The best books to read if you want to be a mathematician

Gary Chartrand Author Of Mathematical Proofs: A Transition to Advanced Mathematics
By Gary Chartrand

The Books I Picked & Why

Graph Theory in America: The First Hundred Years

By Robin J. Wilson, John J. Watkins, David J. Parks

Graph Theory in America: The First Hundred Years

Why this book?

Robin Wilson, the famous mathematical historian and storyteller with a great sense of humor, along with his co-authors, tell the story of how one particular area of mathematics (graph theory, my favorite area) got its start in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe, found its way across the Atlantic to America, and what effect Americans had on this area of mathematics. It also tells the fascinating story of how and where more advanced mathematics became part of America. 

This book will be available Fall 2022.


The Magic of Math: Solving for X and Figuring Out Why

By Arthur Benjamin

The Magic of Math: Solving for X and Figuring Out Why

Why this book?

Have you ever been to a mathematics lecture where the speaker wore a tuxedo and baffled the audience with his mystifying knowledge of numbers? Well, I have and the speaker was Arthur Benjamin, who combined mathematics and magic. He even displayed this knowledge with Stephen Colbert on his earlier show The Colbert Report. It is our good fortune that he describes much of this mathematical wizardry in this fascinating book. 


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I Want to Be a Mathematician: An Automathography in Three Parts (Maa Spectrum Series)

By Paul R. Halmos

I Want to Be a Mathematician: An Automathography in Three Parts (Maa Spectrum Series)

Why this book?

Told by one of the most famous orators and expositors of mathematics, Paul Halmos tells us what it’s like being a mathematician – at least what it was like for him being a mathematician. While I was fortunate to have had a conversation with such a unique person (about writing mathematics), it is even more fortunate that he has done many of us a favor by writing this book.


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The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth

By Paul Hoffman

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth

Why this book?

Has there ever been a person whose entire life is dedicated to mathematics? The answer is yes and one person who fits this description was the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdos. I, and many others, got to know Erdos and found that he was most comfortable when he was with others, discussing mathematics. He was constantly traveling about the world, visiting one mathematician after another, discussing mathematical problems.

No other person had so many co-authors. This resulted in rather comical numbers called Erdos numbers. If you wrote an article with him, you had Erdos number 1. If you wrote an article with someone with has Erdos number 1, you had Erdos number 2. And so on. This book tells us much about a mathematician who was like no other. 


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The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity

By Steven Strogatz

The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity

Why this book?

There are books that simply tell us (or perhaps remind us) how mathematics can be interesting and fun. This delightful book is one of the best, describing how mathematics can be amazing, surprising, and beautiful, all at the same time. While mathematics has helped people accomplish so many things that we may have never dreamed of, this book shows us that mathematics can be popular as well. 


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