Powers Beyond Number

How humankind has kept its books


Tim Foley for The Chronicle Review

Until recently, accountants have suffered from reputations as bean counters, wet blankets, and dull, passionless drones. Whether poring over a ledger with green eyeshades or hunched in front of a computer screen, bookkeepers have played the straight man in the tragicomedy of capitalism, offering a foil to the more irrational, absurd, and innovative personalities of modern economic life.

But in recent years, as the phrase "creative accounting" moved from a