Tuesday, 10 February 2015

My Favourite Maths Books

I have a (relatively) large selection of maths books which I really enjoy reading and which were what I would say sparked my love for maths. I would love to share with you my top 5 of these.

1) Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh
This is the book that really kick-started my love for maths. It provides a great history of maths from the Greeks to modern days whilst keeping the running theme of Fermat’s Last Theorem. It was the first book to introduce me to the ideas of proof, I read it when I was 11 or 12, and it really left an imprint in my mind about what maths is all about.
It also describes the actual problem extremely well, and shows its difficulty through the vast number of mathematicians attempting it over the 358 years it was unsolved. It is definitely my favourite maths book and will always have a place in my heart. 

2) Alex’s Adventures in Numberland by Alex Bellos
Another book which has shaped my mathematical journey is this one. It contains such a great variety of information, from ancient counting systems to casino probabilities, and shows the applications of maths in everyday life really well. It was definitely a fascinating read and a book I’d recommend to both maths-addicts and people without a maths background alike.

3) The Music of the Primes by Marcus du Sautoy
This books also concentrates on a particular problem, in this case the Riemann Hypothesis, and I think it describes it extremely well in a similar way to Fermat’s Last Theorem in that it gives a deep background of both prime numbers in general and the core question giving a historical context throughout.

Unlike the previous two, it also goes into some quite complex maths which was very interesting and explains it very well.

4) 1089 and All That by David Acheson
1089 and All That, despite being smaller than the others in the list, contains an excellent summing up of what maths is about. Its topics range from the fundamental ideas behind mathematics, “Wonderful Theorems, Beautiful Proofs and Great Application”, to a brilliant finale deriving Euler’s Identity. Definitely a great book for providing insight into all areas of maths and deservedly has a place in my Top 5.

5) The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow
This book, after which this blog is named, is an excellent description of a more specific topic than the others, randomness and uncertainty. I, for one, really found it interest as it was an area I knew little about before and it, like most of the others, showed how well maths can relate to the real world whilst also being beautiful in itself. Suffice it to say, it is an excellent book which I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject

A few others:
  • A Mathematician’s Apology by G. H. Hardy – An insight into the life of one of history’s greatest mathematicians and a defence of maths for the sake of maths
  • The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz – A history of algebra and more maths besides
  • Number Freak by Derrick Niederman – A run-through of various facts about all the numbers from 0 to 200
  • From 0 to Infinity in 26 Centauries by Chris Waring – A history of mathematics from the Greeks to the Renaissance to the future
  • Perfect Rigour by Masha Gesson – A biography of Perelman, who solved one of the seven Millennium Problems, the PoincarĂ© Conjecture, and turned down the million dollars

I’d love to hear what maths books you like and have inspired you in your mathematical journey…

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