The Universal History of Numbers – Book review

There are things around us that we take for granted and don’t give much thought about. Numbers and counting is definitely one of them. We all learn how to count from very early age. We manipulate numbers very easily and beyond numbers, mathematics has given the power to change the world. But if you ask abruptly to anyone: where does it come from? Very few can answer that. I could not, until my parents, in 1995, give me this book as a present. This book has had a huge impact on me and this is why I will tell you more about it. But before starting the review, I’ll have to say that the version I have read is rather old and it seems to me much bigger than the versions available these days. In its French version (see picture with white cover available in Amazon in second hand), it was made of two books of about 1000 pages each. The editions you can now find are about half the size. Has it been shorten or is it just the editing that makes a difference? I could not tell you. But obviously the check I’ve made on the recent editions seems to show that you might have less but you’d still get plenty.

First impression
What strikes the reader when you get that book is the huge amount of information, the incredible number of topics covered in this book. The more you go through the chapters titles, the more you understand you knew nothing about numbers. There is much more to numbers than the 10 digits we daily use in occident. Humans have been extremely creative as the need to be able to count was [...]

The Story of Writing – Book review

I love the British Museum! When I go to the British Museum I always visit the book store. The book store used to be a mine of great books. It is now much smaller and quite disappointing to say the truth. Nevertheless, I bought this book at the British Museum. The title “The Story of Writing” was appealing to me as I am very interested in language and how humans have created the possibility to communicate while not in a face to face situation. When we are on a project, we often rely almost exclusively on writing for communicating. I have covered this question several times and my position is that it is totally foolish as writing was never intended to communicate so precisely in the first place. Anyway, I will stick to my topic today: reviewing “The Story of Writing” by Andrew Robinson.

First impression
When you take this book in hand you notice the weight immediately. It is made in very thick high quality paper due to the numerous photos and illustrations. When you scan it, the impression is excellent and you want to stop at every page to have a better look.
In details
The whole book is organised around sections of 2 pages: left and right. So, in a way, wherever you open the book, you are in front of an end to end story. This construction is clever as it gives to the reader a nicely manageable pace for the reading. Each topic is generously illustrated with photos, diagrams, tables and all things necessary to make the point. The range of topics covered is simply amazing. I’ll give you a few: origins of writing; sign language; pictography; cuneiform; Mayan alphabet; [...]