The author of Alex’s Adventures in Numberland tells us about popular attempts to explain the history of counting and numbers. He chooses the best books to read about maths.
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It is quite rare in maths writing that you get someone who is such a good stylist, and he’s cultured so he puts it in context. It’s an absolute joy to read, even though some of the maths is quite difficult. I would probably recommend it to someone who is already interested in maths.
As math becomes increasingly important in our daily lives, eminent mathematicians and statisticians have stepped up to the plate, writing books that are engaging for non-experts—and sometimes even funny. Kit Yates, a mathematical biologist and author of The Math of Life and Death, recommends the best math books of 2019.
The Math of Life and Death, by Kit Yates, a senior lecturer in mathematical biology at the University of Bath, is an excellent popular math book, demonstrating the many times math plays a critical role in our daily lives—often without us even knowing it. Kit Yates chose the Best Math Books of 2019 for us. […]
“I yield freely to the sacred frenzy”—Johannes Kepler, 1619. Infinite Powers: the Story of Calculus is a popular math book, written for a general audience. In it, mathematician Steven Strogatz not only takes us through the history of calculus, from Archimedes to the present day—pointing out its extraordinary contribution to modern life along the way—but […]
From Thales’s theorem to the Banach-Tarski paradox, Oxford mathematician David Acheson’s book, The Wonder Book of Geometry, is a lively attempt to bring to life geometry—literally, ‘earth measurement’—and make it accessible to the general public. Here, David recommends some of the books that influenced him, “in the order in which I met them, over a timespan of some 60 years.”
The book makes maths really, really fascinating: it’s about the history of maths, and also about the Cambridge mathematician Andrew Wiles who was obsessed with Fermat’s theorem since the age of ten and spent his whole life wanting to solve it, and finally did in the 1990s. It’s great because Simon Singh has this ability to write about the driest and most complex scientific or mathematical concepts and issues, and somehow make them come alive.
Quantum computing: it sounds more complicated than quantum mechanics, but it isn’t. Mathematician Chris Bernhardt, author of Quantum Computing for Everyone, explains why you need to know about it and which books will help you understand what it’s all about.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a charming, prize-winning novel by Mark Haddon. Written as a mystery, the story is told through the eyes of a teenage boy who is great at maths but finds many other aspects of life difficult.
Nearly every aspect of our life is determined by economics, and yet it’s easy to go through life understanding very little about it. Author and columnist Tim Harford (aka the ‘Undercover Economist’) introduces the best books to get you thinking like an economist.
Ken Liu, the multi-award winning author of The Paper Menagerie, explains how using elements of fantasy and science fiction can help us examine deep truths about the human condition, as he recommends the best of contemporary speculative fiction.
The author Malba Tahan is a fictional character, a pen name, and the book is set in Arabia as a mixture of One Thousand and One Nights and a maths book. It is composed of lovely little stories and, with each chapter of a few pages, it introduces a mathematical idea along with a story about travelling through the Arab world.
How do computers work? What is well-crafted code? How do you write an algorithm? Ana Bell, lecturer in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, chooses the best books to learn computer science and programming.
In its study of the broader economy, macroeconomics is a vital tool for understanding the world around us, offering insights into issues that affect us all, like inflation and unemployment. Which textbooks to read to learn more about it? Here, Raffaele Rossi, Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester, recommends his top macroeconomics textbooks, starting with entry-level books aimed at undergraduates all the way through to the tough tomes you’ll need to plough through if you’re doing a doctorate and want to work at the frontier of the discipline.
The reason I’ve chosen this book is that if we really want to understand the language of the brain we have to engage with these very powerful concepts of how it is that things are synchronised. This is a book for the general public that tries to relay some of that excitement, some of the tools that we’ve gained mathematically in order to do that.
“As life on Earth is rocked by conflict and environmental crisis, these serene little scientific emissaries remind us of how different it can be when we collaborate selflessly in the getting of knowledge.” Barbara Kiser, veteran science journalist and the books and arts editor at Nature, chooses the best science books of 2018.
Why should we be interested in the history of mathematics? Mathematics, like painting, music, literature, has a long history, says Robin Wilson. Indeed, it’s longer than most, since the first writing is believed to be numerical. Mathematics is also multicultural, with its historical origins in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Have you ever been “sexiled”? Or used game theory, without realising it, to get someone to do the dishes? Economics professor and author Daniel Hamermesh recommends books that show how economic thinking can illuminate almost any area of life.
Ada Lovelace has become an iconic figure for women in science and is often credited with the invention of modern computing. But, as Ursula Martin—mathematician, computer scientist and Lovelace biographer—explains, all of that is a bit overblown. The Lovelace myth obscures the truth about a woman who was certainly a very brilliant mathematician, but who was also often frustrated in her scientific ambitions, in poor health and unhappy.
Blaming “the quants” for the 2008 financial crisis is simplistic and short-sighted, says the author of The Physics of Wall Street. He picks five books showing the contribution physics has made to understanding financial markets.
At school, children get tested a lot. How do those tests impact their learning? How can tests be made fairer? Educational psychologist Jacqueline Leighton introduces the best books in the evolving field of educational testing.
Armed with one of the ‘big histories’ currently in vogue, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a tome about how modern maths came to be, you too can get a grip on how the world works. Tech blogger Venkatesh Rao chooses some good books for those who agree with Socrates that ‘for a human being, the unexamined life is not worth living.’
Data science is often said to be built on three pillars: domain expertise, statistics, and programming. Hadley Wickham, Chief Scientist at RStudio and creator of many packages for the R programming language, chooses the best books to help aspiring data scientists build solid computer science fundamentals.
From complex techniques only used by academic statisticians, data science has risen to extreme popularity in only a few years. Roger D. Peng, Professor of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University and founder of one of the largest data science online courses, helps us understand this discipline and recommends the five best books to delve into it.
What should a budding engineer—or even an experienced one—read for a better understanding of the science and trade? And how does engineering help make our lives better every day? Ante Shoda, an engineer for Honda Racing in California, recommends the best books for a fundamental understanding of engineering.
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics,” said Benjamin Disraeli (according to Mark Twain, anyway), in what has become one of the most well-known quotations in the English language, and certainly the only one most of us know about statistics. And yet…while we all know statistics are potentially misleading in the […]