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

Who am I?

I have enjoyed mathematics and writing since I’ve been a kid, not only enjoying doing research in mathematics but assisting others to appreciate and enjoy mathematics. Along the way, I’ve gained an interest in the history of mathematics and the mathematicians who created mathematics. Perhaps most important, my primary goal has been to show others how enjoyable mathematics can be. Mathematics has given me the marvelous opportunity to meet and work with other mathematicians who have a similar passion for mathematics.


I wrote...

Mathematical Proofs: A Transition to Advanced Mathematics

By Gary Chartrand, Albert Polimeni, Ping Zhang

Book cover of Mathematical Proofs: A Transition to Advanced Mathematics

What is my book about?

Why was this book written? This is the book its three authors wish we had when we were students. If you have encountered calculus already, then what lies beyond it? This is what this book is all about. What exactly does a mathematician do? Some mathematicians simply enjoy mathematics – others also create new mathematics. They look for or observe patterns that suggest something appears to be true. If they guess correctly, then they need to convince others why it’s true, beyond any doubt. This is where proofs enter.

For example, the famous mathematician Ron Graham felt that all numbers (positive integers) are interesting. Suppose not. Then there is a smallest number that’s not interesting – which makes this number interesting. That’s a proof! 

The Books I Picked & Why

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Graph Theory in America: The First Hundred Years

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

Book cover of 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,

Book cover of 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. 


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

By Paul R. Halmos,

Book cover of 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.


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

By Paul Hoffman,

Book cover of 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. 


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

By Steven Strogatz,

Book cover of 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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