I do not love math. On most days, I don’t even like it. From elementary school until college, I struggled with a kind of numbers dyslexia, so that even when I was able to grasp a mathematical concept, I would inadvertently reverse some of the digits in my head, often causing hours of frustration and incorrect work.
I feel that this is a necessary disclaimer for Daniel Tammet’s Thinking in Numbers, because if you’re anything like me, you were more than happy to leave all thoughts of algebraic equations and times tables back in school. But this is so much more than a book about math – and no matter your level of comprehension, a fascinating read for the math nerd and math-hater alike.
Tammet’s collection of essays spans a wide range of topics, from the infinite complexities of chess to the afternoon he spent in the Oxford Museum for the History of Science, reciting 22,514 decimal places of pi for over five hours. Each essay is a love letter to the intricacies of numbers, though not every chapter deals with mathematical equations or proofs. For instance, “Snowman” revels in the classification of snowflakes, while “A Model Mother” speaks to Tammet’s struggle to understand his mother and his inability to predict her patterns of behavior.
Although this book is very engaging – the opposite of the dry, crusty textbooks I remember plugging my way through in math class – it presents its concepts in bite-sized form for the casual reader. This is not the kind of book that will give you thorough information on any one topic; rather, it seeks to spark the reader’s curiosity about a wide range of phenomena. Think of it as a launching pad – from here, you could begin researching snowflake formations, the greatest chess masters, number systems in foreign cultures, the origins of the universe, the breadth of infinity, the intersection of mathematics and the Christian church, or the development of historical revolutions. You might even attempt to memorize thousands of decimal places of pi (though that’s one challenge I’m ill-equipped to tackle!).
Whether algebra makes your head spin or, like others I know, calculus was your favorite college course, Thinking in Numbers is worth both your time and reflection. If you let it, it will open your eyes to the myriad ways we incorporate numbers and math into our everyday lives in both trivial and meaningful ways.
You can purchase a copy of Thinking in Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math by Daniel Tammet at the Book Depository here. Seattle Books is a proud affiliate of the Book Depository and has committed 100% of proceeds from book sales to blog giveaways and site maintenance. All thoughts expressed above are the blogger’s and are not endorsed or solicited by the Book Depository.
Although Dewey’s 24-hour readathon officially concluded at 5am PST today, Kate (from Kate’s Book Nook) posted this book tag as a way to collect some feedback. My answers are below; you can find everyone else’s over at the official website here.
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Hour 15. I was on a work deadline beginning at 9pm PST (Hour 16) and still had an entire book left on my readathon TBR.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham, and Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. All are fairly short, engaging reads that would be perfect to tackle during a short readathon.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I wasn’t able to participate in any of the challenges or sprints this year, since I was mostly away from my computer and phone, so I can’t offer suggestions on that front. It could be kind of cool pairing up readers as a way to increase cheerleading capabilities.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
I loved the Goodreads group. It was really fun to participate in all of the threads and see what people were reading, eating, struggling with, and conquering during the readathon.
5. How many books did you read?
6. What were the names of the books you read?
Horrorstor, The Gold Cell, and NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette.
7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Definitely NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette. The illustrations were straightforward and aesthetically appealing, and although it’s kind of a coffee table book, it had some great tips for navigating NYC (or any city) with grace and courtesy.
8. Which did you enjoy least?
The Gold Cell. I love the poem “Topography,” but most of the collection was very dark and unsettling — not really the kind of subject matter I enjoy reading.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I was not a cheerleader, but #teamshakespeare killed it. (Thanks again.)
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Very likely! Next time, I’ll be able to carve out the whole day to devote to reading, instead of letting work and social events get in the way. I would love to cheerlead for some of the participants as well.
Readathon complete! I still have approximately seven and a half hours left if I want to use them, but since I’m on deadline for some work, I may not get around to reading more of The Glass Castle or The Fairest One of All. Still, it took me about ten hours to get through 512 pages and three books — Horrorstor, The Gold Cell, and NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette — which I’m counting as a victory.
Overall, I think the 24-hour readathon was a great way to knock down some books in my TBR, and I loved the challenge of doing it in one day since I have a hard time pushing myself to concentrate on a book for more than an hour or two at a time. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for any other 24-hour readathons this year (hopefully during a less busy weekend!) and will definitely participate in Dewey’s spring readathon, too.
Hope you all made good reading progress today!
Books completed: 3/3
This cheering team is the best.
I’ve officially finished with Horrorstor, and can say that it ended up being far gorier and less scary than I initially expected. I’ll post a review in the following weeks, but found myself generally disappointed as the novel progressed and won’t be recommending it (unless you find gory novels to your taste).
Right now, I’m halfway through Sharon Olds’ The Gold Cell, a collection of poetry that’s been on my TBR for several years. I didn’t realize how dark the subject matter would be, which doesn’t make it the ideal follow-up after finishing Horrorstor, but I have some lighter stuff coming if I can finish this collection relatively soon.
Hope you’re all surviving the readathon!
Books completed: 1/3