Can You Solve My Problems? by Alex Bellos
(Guardian Faber, 2017)

Can You Solve My Problems?

by Alex Bellos

Are you smarter than a Singaporean ten-year-old? Can you beat Sherlock Holmes? If you think the answer is yes – Alex Bellos challenges you to solve his problems.

Here is the story of the puzzle, one of mankind’s oldest and greatest forms of entertainment and enlightenment, told through 125 of the world’s best brainteasers from the last two millennia. It takes us from ancient China to medieval Europe, Victorian England to modern-day Japan, with stories of espionage, mathematical breakthroughs and puzzling rivalries along the way.

You’ll pit your wits against logic puzzles and kinship riddles, pangrams and river-crossing conundrums. Some solutions rely on a touch of cunning, others call for creativity, others need mercilessly logical thought. Some can only be solved by 2% of the population. All are guaranteed to sharpen your mind.

Let’s get puzzling…


Reviewing good puzzle books is frustrating, because you get to page one of the introduction, find a curious puzzle, become engrossed for 20 minutes, miss your stop and then fail to get home in time to say goodnight to the kids. Be warned, Alex Bellos's new book could put a strain on your personal life, particularly if you are willing to go through the joyful ordeal and gleeful torment of solving every single one of his 125 puzzles ... Can You Solve My Problems? is not just a random list of skull-warping brain-teasers, but rather a skilfully curated anthology of puzzles... Bellos takes us back to the origins of various types of puzzle and explains their historical development... [he] reveals how intellectual giants, such as the mathematician John Conway, the Bletchley park codebreaker Max Newman, the Nobel physicist George Gamow and many other smart cookies, devoted a significant amount of their time to playing with puzzles ... Excellent.”
- Simon Singh Observer, Science and Nature Book of the Day
[I]deal for the uncle you'd give a sudoku compendium to, but want something a bit more original for this year. Great fun.”
- The Times, Science Books of the Year
Superbly engrossing.”
- Sam Leith, Spectator
You, the magician, are blindfolded. You ask an audience member to put ten coins flat on the table in front of you, and to tell you how many of them are showing heads. You cannot see the coins, nor can you tell which way up they are by touching them. How do you separate the coins into two groups, such that each group has the same number of heads? How indeed. Alex Bellos is ideal for the uncle you’d give a sudoku compendium to, but want something a bit more original for this year. Great fun.”
- Tom Whipple, The Times Books of the Year
[A] light-hearted exploration into the surprising world of mathematics… Bellos uses a curated set of 125 thought puzzles to underscore the approachability of mathematics, without hiding any of its complexity. The puzzles are organised into five broad conceptual categories, and interspersed with historical commentary… By weaving together the minds, cultures, and concepts that produced centuries of playful wonder, Bellos successfully brings an obscure corner of mathematics to life… [and] fixes himself into a millennia-long tradition of using mathematics to inspire and entertain.”
- +Plus Magazine
[F]ascinating reading... an excellent book for encouraging mathematical exploration.”
- Nudge New Books