In the early 1980's there was an unusual buzz in the normally quiet pure mathematics departments of many universities. It looked like the classification of finite groups, a major milestone in the subject, had been completed. Mark Ronan's 'Symmetry and the Monster' gives the history of this process, and in particular the discovery of the last of the 'sporadic' groups known as the 'Monster'. Of particular interest are the 'Moonshine' connections which have been found between this object and totally different areas of mathematics. The book tells the stories of the main contributors to the subject, from Galois up to the present day, and is aimed at the non-specialist reader.
The one problem I found with the book was that I felt the author was shying too much away from technical terms. It's all very well writing a non-technical account, but Ronan seems to get trapped in his simplified terminology, and my feeling is that this book will be read by those who have had some exposure to the subject and want to find out about the history, rather than by complete beginners. Hence using a different terminology is confusing. For those wanting to look further into the subject, I can't help feeling that a search for sporadic simple group is likely to give better results than one for exceptional symmetry atom