“A Beautiful Mind”: Book, Dinner, and Film

This will be a three-phase Seattle Book Club meetup. First we will discuss “A Beautiful Mind” by Sylvia Nasar, which is an unauthorized biography of mathematician and economist John Forbes Nash Jr., who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994. After the discussion we will partake of a potluck dinner, and then settle down to view the film version of this book which won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Ron Howard), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly) in 2002. The meetup will begin at 5:30 pm, and will conclude around 9:00 pm.


A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash by Sylvia Nasar

Stories of famously eccentric Princetonians abound--such as that of chemist Hubert Alyea, the model for The Absent-Minded Professor, or Ralph Nader, said to have had his own key to the library as an undergraduate. Or the "Phantom of Fine Hall," a figure many students had seen shuffling around the corridors of the math and physics building wearing purple sneakers and writing numerology treatises on the blackboards. The Phantom was John Nash, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of his generation, who had spiraled into schizophrenia in the 1950s. His most important work had been in game theory, which by the 1980s was underpinning a large part of economics. When the Nobel Prize committee began debating a prize for game theory, Nash's name inevitably came up--only to be dismissed, since the prize clearly could not go to a madman. But in 1994 Nash, in remission from schizophrenia, shared the Nobel Prize in economics for work done some 45 years previously.

Economist and journalist Sylvia Nasar has written a biography of Nash that looks at all sides of his life. She gives an intelligent, understandable exposition of his mathematical ideas and a picture of schizophrenia that is evocative but decidedly unromantic. Her story of the machinations behind Nash's Nobel is fascinating and one of very few such accounts available in print (the CIA could learn a thing or two from the Nobel committees). This highly recommended book is indeed "a story about the mystery of the human mind, in three acts: genius, madness, reawakening."--Mary Ellen Curtin

About the Author: Sylvia Nasar was born to a German mother and Uzbek father. Her family immigrated to the United States in 1951, then moved to Ankara, Turkey in 1960. She graduated from Antioch College in 1970, and earned a masters' degree in economics at New York University in 1976. For four years, she did research with Nobel Laureate Wassily Leontief. She is currently the Knight Chair in Business Journalism at Columbia University. Her husband is economist Darryl McLeod. They have three children and live in Tarrytown, New York.


Location: This meetup will take place in the clubhouse of a condominium located approximately 15th Avenue NE and NE 140th Street near the Jackson Park Golf Course. The address, directions and other details will be emailed to folks with reservations approximately Wednesday before the meetup.


Dinner: All participants are expected to bring a substantial potluck dish: main course, side dish, salad, or dessert. By prior arrangement one or two participants at most will be allowed to bring chips and dip; don't bring this unless you have been given the ok to do so. Also, bring a non-alcoholic beverage to share. The clubhouse has a full kitchen including an oven, stove, and microwave oven. However, these should be used to warm up food or to finalize the preparation of dishes; it is not intended for preparing a complicated dish from scratch. The host, George Liu, will provide lemonade, popcorn, bottled water, and cocoa mix.


Special Instructions: Unlike most book club meetups, this one takes place in a private clubhouse whose use is governed by a condominium homeowners association. The homeowner who uses this facility must know all of the guests. Consequently, in order to complete your reservation you must answer several questions: name, city of residence, and email address. Failure to provide this information will result in the cancellation of your reservation.

The RSVP system is set to "manual". This means that if there is a waiting list when an opening occurs everyone on the list will be emailed notification of the opening. The first person to affirmatively  respond will get the spot.


All participants are expected to help with the clean up of the club house at the conclusion of the film.


George Liu




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  • Joy

    I thought this was a good choice for our event, considering the many differences between the book and film. Just goes to show how far Hollywood will go, even when dealing with a biography! Big thanks to George for hosting and overcoming the technology challenges. Also thanks to everyone for the delicious food! I hope everyone had fun.

    December 10, 2012

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