What are Your 10 Favorite Math Books?

October 10, 2012 at 10:19 am 1 comment

Today is October 10, which seems a great day to talk about Top Ten lists.

(Incidentally, today is also National Metric Day, for what I hope are obvious reasons. But I won’t publish a post about metrication today; I did that last year.)

BookSeveral years ago, J. Peder Zane asked 125 American and British authors to list their 10 favorite works of fiction. He then aggregated the lists and formed the Top 10 Books of All Time.

Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them…

  1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  7. The Great Gatsby byF. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  9. The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
  10. Middlemarch by George Eliot

You can also see the authors’ individual lists at Top 10 Books of All Time.

But how sad — not a single math book on the list! Where is Flatland, or Gödel, Escher, Bach, or Riot at the Calc Exam?

In an attempt to give math literature — be it fiction, non-fiction, humor or otherwise — its proper credit, I hope to compile a list of the Top Ten Math Books of All Time. You can contribute to this effort by submitting your favorite math books through the form below. I won’t compile a list until I have at least 100 responses, but then I’ll publish it at http://www.mathjokes4mathyfolks.com/toptenmathbooks.pdf. Afterwards, I’ll update the list periodically as more responses come in.

If you aren’t able to see the form below, go to the Top 10 Math Books Survey.

And your reward for participating? A humorous Top Ten list for you…

Top Ten Things That Math and Sex Have in Common

  • Explicit discussions of either topic is a faux pas at cocktail parties.
  • Historically, men have been in control, but recent efforts have tried to get women more involved.
  • There are many joint results.
  • Both are prominent on college campuses, and are typically — but not always — practiced indoors.
  • Most people wish they knew more about both subjects.
  • Both can produce interesting topology and geometry.
  • Both deserve undivided attention, but mathematicians are prone to thinking about one while doing the other.
  • Saint Augustine was hostile to both, and Alan Turing took an unusual approach to both.
  • Both typically begin with a lot of hard work and end with a great but brief reward.
  • Professionals are generally regarded with suspicion, and most do not earn a high salary.

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About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

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October 2012

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