Genius at Play - An inadvertently authorized biography


“Waiting for Gödel,” at The New Yorker

Longlisted! For the RBC Taylor Prize.

“Unflinchingly honest.”

—Arthur I Miller, Physics World

“One of the oddest, most enticing biographies I have ever read. The biography of someone who is just a figment of the imagination—but what an imagination—that of John Horton Conway himself.”

—Mélanie Frappier, Literary Review of Canada

“An entertaining, often exhilarating, book.”

—David Guaspari, The Weekly Standard

Conwaycast! On the Guardian’s Science Weekly with the fabulous Ian Sample.

“Meet the world’s most charismatic mathematician” —Conway takes the Guardian ! (a Long Read, adapted from the book)

“Makes you laugh with surprise.”

—Jordan Ellenberg, The Wall Street Journal

The New York Times’ Gary Antonick throws the spotlight on Conway and the “Look and Say Sequence,” and the book: “Roberts is ingenious… in bringing this unpredictable, unmanageable, impossibly brilliant mathematician to life in this vivid and intimate portrayal.”

Talking Conway with the delightful whiz Tim Harford on BBC Radio 4’s More or Less.

Schoonheid! Genius At Play“a first class story” —in Amsterdam’s NRC Handelsblad.

From the book tour diary: “Cogito, Ergo Summer” for The New Yorker.

“Roberts’s ‘kaleidoscope of inquiry’ is a marvel for its virtuoso juggling of narrative speeds, reminiscences, implausible digressions and long passages of precise, comprehensible mathematics. She packs it all into a tidy chronology framed by the story of a road movie starring Conway.”

—Michael Harris, Nature

Genius At Play is Recommended by Scientific American: “[The] biography demonstrates how the man’s playfulness and originality has fed into the creativity and intelligence of his ideas… [Genius At Play] resonates with Conway’s voice—which gets its own special font—and his discussions with the author provide the narrative’s best glimpses into how his mind darts and weaves.”

— Sarah Lewin

Genius At Play gets the Leonard Lopate treatment on NPR’s WNYC (wherein Leonard redefines a surreal number as the number of seconds between a New York City traffic light turning green and the cab driver behind you honking his horn).

Conway goes to the beach… NPR’s Science Friday puts Genius At Play on its beach bag reading list.

Genius At Play gets a starred review in Publishers Weekly, wherein Conway is declared: “Perhaps the greatest living genius unknown to the general public.”

Booklist Starred Review English prof Bryce Christensen gives Genius At Play a starred review in Booklist, finding it an “engrossing biography” and a “chronicle of invincible confusion.” (!)

“I’m not going to worry any more! Ever again.” —Conway is featured again chez Numberphile, in a mini documentary, Memento Mori, clocking up 100K+ views

“Genius At Play, The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway is, hands down, the best biography I have read since The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.” (by Edmund Morris, 2001)

—Bethany, Goodreads

“Genius At Play lets the drama and art of true mathematical genius speak for itself. If you liked A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar, check this out.”

—Nathan Harshman, American University


“The book never gets bogged down in mathematical detail, yet it conveys much of the unstoppable excitement of its hero in full throttle.”

—Colm Mulcahy, Huffington Post

Genius At Play is a portrait of one creative genius by another. Absolutely brilliant.”

—Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind and Grand Pursuit

“A delightful meta-biography—playful indeed—of a brilliant iconoclast.”

—James Gleick, author of The Information and Chaos

Wonderfully written, fascinating and hilarious, the book is a delight from beginning to end. Roberts has produced a captivating portrait of the most playful mathematician alive.”

—Alex Bellos, author of Here’s Looking at Euclid and The Grapes of Math

John Conway is, by any standard, a very remarkable man, and he well deserves a remarkable biography, which this book undoubtedly is.”

—Roger Penrose, author of The Road to Reality and The Emperor’s New Mind

It’s a riveting read, and you don’t need to be a mathematician to enjoy it.”

—Baron Martin Rees of Ludlow, UK Astronomer Royal and author of Just Six Numbers

I couldn’t put it down! It kept me up reading ‘til 3am.”

—John Horton Conway, Princeton’s John von Neumann Professor Emeritus

Buy the book

Bloomsbury Publishing
Barnes & Noble