I’ve been traveling quite a bit in the last week or so visiting lots of old friends and such. And I have noticed that my mathematically inclined friends often have similar books on their bookshelves. This seems like a great idea. Perhaps everyone should own Rudin and baby Rudin Analysis. But there are other books that everyone also seems to have; God Created the Integers, The Golden Ratio, and Flatland are the three most common books on a mathematicians shelf which contain more history than mathematics. There are several other common books, Through Euclid’s Window, The Man who Loved only Numbers, and Letters to a Young Mathematician among them. Perhaps you know of others? What do you have on your bookshelf for the literary inclined mathematician?
I think it is wonderful that the math culture has created this rich and enduring volumes about the giants whose shoulders we stand apon as mathematicians. But what I find truly amazing is that so many of my collegues purchase these books but never actually read them! And so I say to you; Read! These are excellent books worthy of your time. Take a break from the latest episode of Numb3rs and pick up a book for a couple hours. You will be richly reward with fascinating stories of all the mathematicians who came before you. It’s a great culture we young mathematicians enter into and it is wonderful that authors are starting to research and put together vibrant windows into our culture.