While math is not my thing, books are. So my contribution to Pi Day is this list of great reads featuring math. Annotations are courtesy of NoveList and all links go to Goodreads unless otherwise noted. Feel free to use this list at your library, just credit this link. Also, this list is just a sampling. There are many great reads featuring math out there. Please add your favorites in the comments. The more the merrier.
RA for All's Pi Day Reads
- My absolute favorite math influenced novel is The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa which I have read twice! Click here for a full report, but here is a snippet:
A housekeeper is assigned by the agency she works for to take care of the a former mathematics professor's home and make his meals. She is the 9th housekeeper assigned to the professor. This is because the professor has a brain injury. He can remember everything that happened before his accident (1970s), but since, his memory is on a 80 minute loop.
That's right, his memory only lasts 80 minutes. Intriguing, huh?The ensuing story is about her time working for the Professor and the bond they form. It is about her son's relationship with her and the Professor. It is about the loss of a genius; we still see sparks of the old Professor as he works on complicated math problems. And finally, it is a story about living, no matter the obstacles; about living a life with meaning even if you cannot remember what happened 81 minutes ago.
- The SF novels of Neal Stephenson tend to include a mathematical frame. Try Anathem. "Having lived in a monastery since childhood, away from the violent upheavals of the outside world, Raz becomes one of a group of formerly cloistered scholars who are appointed by a fear-driven higher power to avert an impending catastrophe."
- If Stephenson is a little too Cyber Punk for you, why not try a classic SF math based title like Carl Sagan's Contact, "December, 1999, the dawn of the millennium. A team of international scientists is poised for the most fantastic adventure in human history. After years of scanning the galaxy for signs of somebody or something else, this team believes they've found a message from an intelligent source, and they travel deep into space to meet it. Who or what is out there?"
- For a Women's Fiction and math double shot try, The Geometry of Sisters by Luanne Rice. "Desperate to rebuild her life, English teacher Maura Shaw comes to Newport Academy, an elite private high school, with her two children, but the ghosts of the past, including her estrangement from her sister, continue to haunt her."
- How about a mystery featuring math? I have two great options for you.
- The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martínez. "A sequence of mathematical symbols holds the key to a series of murders that Oxford mathematician Arthur Seldom and his assistant, a young Argentine mathematics student, must solve to find the killer before he can strike again."
- No One You Know by Michelle Richmond. "Twenty years after the unsolved murder of her sister Lila, Ellie's chance meeting with the man accused of the crime leads to the discovery of Lila's secret notebook, filled with mathematical equations that lead to other enigmas in her sister's life."
- How about a satire? Try Flatterland by Ian Stewart which was reviewed in Booklist as follows, "Scientific American’s math writer offers a sequel to Flatland, Edwin Abbott’s late-nineteenth-century fantasy about a two-dimensional universe disturbed by a visitor from the third dimension, the Sphere. Since Abbott’s era, mathematicians and physicists have latched onto fourth, nth, and fractional dimensions, which mandates an update. Stewart introduces Flatlander Vikki Line, who discovers a great-grandfather’s book that mentions the third dimension. Apoplectic about such apostasy, Vikki’s father destroys the book, but she has saved a copy in her computer. She summons the Space Hopper to guide her through the “Mathiverse,” the set of all possible spaces and times. As they alight in Topologica, Hyperbolica, Planiturthia, and elsewhere, the Space Hopper surveys the inhabitants’ horizons while Vikki, bright line though she is, sweats her way to understanding. She and the Space Hopper proceed to atomic physics, where a quantum cat talks about being dead and alive in Schrodinger’s box, and to relativity, ruled by the Hawk King. Yes, the puns are groaners, but Stewart’s Flatland-plus makes it fun to think in more than three dimensions. (Reviewed May 15, 2001) -- Gilbert Taylor"
- Or try the original, Flatland by Edwin Abbot. "In a parody of Victorian society, A. Square meets a tragic fate when he dares to inform the inhabitants of his two-dimensional universe that there is a third and fourth dimension."