5.0 out of 5 stars
A Balanced View of a Complex Life, Feb 15 2002
I enjoyed the movie, but I wanted to know more about John Nash's work and genius, as well as his schizophrenia. Sylvia Nasar's book delivered on all counts.
It also did so in an style that was neither a dry reporting of facts nor an annoying progression of overwrought metaphors. Nasar carefully wove together biography, the world of academia and mathematics in particular, and schizophrenia research findings.
Unlike the movie, the book shows that Nash published several brilliant ideas in pure mathematics after the start of his insane delusions (which were much stranger than in the movie and much more well-known due to the bizarre rants he would mail to friends and world leaders). The book also gives credit to the mathematicians who helped Nash with job offers and research grants after he became ill.
The only criticism I have is a lack of guidance at times through this long life. Nasar tells us when Mrs. Nash files for divorce but not when the divorce is finalized. Since they didn't quite go their separate ways, it was confusing. Sometimes it's hard to tell what year it is, since she often only gives months.
But overall Nasar's book is a very readable, balanced account of a genius who was not only socially immature but psychologically and physically cruel at times. For those put off by this: he not only comes out of his delusions, he also seems to grow more aware and appreciative of other people over time.