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Friday, April 29, 2016

Everyday Math: Books

Turning Pages: Our Favorite Books About Math

Whether you're a literature enthusiast or science aficionado, people of all types enjoy curling up with a good book every once in a while. Maybe you prefer a Kindle, or maybe you live for the old book smell. Either way, the benefits of reading cannot be denied. Who says that mathematics and literature have to be on opposite ends of the academic spectrum? Here are some books about mathematics that are both educational and entertaining. They will have you putting down your math homework and running to the nearest bookstore or library as soon as possible.

If you have any suggestions, comment below!

Some of Infinity
by David Craft

Some of Infinity examines the roots of mathematics, as each chapter in the novel is dedicated to a different mathematical concept. Craft delivers this wide array of information in a personable and simplistic way that is accessible to all types of readers. This allows his audience to grasp and appreciate the many layers of the book. Shying away from the academic writing style of most math books, Craft aims to show the scope of mathematics and the exploration that is possible. 

Fermat's Enigma
by Simon Singh

This National Bestseller is not a biography of Fermat, as the title might suggest. Instead, Singh delves into the lives of people who dedicated their time and careers to proving Fermat's Last Theorem. The book creates a more personalized view of mathematicians. The heartbreak, mastery, and critical moments of these great minds are documented in a way that humanizes the subject.

Chaos: Making a New Science
James Gleick
As Gleick's first title, Chaos is a non-fiction book about Chaos Theory. It's the first book published about Chaos theory and makes a complicated topic understandable to beginners. The book dives into the Mandelbrot set, Julia sets, and Lorenz attractors without making the subject too difficult. Like Fermat's Enigma, this book also discusses the scientists and mathematicians who have contributed to the field. The book is often used in introduction courses as a leeway into the subject.

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
Charles Seife
Despite its title, Seife's debut novel is not an actual biography. This non-fiction book examines the idea of 0 and explains the controversiality surrounding the number at some points in history. It traces back to the Babylonian roots of 0 and takes a look at "one of the great paradoxes of human thinking". He writes the topic in a thrilling and interesting way, receiving great reviews from the Mathematical Association of America.

The Fractal Geometry of Nature
Benoit Mandelbrot
This book is a revised and updated version of Mandelbrot's earlier work titled, "Form, Chance, and Dimension. These books are regarded as some of the most influential scientific essays of the century. The author examines mathematical occurrences in nature, that take the geometric form of fractals. It brings mathematical equations into every day life, proving that mathematics is all around us.

 Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics
William Dunham
This book brilliantly combines biographical, historical, and mathematical information in an entertaining way. Dunham works to shine light on great mathematical minds, tracing various groundbreaking theories and discoveries. He shows them in their historical context, and provides information about the creator as well as the creation. There are even step-by-step proofs for the theorems, making this a book for mathematicians to enjoy, as well as those who are looking for a new topic to read about!

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
Leonard Mlodinow
This title is not as firmly rooted in mathematics as some others on this list, however it is still a great read that combines probability, statistics, and how they impact society. Mlodinow demonstrates how our lives are strongly determined by chance, even when there seems to be a clear system set in place. Ranging from political polls to corporate success, his examples are compelling and interesting. By combining psychology and statistics, The Drunkard's Walk takes an applicable approach to mathematics.

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers
Paul Hoffman
The Man Who Loved Only Numbers is a biography of mathematician Paul Erdös, and came about after author Paul Hoffman wrote a widely-recognized magazine article. The novel dictates Erdös's life and portrays him mostly in a positive light. However, Hoffman does point out his eccentricities. The book also touches on other mathematicians. It is written without much technical detail and can be appreciated by mathematicians and mathematicians alike.

Was this post interesting to you? Are you looking for others ways to incoporate math into your daily life? Look no further! Check out our blog posts about Math Movies, Math TV shows, and Art in Math!


  1. Are those books available in Philippines?

  2. Are those books available in Philippines?

    1. Hello, and thank you for the comment! Many of these books are available on Amazon which can ship to the Philippines. A digital copy of Some of Infinity can be purchased and should be available.