March 14th (or 3.14) is Pi Day, the annual celebration of the mathematical constant Ï€ (or pi). Pi is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter in all circles, and when represented as a decimal, it never ends or repeats in a pattern. These properties have made it both important and famous to both mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike. In honor of today’s celebration of mathematics, here are some great books for math fans.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel – Probably the most obvious choice on the list, the Life of Pi, a 2005 Selected Audiobook for Young Adults, tells the story of a boy named Pi who is trapped on a life raft with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a tiger. The subject of a beautiful 3D movie that won four Academy Awards this year, including Ang Lee’s win as Best Director, this is an exciting and moving story.
Prime Baby by Gene Luen Yang: Thaddeus isn’t exactly a fan of his baby sister. But when he realizes that she is communicating solely via prime numbers, he begins to suspect that she is secretly an alien life form — and he’s not as far off as you may think. This comic, a 2011 Great Graphic Novel for Teens, is a quick and fun read.
Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou: This self-referential graphic novel follows the life of Bertrand Russell, a philosopher, logician, and mathematician. It shows the obsessive drive Russell had for applying logic to mathematics and all of life and also gives insight into other aspects of his life, such as a his peace activism and his complicated personal life. In addition to being a biography of Russell, this book provides an explanation of some of the key topics in math and logic and introduces readers to a lot of the key figures in the history of math, logic and computer science.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green: This 2007 Printz Honor book centers on Colin Singleton, who has a very clear type: he only dates girls named Katherine. A child prodigy with an interest in languages (he knows 11 of them) and anagrams, Colin is currently obsessed with creating a theorem regarding relationship predictability. Beyond this general connection to math, the book also includes the 99-word sentence Colin wrote as a mnemonic device to help him memorize the first 99 digits of Pi.
Want more books involving math? Check out Becky O’Neil’s great post on math fiction, or tell me some of your favorite math fiction in the comments.
— Carli Spina, currently reading Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt