read: 28 January 2012
I read these sorts of hobby math books for fun. This was one of my favorite so far. Unlike other books about math that seem to get hung up on stuff like “Let’s talk about VOTING for 50 pages ...” this one is broken down into short chapters about people and things that are slightly more current and slightly more interesting. I found myself going to Wikipedia or other sources to read more about some of the topics that Bellos only touched on. I rarely found my eyes glazing over when his discussion became too abstruse and I think I really understand a few things that I wasn’t clear on before [what slide rules were for, the different sorts of infinities and the history of lottery and gambling gaming situations]. I feel like Bellos' enthusiasm for the subject is infectious and he was able to get complicated subjects across well without seeming too cutesy or jokey. He also went and did first person interviews with some of the famous mathematicians that he mentions and these provide a really humanizing look at some fairly esoteric subjects. If you can read one popular math treatise this year, make it this one.
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