31 Days of Great Nonfiction: The Joy of X

The Joy of xThe Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to InfinitySteven Strogatz's The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz

Yes, it’s a book about math, in a series about great books. Those are not mutually exclusive, although I understand the skepticism. No, I’m not a math geek or anyone who you’d think would be excited about a book about math. Trust me, you don’t have to be. Strogatz has written an engaging and accessible book about math, and about why you should care. Think math doesn’t have much to do with your life? Oh, how wrong you are – math is connected to everything.

You don’t need to be a math whiz to appreciate it. You won’t really learn mathematics from the book, but you’ll discover lots of interesting facts about mathematics, and why we should all care about it.

His methods of explaining concepts were so understandable, I wish every math teacher I’d ever had had been half as engaging.

Publisher’s Description:
A world-class mathematician and regular contributor to the New York Times hosts a delightful tour of the greatest ideas of math, revealing how it connects to literature, philosophy, law, medicine, art, business, even pop culture in ways we never imagined

Did O.J. do it? How should you flip your mattress to get the maximum wear out of it? How does Google search the Internet? How many people should you date before settling down? Believe it or not, math plays a crucial role in answering all of these questions and more.

Math underpins everything in the cosmos, including us, yet too few of us understand this universal language well enough to revel in its wisdom, its beauty — and its joy. This deeply enlightening, vastly entertaining volume translates math in a way that is at once intelligible and thrilling. Each trenchant chapter of The Joy of x offers an “aha!” moment, starting with why numbers are so helpful, and progressing through the wondrous truths implicit in π, the Pythagorean theorem, irrational numbers, fat tails, even the rigors and surprising charms of calculus. Showing why he has won awards as a professor at Cornell and garnered extensive praise for his articles about math for the New York Times, Strogatz presumes of his readers only curiosity and common sense. And he rewards them with clear, ingenious, and often funny explanations of the most vital and exciting principles of his discipline.

Whether you aced integral calculus or aren’t sure what an integer is, you’ll find profound wisdom and persistent delight in The Joy of x.

31 Days of Great NonfictionI haven’t read it, but Strogatz has also written Sync: How Order Emerges From Chaos In the Universe, Nature, and Daily LifeSync: How Order Emerges From Chaos In the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life by Steven Strogatz. If it’s even close to as engaging as The Joy of x it’ll be worth reading.

To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.

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  1. This sounds like a great book. Math is used everywhere, and it is neat to see how it actually is used.

  2. SoCalLynn says:

    I just put this on my Amazon wish list. Thanks!

  3. So, I tried reading this a few months ago. The first few chapters were fascinating, but I gave up shortly thereafter, because I just wasn’t grasping much from it. Numbers are clearly not my thing – although I do think math can be beautiful! I think I’d rather learn more about math by watching Numb3rs reruns. 🙂


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