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heysupnm's avatar

Your thoughts on the book Gödel, Escher, Bach?

Asked by heysupnm (286points) July 22nd, 2008

I just received a $50 gift certificate to a bookstore and I was thinking of buying Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. I don’t know how long it would take me to get though a book this thick but it seems really interesting. I will probably buy it anyway since I feel like I will understand it more after a few months. Anyone read this book? How was it?

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8 Answers

judyprays's avatar

i can not say that i have read this book in its entirety but i can say that the little i have read i have judged it as awesome. even if you can’t finish it, it’s a perfect book to keep around even just to read a little bit of.

nina's avatar

I have read a lot of it (not all of it, mind you) more than 20 years ago and completely concur with Judyprays

gailcalled's avatar

I reread it recently and got stuck in the same place (about 2/3 through) because I didn’t understand the math – but I like having it around. Another triple-titled winner is Jarod Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fate of Human Society.”

tupara's avatar

Read it ages ago and really enjoyed it; I love that kind of stuff. Also enjoyed his ‘Metamagical Themas’.

finkelitis's avatar

It’s excellent, though i too didn’t read all of it. I think it presents some very deep concepts in a very clever way.

judyprays's avatar

is it a comment on us or the book that we haven’t read it cover to cover?

finkelitis's avatar

Well, it’s very long. And I think some of the mystique rubs off after page 300 or so.

JWTK's avatar

I took a class in graduate school from Doug Hofstadter. A computer printout of a draft of the book was his textbook for the class. It was the most bizarre, but fascinating, class I ever took. He is a very interesting guy and has some exciting ideas. I read the book cover to cover when it first came out. It is a mixed bag. It’s at its best when he is doing straightforward exposition, for example when he explains Goedel’s theorem or describes the life of Ramanujan. In my opinion he is at his worst in his “dialogues” patterned after Galileo. To me these parts were insipid fluff. The book is so long because he is so self-indulgent. Self reference is cool, but how many examples do we need? He is also constitutionally unable to let you discover a subtlety. He’s afraid you won’t get it, so he has to explain it to you so you won’t miss how smart he is. Overall, it is a fascinating book, but he could have used a good editor to cut it to half its length.

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