Mathematics Books of General Interest

  1. Amir Aczel, Fermat's Last Theorem, Dell Books, 1996. A history and mathematical discussion of "Fermat's Last Theorem" as studied over the centuries, culminating in its solution by Andrew Wiles.
  2. David Blatner, The Joy of Pi, Walker Publishing, 1997. This is a very nice account of the history and culture of pi.
  3. Calvin Clawson, Mathematical Mysteries: The Beauty and Magic of Numbers, Plenum Publishing, 1996. A very well-written lay introduction to number theory.
  4. Carl Boyer, A History of Mathematics, John Wiley Publishing, 1968. This is one of the classic textbooks on the history of mathematics.
  5. John Casti, Five Golden Rules: Great Theories of 20th-Mathemtics - and Why They Matter, John Wiley Publishing, 1996. This gives an intelligent and readable discussion of some great mathematical ideas of this century, with applications of those ideas outside of mathematics.
  6. John Conway and Richard Guy, The Book of Numbers, Springer-Verlag, 1996. An interesting presentation and discussion of numbers, from integers to the hyper-reals.
  7. Richard Courant and Herbert Robbins; revised by Ian Stewart, What is Mathematics?, Oxford University Press, 1996. This is an update of a classic introduction to mathematics.
  8. Philip Davis, The Thread: A Mathematical Yarn, Harvester Press, 1983. This is a unique and eclectic tale tying together mathematical ideas and personalities across the centuries. An interesting and enjoyable read!
  9. Philip Davis and Reuben Hersh, The Mathematical Experience, Birkhäuser Publishing, 1981. This a very readable account, incorporating discussions of the major areas of mathematics and the history of mathematics.
  10. John Derbyshire, Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics, Joseph Henry Press, 2003. This is an excellent introduction to the Riemann Hypothesis and to its connection to understanding the distribution of prime numbers. It is intended for the layman who is not mathematically trained, although parts later in the book are best appreciated with some knowledge of the theory of functions of a complex variable. Nonetheless, I would recommend it to a general reader who is interested in understanding one of the great problems of mathematics.
  11. Heinrich Dörrie, 100 Great Problems of Elementary Mathematics: Their History and Solution, Dover Publications, 1965. This is an English language translation of the original German text, published in 1958. This is a more technical book written for mathematicians, but still written at an accessible and somewhat elementary level.
  12. C. H. Edwards, Jr., The Historical Development of the Calculus, Springer-Verlag, 1979.
  13. Clifton Fadiman, Fantasia Mathematica, Springer-Verlag, 1997. Reprint from the 1958 publication. Collection of miscellaneous stories and other materials involving mathematics.
  14. James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science, Penguin Books, 1987. This was a very well-read popular account of chaos theory and the associated topics of dynamical systems and fractal geometry.
  15. G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology (with a forward by C. P. Snow), Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1940. This is a personal (and very famous) accounting of doing mathematics by a 'mathematical great'. It is also a sad and ironic memoir.
  16. Paul Hoffman, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, Fourth Estate Limited, London, 1999. This is a biography of Paul Erdös, possibly the most fascinating mathematician of the 20th Century.
  17. Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma, Simon & Schuster, 1983. This is a biography of one of the most important deep thinkers in the development of modern computing, a man whose name is given to the premier award in computer science, The Turing Award.
  18. George Gheverghese Joseph, The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics. This is an excellent source of history on the contributions to the development of mathematics from ancient Egypt, Babylonia, India, China, the Arab world, and other parts of the non-European world.
  19. T. W. Körner, The Pleasures of Counting, Cambridge University Press, 1996. A well-written and interesting introductory discussion of many areas of mathematics.
  20. George Lakoff and Rafael Núñez, Where Mathematics Comes From:, How The Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics Into Being, Basic Books, New York, 2000. This is a cognitive analysis of the structure of mathematical ideas.
  21. Eli Maor, e: The Story of a Number, Princeton University Press, 1994. This is a history of the number e, discussing also the history of pi, i, and other important quantities in mathematics.
  22. Tristan Needham, Visual Complex Analysis, Clarendon Press, 1997. This is a lovely presentation of complex analysis, emphasizing its geometric connections.
  23. Ivars Peterson, The Mathematical Tourist: Snapshots of Modern Mathematics, Freeman Publishers, 1988.
  24. Charles Seife, Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, Penguin Books, New York, 2000. This is an historical and mathematical analysis of the development of the idea of zero in our number system, explaining its historical significance outside of mathematics, especially in religion and philosophy.
  25. George Simmons, Calculus Gems: Brief Lives and Memorable Mathematics, McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1992. An accounting of the major figures in the development of the calculus, together with a discussion of the some of the important mathematical problems studied in this development.
  26. David Smith, A Source Book in Mathematics, Dover Publications, 1959. This was originally published in 1929, and it contains original writings from important papers of well-known mathematicians, from 1478 onwards.
  27. Ian Stewart, The Problems of Mathematics, Oxford Press, 1987. Discusses the "nature of mathematics" by looking at particular important problems, many of interest in current applications to real world problems (e.g. cryptology). Stewart is one of best known popularizers of mathematics.
  28. Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos, Blackwell Publishers, 1989. A very readable account of chaos theory and the associated topics of dynamical systems and fractal geometry.
  29. Ian Stewart, Nature's Numbers: The Unreal Reality of Mathematics, Basic Books, 1995.
  30. John Stillwell, Mathematics and Its History, Springer-Verlag, 1989.