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A Tour of the Calculus

Narrated by: Dennis Holland
Length: 10 hrs and 3 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Technology
2.0 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

Non-member price: $21.69

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Publisher's Summary

Were it not for the calculus, mathematicians would have no way to describe the acceleration of a motorcycle or the effect of gravity on thrown balls and distant planets, or to prove that a man could cross a room and eventually touch the opposite wall. Just how calculus makes these things possible and in doing so finds a correspondence between real numbers and the real world is the subject of this dazzling book by a writer of extraordinary clarity and stylistic brio. Even as he initiates us into the mysteries of real numbers, functions, and limits, Berlinski explores the furthest implications of his subject, revealing how the calculus reconciles the precision of numbers with the fluidity of the changing universe.

©1995 David Berlinski (P)2013 Audible Inc.

What listeners say about A Tour of the Calculus

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 27-05-2014

Top Poet among Mathemeticians

First of all: As long as this book says it is narrated by Dennis Holland, don't waste your money or credit.The narrator has NO concept of how to read mathematical formulae, and, thus, the book was confusing at best. It took me a few instances where the narrator spoke of "two-x" to realize that he should be reading it as "x-squared" or "x to the second power". I find it hard to believe that an author would allow a narrator to so completely destroy his text; I further find it hard to believe that anyone educated would fail to understand the difference between 2x and x-squared. Come on, guys. It's an audiobook - the spoken language is all we have here. It needs to be precise, particularly in mathematics. I stopped listening out of frustration after only a couple of hours.

As for the book, the language is quite flowery. Perhaps if I could have persisted in listening to the book further, the language would have grown on me, but, alas, it just seems to be too much window-dressing for the subject. The analogies did not illumine the primary subject, but seemed stretched to give the illusion of literary skill.

I had high hopes for an interesting history of the calculus, but found only frustration.

56 people found this helpful

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  • Charles park
  • 10-04-2015

Ponderous, Meandering and Verbose.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A book that covered the topic of Calculus.

Any additional comments?

As if David Berlinski hid 6 pages of information at random intervals within a thesaurus, "a tour of calculus" closely resembles a sophomore's expository writing assignment that desperately pads his under researched book with monotone landscapes and irrelevant details, in what only can be described as a half hearted attempt to fill the required number of pages.

Every chapter is a tedious forest of recycled clichés and tired metaphors lifted directly from his other books. Lacking all restraint, he launches himself shamelessly into excruciatingly long accounts of the furniture, the shape and size of professor's heads, the bridges in Prague, the gestures and emotions of people not present to hear his arguments, and the smells that may or may not have filled the rooms of various historical figures. "They shine like diamonds on a jeweler's black velvet cloth" to quote Berlinski from both "A Tour of Calculus" and "The Advent of the Algorithm"

I blame both the author and the editor for this extravagant waist of print space and my time.

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  • Tate
  • 22-05-2017

Good, but not great for listening

The book was enjoyable, but I listened while also reading a paperback. There are some common mispronunciations that confused me even with the text in front of me. Subscripts were confused with exponents frequently. I really enjoyed the book, but I'm not sure how one would have grasped some of the functions without seeing them.

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  • Nelson Alexander
  • 14-05-2014

A Tour of Incalculable Verbosity

I am about ten minutes into this, skipping ahead, and giving up for now, quite exasperated. I had hoped for a good overview and cultural description of calculus. This work is so wittily overwritten, so full of long, fanciful descriptions and soaring metaphor it is nearly impossible to remember what on earth we are talking about. The writing is actually good, but seems to have leapt the fence out its genre, striving to be Nabokov with little regard for the listener who just wants a bit of lucid mathematical explanation. I may try again later, but post this warning: you'll have to shovel aside heaps of colorful "prose" to get to anything about calculus.

10 people found this helpful

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  • ridgeway137
  • 05-01-2020

Absolutely fantastic for a math lover - The best really for listening

As a person naturally interested in mathematics this audio book is excellent. If you want an audio book that helps you to review calculus or to go along with learning calculus from a text you will not do any better than this audio. Of course if you are having a hard time learning calculus, listen to this book over and over. As someone who knows “the Calculus” well since I got my Bachelor of Science in math, I think this is a better tour than I realized could even be done in an audio form. Calculus may appear boring at first before you understand it, but it becomes so beautiful and so useful to understanding science once you do. I plan to listen to this over and over just to help me explain calculus better to others. Also I read so some of the other less glowing reviews and obviously I disagree and only can say that it is true that the author is definitely verbose and is maybe a little bit of overly descriptive in some places, it is still simply an excellent alternative source for anyone studying calculus and also trying to work some problems. Great job I say to David Berlinski. I am in disbelief at some of the negative reviews I read after first posting my review so I added this last paragraph to counter the more critical reviews. It is so much easier to destroy than create. Maybe people that don't understand it would have to listen more that once but I will listen more times just because it is so well done.

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  • Christina
  • 09-04-2017

Not very informative weird side stories

Book seems to have been written for prepubescent boys the author regularly segways into tangential storys with descriptive language more apt for a graphic novel than a book on mathmatics.

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  • roland
  • 03-09-2016

Flowery prose and math do not mix

This author's goal seems to be to convince the reader he is a brilliant writer. The text confuses (a bad thing when your goal is to learn) by shifting randomly between first person and third person. He constantly describes how 'beautiful' different concepts are...even very simple concepts. The fact that he could spend two sentences describing the beauty of line is so distracting because the reader has to wonder why...its just a line. Its like drawing your attention to a picture frame when you just want to understand the painting. I read this book to 'get math'...to understand it. I have a slightly clearer understand. I think if it were written in plainer english, it would accomplish much more.

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  • Etoile of NE Ohio
  • 16-04-2020

Calc explained for the rest of us!

As a college freshman I was advised not to take any college level mathematics because my math entry scores were so bad. I heeded the advice and took my natural science requirements in astronomy and geology. For 40 years I believed I did not understand mathematics until I heard David Berlinski on NPR and thought I might give this book a try. In spite of my family telling me that I use things like algebra every day when I cook or crochet, it was hard to believe that I could understand complicated concepts of mathematics. Having completed this book I am proud to say I understood most of it, although I could not repeat it, and I'm thrilled to be able to participate in conversations were terms like derivative and functions are peppered through. I look forward to the next book in the series with great anticipation. Thank you so much for making the calculus come to life for someone who does not consider themselves logical or mathematical but rather verbal and spatial.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 20-10-2019

A Tour of The Calculus

Excellent book! Full of insight and knowledge! A great way to get introduced to calculus!

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  • GH0
  • 06-09-2019

A Great topic, a convoluted way of delivery

The author provided, in twists and turns, a neopolitan Sunday if fascinating history, mathematical fluency, and self indulgent prose.

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  • SMR
  • 07-11-2018

Mathematics meets Philosophy...

Not your typical maths book. Listening to this book as a layman, I found it thorougly mentally stimulating, although it did send me off into a haze every now and then. I'll probably end up listening to it more than once. If you like David Berlinki's other works then you'll probably like this. Other Reviewers who didn't like this book might have been expecting a sort of Mathematics text book style work. If you are too, then this might not be your cup of tea. Listen to the sample and if you're not feeling it then maybe you might want to give this book a miss, imo

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  • Carl
  • 04-04-2016

Boring

So far the worst I have heard. I think the problem is mostly the content of the book. It's meant to be about maths but the guy goes on like it is some sort of creative writing contest.

I don't want to listen to a 15 minute description about some guys probable room layout 400 years ago, or how he rubs his forehead thinking. Just get on with the damn topic.

If the author is so interested in creative writing why not go do a romantic novel and list it as such. Don't try pass it for maths.

1 person found this helpful