legend by age thirty when he slipped into madness, and who—thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community—emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize for triggering the game theory revolution. The inspiration for an Academy Award–winning movie, Sylvia Nasar’s now-classic biography is a drama about the mystery of the human mind, triumph over adversity, and the healing power of love.
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About the author

Sylvia Nasar is the author of the bestselling A Beautiful Mind, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. She is the John S. and James. L Knight Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Jul 12, 2011
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Pages
464
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ISBN
9781439126493
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / General
Biography & Autobiography / Science & Technology
Mathematics / Game Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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"My brother saw the face of God. You never recover from a trauma like that."

So begins Angelhead, a taut, powerful memoir of the madness and crime that rips a family apart.

"I didn't see God, of course, but I saw my brother seeing God; I saw how petrified he was, how convinced."

Set in Tidewater, Virginia, in the 1980s and early 1990s, Angelhead documents the violent, drug-addled, schizophrenic descent of the author's brother, Michael. Commencing with Michael's first psychotic break at age 14 -- high on acid, seeing God in his suburban bedroom window -- through a series of petty crimes, bizarre disappearances, and suicide attempts to the shocking crime that landed him in the psychiatric wing of a maximum security prison, Angelhead enables us to witness firsthand, as never before, the fragmenting of a mind and a family.

"I knew, still know, that he saw, in some form, His or Her or Its face."

Bottoms shows, in pitch-perfect prose and with great empathy and dramatic tension, the psychological decline of his brother as he becomes obsessed first with heavy metal music, martial arts, and the occult, and then with the more bizarre aspects of Christianity. We not only see the effects Michael's odd and increasingly violent behavior has on the people around him, but also come to understand how the author, now a successful writer and journalist, used the power of language and storytelling both to save himself and to forgive his brother. With the fast pace and seamless structure of the best crime writing and the moral sophistication and depth of our finest literature, Angelhead will challenge what we know about mental illness and its impact on us all. It is a brilliant work of unusual intensity.

"In his room he was having his first of many psychotic breaks. It came in the form of crippling guilt, ruthless introspection. He was Jesus being scolded by an angry Father. He wore sin, all sin, heavy as lead shackles. God made him look at himself and he was a stone with a minuscule heart."
The book is a sometimes funny insight into the machinations of the mind during a typical day in 1994 from five in the morning till eleven at night. It describes just how the author gets through a day when actively seeking employment, preferably employment which is permanent as it was temporary work that was usually on offer in post that cherite Britain. A Britain that was paranoid about union loving lefties ". Any hint that a person might be of left wing persuasion and there was no chance of a careerist position. You may, after reading think the writer is actually paranoid but his thoughts are really quite revealing about benefits Britain ". The book was in fact an attempt to prove that the author was not mad but just a typical victim (one of millions) who ended up described as mentally ill by an uncaring government. Governments that would sooner pay people to wallow on benefits than partake in something useful. Governments that simply did not understand what it is like to be out of work and to look for work or what to be out of work did on the physical and mental health of a person. Also, it is a look at how education is dismissed as worthless, even though governments constantly harp on about the need to get education. Hopefully the book will show that we are all individuals, unique beings that do not all live for the profit motive of big business. That some people are quite happy doing relatively non-pressurized jobs in manual work or as clerks. There is no edict that states a graduate must further qualify as a chartered accountant with the hundreds of hours of learning to pass yet more examinations. A person has a right to do what work he thinks he is capable of. The books conclusion is really quite sad.
In the tradition of The Glass Castle, two sisters confront schizophrenia in this poignant literary memoir about family and mental illness. Through stunning prose and original art, The Memory Palace captures the love between mother and daughter, the complex meaning of truth, and family’s capacity for forgiveness

“People have abandoned their loved ones for much less than you’ve been through,” Mira Bartók is told at her mother’s memorial service. It is a poignant observation about the relationship between Mira, her sister, and their mentally ill mother. Before she was struck with schizophrenia at the age of nineteen, beautiful piano protégé Norma Herr had been the most vibrant personality in the room. She loved her daughters and did her best to raise them well, but as her mental state deteriorated, Norma spoke less about Chopin and more about Nazis and her fear that her daughters would be kidnapped, murdered, or raped.

When the girls left for college, the harassment escalated—Norma called them obsessively, appeared at their apartments or jobs, threatened to kill herself if they did not return home. After a traumatic encounter, Mira and her sister were left with no choice but to change their names and sever all contact with Norma in order to stay safe. But while Mira pursued her career as an artist—exploring the ancient romance of Florence, the eerie mysticism of northern Norway, and the raw desert of Israel—the haunting memories of her mother were never far away.

Then one day, a debilitating car accident changes Mira’s life forever. Struggling to recover from a traumatic brain injury, she was confronted with a need to recontextualize her life—she had to relearn how to paint, read, and interact with the outside world. In her search for a way back to her lost self, Mira reached out to the homeless shelter where she believed her mother was living and discovered that Norma was dying.

Mira and her sister traveled to Cleveland, where they shared an extraordinary reconciliation with their mother that none of them had thought possible. At the hospital, Mira discovered a set of keys that opened a storage unit Norma had been keeping for seventeen years. Filled with family photos, childhood toys, and ephemera from Norma’s life, the storage unit brought back a flood of previous memories that Mira had thought were lost to her forever.
In a sweeping narrative, the author of the megabestseller A Beautiful Mind takes us on a journey through modern history with the men and women who changed the lives of every single person on the planet. It’s the epic story of the making of modern economics, and of how economics rescued mankind from squalor and deprivation by placing its material fate in its own hands rather than in Fate.

Nasar’s account begins with Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew observing and publishing the condition of the poor majority in mid-nineteenth-century London, the richest and most glittering place in the world. This was a new pursuit. She describes the often heroic efforts of Marx, Engels, Alfred Marshall, Beatrice and Sydney Webb, and the American Irving Fisher to put those insights into action—with revolutionary consequences for the world.

From the great John Maynard Keynes to Schumpeter, Hayek, Keynes’s disciple Joan Robinson, the influential American economists Paul Samuelson and Milton Freedman, and India’s Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, she shows how the insights of these activist thinkers transformed the world—from one city, London, to the developed nations in Europe and America, and now to the entire planet. In Nasar’s dramatic narrative of these discoverers we witness men and women responding to personal crises, world wars, revolutions, economic upheavals, and each other’s ideas to turn back Malthus and transform the dismal science into a triumph over mankind’s hitherto age-old destiny of misery and early death. This idea, unimaginable less than 200 years ago, is a story of trial and error, but ultimately transcendent, as it is rendered here in a stunning and moving narrative.
When John Nash won the Nobel prize in economics in 1994, many people were surprised to learn that he was alive and well. Since then, Sylvia Nasar's celebrated biography A Beautiful Mind, the basis of a new major motion picture, has revealed the man. The Essential John Nash reveals his work--in his own words. This book presents, for the first time, the full range of Nash's diverse contributions not only to game theory, for which he received the Nobel, but to pure mathematics--from Riemannian geometry and partial differential equations--in which he commands even greater acclaim among academics. Included are nine of Nash's most influential papers, most of them written over the decade beginning in 1949.

From 1959 until his astonishing remission three decades later, the man behind the concepts "Nash equilibrium" and "Nash bargaining"--concepts that today pervade not only economics but nuclear strategy and contract talks in major league sports--had lived in the shadow of a condition diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. In the introduction to this book, Nasar recounts how Nash had, by the age of thirty, gone from being a wunderkind at Princeton and a rising mathematical star at MIT to the depths of mental illness.


In his preface, Harold Kuhn offers personal insights on his longtime friend and colleague; and in introductions to several of Nash's papers, he provides scholarly context. In an afterword, Nash describes his current work, and he discusses an error in one of his papers. A photo essay chronicles Nash's career from his student days in Princeton to the present. Also included are Nash's Nobel citation and autobiography.



The Essential John Nash makes it plain why one of Nash's colleagues termed his style of intellectual inquiry as "like lightning striking." All those inspired by Nash's dazzling ideas will welcome this unprecedented opportunity to trace these ideas back to the exceptional mind they came from.

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