Thursday, September 4, 2014

Books For a Desert Island... (meme?)

First off, 3 new mathy-related books I've been looking at recently are:

"Mathematics and the Real World" by Zvi Artstein (a historical look at mathematics over time)  
"Standard Deviations" by Gary Smith (another popular take on how statistics get used and misused) 
"Rock Breaks Scissors" by William Poundstone (another probability-meets-the-real-world sort of offering)

I like almost everything Poundstone writes so suspect I'll enjoy his latest work, and the Smith book looks good as well (though somewhat redundant in content to several other recent works), but the only volume I've actually started is the Artstein book... and so far not particularly enamored of it; it has plenty of information, just a more mundane or pedantic writing style (perhaps because it is a translation, from Hebrew) than several recent popular math books -- Jordan Ellenberg has spoiled me ;-)  I'm liking the second half of the volume more than the first half and will withhold judgment 'til finished, but Publishers Weekly (where I rarely see negative reviews) appears even more disenchanted with the volume than I am:

(Even at that it may still fill a certain niche on your math bookshelf, depending on what historical volumes you already have.)
Anyway, I may say more about any/all of these books later.

Now, departing from the mathy-track once again....

via Mr.TinDC flickr

Blog memes don't seem to go around much anymore as they did at one time, but I did notice a meme bubbling in some Facebook circles, asking for 10 books that most moved you or changed/affected your life. I probably couldn't name 10 volumes that affected me at that level, but thought about 10 books that were important to me, and that I'd grab to take to a deserted island, if need be.

Might be interesting to hear from other math communicators what would make it onto THEIR list for a desert island… if for no other reason than to show that math buffs are less nerdy and more diverse than some people might imagine!! (…although my list, admittedly, is somewhat nerdy, especially since I don't read fiction :-((

Anyway, with no annotations and in no particular order, here are my 10:

1)  "The Night Is Large"  -- Martin Gardner
2)  "Pilgrim At Tinker Creek"   -- Annie Dillard  
3)  "Metamagical Themas" (and "Gödel, Escher, Bach" as well)  -- Douglas Hofstadter
4)  "The Outer Limits of Reason"  -- Noson Yanofsky
5)  "Natural Prayers"    -- Chet Raymo
6)  "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out"  -- Richard Feynman
7)  "The Black Swan"   -- Nassim Taleb
8)  "Language In Thought and Action"    -- S.I. Hayakawa
9)  "Beyond the Hoax"   -- Alan Sokal
10)  "How Mathematicians Think"    -- William Byers

There are lots of other books I'd want along for sheer entertainment value (including, off to the side somewhere, book-compendiums of either "Dilbert," "New Yorker," or "Far Side" cartoons), but above are ones I'd want along to exercise my mind.

I, for one, would be interested to hear of other math bloggers'/writers' lists (post at your own blog or in the comments here).

1 comment:

Stephen Cavadino said...

Great post, thanks for sharing. You've given me plenty of new books already massive and fast growing "to read" list! I wrote a similar account of my own here: