April 13, 2014

Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlman

When I see that I haven't posted since last October, I feel as though I've been in some kind of gap in the time-space continuum. I have read books, but maybe not very good ones or maybe I just haven't had the bandwidth to post about them.

This was a really good book, by a young Austrian writer. He fictionalizes the lives of 19th century explorer/scientist Alexander Humboldt (the Humboldt current) and brilliant mathematician Carl Gauss. The novel revolves around their meeting at a conference, with Gauss a hilariously reluctant participant because he just wanted to stay home, whereas Humboldt traveled all around the world.

There are a lot of interesting ideas about the nature of genius, curiosity, measurement, and how new things are discovered. The author draws fascinating pictures of life in the 19th century, almost unbelievably harsh.

I haven't yet looked up the lives of these two men on Wikipedia, but I'll be interested to do so to see how much of the book is true. This book would make a fabulous movie if it hasn't already been made into one. I couldn't put it down. It's smart and funny.

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