Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Few Book Notes

Princeton University Press is working hard to keep all of us math fans happy!:

Two of my favorite PUP books from 2015 are newly-out in paperback:
Marc Chamberlain’s “Single Digits,” a fun read covering lots of examples/ideas, and Michael Harris’s thought-provoking, quirky, even unique, “Mathematics Without Apologies.” If somehow you’ve missed these, no better time to catch up then when the paperback arrives.

A book I’m not familiar with is Oystein Linnebo’s “Philosophy of Mathematics,” but among many choices in this genre this looks like it ought be a good introduction.

I’ve already mentioned “Power Up” by Matthew Lane, a lively read on math and video games, a topic not geared to my interests, but which is getting good buzz from the many who do hold such an interest.

I also previously mentioned “The Probability Lifesaver” by Steven Miller, a massive (700+ pgs. volume I’m just dabbling in as time permits), specifically for those with a penchant obviously for probability; loads of problems/examples/explanations. Miller spends an entire introduction basically trying to make the book seem user-friendly and less imposing/intimidating than it appears. Likely a must-have for the stats-crowd.

The last 3 volumes above I would say are more suitable for niche audiences (that will love them), while the first two books (from Chamberlain and Harris) are more appropriate for a wider, lay and professional crowd of math fans.

Finally, and also from PUP, is the new 500+ page “Unsolved” by Craig Bauer, on unsolved cryptographic messages; some famous, others lesser known — little direct mathematics in it, but of course the actual methodologies for solving cryptograms involve very-largely mathematical thinking, and who among us didn't enjoy cryptograms sometime in our youth. 
I’m close to finished with it and have to admit much of it was more spellbinding than I’d expected. For lovers of cryptography certainly another must-have. Since the majority of examples in the book are unsolved messages (from various times/places) you have plenty of work to attempt if you so choose, or just enjoy reading the mysteries. There's also a website that ties into the book with additional material.  I'll say more about the volume in the near future.
As usual, thanks to Princeton U. Press for such a wonderful, ongoing and varied array of mathy offerings.

My impression, thus far, of this year in popular math books, is that there are more 'specialty' books aimed at specific interests, and fewer general interest math offerings showing up than usual, but the year isn't even half-over so we'll see what happens.

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