The book, structured like the morning paper, investigates the mathematical angles of stories in the news and offers novel perspectives, questions, and ideas to coffee-drinkers, strap-hangers, policy-makers, gossip-mongers, bargain-hunters, trend-setters, and others who can't get along without their daily paper. Mathematical naivete can put such readers at a disadvantage in thinking about many issues in the news that may seem on the surface not to involve mathematics at all. "Number stories" complement, deepen, and regularly undermine "people stories." The notions of probability and randomness can enhance articles on crime, health risks, or other societal obsessions. Logic and self-reference may help to clarify the hazards of celebrity and spin-doctoring. Business finance, the multiplication principle, and simple arithmetic point up consumer fallacies, electoral tricks, and sports myths. Chaos and non-linear dynamics suggest how difficult and frequently worthless economic and environmental prediction is. And mathematically pertinent notions from philosophy and psychology provide perspective on a variety of public issues. These ideas provide a revealing, albeit oblique slant on the traditional Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of the journalist's craft.
A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper is on the readers' list of the Random House Modern Library's compilation of the 100 best nonfiction books of the century.
"It would be great to have John Allen Paulos living next door. Every morning when you read the paper and came across some story that didn't seem quite right - that had the faint odor of illogic hovering about it - you could just lean out the window and shout, "Jack! Get the hell over here!"..... Paulos ... has now written a fun, spunky, wise little book that would be helpful to both the consumers of the news and its purveyors."
"But the dirty secret about the media's contribution to American "Innumeracy," first examined in a delightful book by that title by John Allen Paulos, is about to be revealed in his sequel, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper."
"This is press criticism, but not of the usual kind .... This is press criticism of the sort that George Orwell had in mind when he observed that what's important isn't news, and what's news isn't important. ..... This is a subversive book. Paulos argues that the world is so complex that it cannot be accurately described, much less manipulated. ...... a wise and thoughtful book, which skewers much of what everyone knows to be true."
"It would be great to have John Allen Paulos living next door. Every morning when you read the paper and came across some story that didn't seem quite right - that had the faint odor of illogic hovering about it - you could just lean out the window and shout, "Jack! Get the hell over here!"..... Paulos, who wrote the bestseller Innumeracy (the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy), has now written a fun, spunky, wise little book that would be helpful to both the consumers of the news and its purveyors."
"Even better, Paulos' wit and humor - admirably displayed in Innumeracy - are in top form. His irreverent and pointed comments entertain as well as educate. Though Paulos writes about a bewildering number of topics, he has something fresh and interesting to say about each."
"This book will bring a great deal of pleasure to many - as it did to the reviewer. It is full of fun, full of information, full of insights."
"Although the combination of math and newspapers sounds uniquely unappetizing, John Allen Paulos creates a truly thought- provoking book from that mixture."
"In his new book, the mathematician John Allen Paulos continues his witty crusade against mathematical illiteracy ...... Mr. Paulos's little essay explaining the Banzhaf power index and how it relates to Lani Guinier's ideas about empowering minorities is itself worth the price of the book."
"As intriguing as these examples may be, Paulos' book is much more than an assortment of helpful hints for news readers. As a lifelong fan of newspapers, Paulos provides a wide-ranging collection of musings on mathematics, the media and life itself."
"To the rescue comes our hero John Allen Paulos, that mysterious masked mathematician on a white horse, with his new book, "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper." ...If paranoia could be cured by math, Paulos would be the Jonas Salk of the disease. His dissection of conspiracy theories is delicious."
"Paulos uses his considerable talents and a breezy style to discuss many ways to apply simple, or at least simply explained, mathematics and logic to analyze the contents of the newspaper. ... the book is a compendium of unusually sound advice, which, if widely read and understood, could improve a lot more for us than the way we read the newspaper."
"... this book should be mandatory reading for every journalist - as well as the readers, viewers and former tutors they supposedly serve."
"... A Mathematican Reads the Newspaper is irresistible."