It is very unusual for me to give up on a book, especially when I am more than half way through with it. But I had to do that with Ian Stewart’s “Why Beauty Is Truth”, which was rather sad because I had started the book with great hopes. Group theory is one of my very favorite areas of mathematics, and I was hoping that this book will help me see connections that I had not seen earlier. However reading this book was like being in a room full of celebrities, and the author taking you around, telling you their names. You would be fooling yourself if you think at the end of this exercise, you know the celebrities any better.
Well, one could argue that after all this is a popular science book. But I cannot see how someone completely unfamiliar with group theory could appreciate the concepts introduced the way they have been in this book.
I enjoyed reading the bits about groups and about the ideas I was already familiar with. However sometime after the author begins talking about superstring theory that I realized: I was only picking up words and no ideas. Do you know Julia Roberts? Sure I know her, but do I know her?
I left the party when I got tired shaking hands. Not one of his best books, and certainly not one I would recommend.