Novels and the Numbers Game on Pi Approximation Day

Pi Approximation Graphic

Pi Approximation Day is celebrated on July 22 (22/7) and Pi Day on March 14 (3/14- US date). The Pi concept dates back to 4000 years- Euler popularized it in the eighteenth century.

What is Pi?

  • Pi (π) is the ratio of the circumference of a circle and its diameter – it’s an irrational number.
  • Pi(es) are tasty and good to eat.

On this occasion, let’s look at a couple of mathematical books and a book on pie, some of which were discussed at our Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Parties.

A Beautiful Mind by [Sylvia Nasar] Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

Sylvia Nasar’s award-winning biography of John Nash, a mathematical genius suffering from schizophrenia. This Nobel Prize winner beat the odds to make fundamental contributions to game theory, differential geometry, and the study of partial differential equations.


The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman

Biography of Hungarian-born Paul Erdos, eccentric genius mathematician known for his social practice of mathematics using collaborators. He also loved to create jokes and was christened by Time Magazine as The Oddball’s Oddball.

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadia, Christos H. Papadimitriou

This is a book we learned about at one of the BYOB Parties. Logicomix is an anomaly in the mathematical book space. It’s a fun-to-read mathematical graphic novel.  Logicomix tells the story of Bertrand Russell’s life and by way of this character, Doxiadia describes the 1920s, the golden age in mathematics when the foundations of truth and logic were laid. Russell interacts with characters he would not have been able to see in real life.

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin

Mathematicians like Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing are famed for their eccentricities and mathematical contributions but in this book Janna Levin described as one of the ‘chillest astrophysicists who ever lived’ examines the mental health issues these mathematicians faced.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This is probably the only famous book by an aunt-niece duo, Mary Ann Shaffer’s only book. She was encouraged to write the book by those who knew her at a book club. Though the book is remarkably ‘English’ as in British English in its tone, the authors are American. The story starts with an author who is struggling to write not her first but her second book. She receives a letter from Dawsey Adams from Guernsey, a town under German occupation. Her correspondence with a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society leaves her intrigued and asking for more. The letters hold the stories of the German occupation and the remarkable courage that individuals display in times of moral ineptitude.

What books on mathematics and pies do you love?

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