100 books like The Best of All Possible Worlds

By Ivar Ekeland,

Here are 100 books that The Best of All Possible Worlds fans have personally recommended if you like The Best of All Possible Worlds. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Why Beauty Is Truth: A History of Symmetry

Joseph Mazur Author Of The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time

From my list on narrative merit in mathematics and science.

Why am I passionate about this?

Meaningful communications with people through life, books, and films have always given me a certain kind of mental nirvana of being transported to a place of delight. I see fine writing as an informative and entertaining conversation with a stranger I just met on a plane who has interesting things to say about the world. Books of narrative merit in mathematics and science are my strangers eager to be met. For me, the best narratives are those that bring me to places I have never been, to tell me things I have not known, and to keep me reading with the feeling of being alive in a human experience.

Joseph's book list on narrative merit in mathematics and science

Joseph Mazur Why did Joseph love this book?

This book is a brilliant interweaving of politics, history, and intrigue, with characters living ordinary lives, described in the spirit of a Russian novel. With one story threading into another, the book moves us forwards. We fly over the tall mountains, misty valleys, and green fields of current abstract maths and fundamental physics to witness the true beauties of truth. And in the end, Stewart confesses: “No one could have predicted that a pedantic question about equations could reveal the deep structure of the physical world, but that is exactly what's happened.”

As with many of Stewart’s books, Why Beauty is Truth is a joy to read. It brings us through current material with ease of understanding and out oversimplifying. I love the way Stewart uses tangible examples to describe the fundamental forces of nature as he escorts us with clarity through so many eloquent connections between mathematics and physics.…

By Ian Stewart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Beauty Is Truth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the heart of relativity theory, quantum mechanics, string theory, and much of modern cosmology lies one concept: symmetry. In Why Beauty Is Truth , world-famous mathematician Ian Stewart narrates the history of the emergence of this remarkable area of study. Stewart introduces us to such characters as the Renaissance Italian genius, rogue, scholar, and gambler Girolamo Cardano, who stole the modern method of solving cubic equations and published it in the first important book on algebra, and the young revolutionary Evariste Galois, who refashioned the whole of mathematics and founded the field of group theory only to die in…


Book cover of Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science

Joseph Mazur Author Of The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time

From my list on narrative merit in mathematics and science.

Why am I passionate about this?

Meaningful communications with people through life, books, and films have always given me a certain kind of mental nirvana of being transported to a place of delight. I see fine writing as an informative and entertaining conversation with a stranger I just met on a plane who has interesting things to say about the world. Books of narrative merit in mathematics and science are my strangers eager to be met. For me, the best narratives are those that bring me to places I have never been, to tell me things I have not known, and to keep me reading with the feeling of being alive in a human experience.

Joseph's book list on narrative merit in mathematics and science

Joseph Mazur Why did Joseph love this book?

For me, this book was an adventure. I felt as if I was on an expedition to Virginia with Harriot teaching me astronomy and navigation. There I was, infatuated with rainbows and imagining myself scrutinizing scientific wonders of elliptical planetary motion, atomic theory of matter, and how cannonballs could be stacked to fill space. I found myself with Harriot back in 1591 searching for a sphere-packing formula, an old problem questioning the most stable way to stack cannonballs on ships. Thomas Harriot is a fast-moving biography packed with the world- and mind-changing curiosities.

By Robyn Arianrhod,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thomas Harriot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thomas Harriot (1560-1621) was a pioneer in both the figurative and literal sense. Navigational adviser and loyal friend to Sir Walter Ralegh, Harriot took part in the first expedition to colonize Virginia. Not only was he responsible for getting Ralegh's ships safely to harbor in the New World, once there he became the first European to acquire a working knowledge of an indigenous language (he also began a lifelong love of tobacco, which may have been his undoing).
Harriot's abilities were seemingly unlimited and nearly awe-inspiring. He was the first to use a telescope to map the moon's craters, and,…


Book cover of Great Circles: The Transits of Mathematics and Poetry

Joseph Mazur Author Of The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time

From my list on narrative merit in mathematics and science.

Why am I passionate about this?

Meaningful communications with people through life, books, and films have always given me a certain kind of mental nirvana of being transported to a place of delight. I see fine writing as an informative and entertaining conversation with a stranger I just met on a plane who has interesting things to say about the world. Books of narrative merit in mathematics and science are my strangers eager to be met. For me, the best narratives are those that bring me to places I have never been, to tell me things I have not known, and to keep me reading with the feeling of being alive in a human experience.

Joseph's book list on narrative merit in mathematics and science

Joseph Mazur Why did Joseph love this book?

Great Circles is a unique tale of the life and works of mathematicians, scientists, philosophers, poets, and other literary figures. It is collections of circles of thoughts and implications that return on themselves as if they are gravitationally attached to some core red dwarf of universal meaning.  

I loved reading this book. One moment I was into the math, and in the next, I was immersed in a relevant poem or was personality attached to some math or a philosophical thought about a connection of a poem with the math. It was a ride more than a read. It is a calming cognitive exercise on tour through and between chapters – mind wandering not permitted-- with a smooth comfort of thought as if Grosholz is in the room (or perhaps in your brain) reading and guiding.  

The poetry is gripping and wonderfully placed between the appropriate background materials. 

By Emily Rolfe Grosholz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Great Circles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume explores the interaction of poetry and mathematics by looking at analogies that link them. The form that distinguishes poetry from prose has mathematical structure (lifting language above the flow of time), as do the thoughtful ways in which poets bring the infinite into relation with the finite. The history of mathematics exhibits a dramatic narrative inspired by a kind of troping, as metaphor opens, metonymy and synecdoche elaborate, and irony closes off or shifts the growth of mathematical knowledge.

The first part of the book is autobiographical, following the author through her discovery of these analogies, revealed by…


Book cover of Number: The Language of Science

Joseph Mazur Author Of The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time

From my list on narrative merit in mathematics and science.

Why am I passionate about this?

Meaningful communications with people through life, books, and films have always given me a certain kind of mental nirvana of being transported to a place of delight. I see fine writing as an informative and entertaining conversation with a stranger I just met on a plane who has interesting things to say about the world. Books of narrative merit in mathematics and science are my strangers eager to be met. For me, the best narratives are those that bring me to places I have never been, to tell me things I have not known, and to keep me reading with the feeling of being alive in a human experience.

Joseph's book list on narrative merit in mathematics and science

Joseph Mazur Why did Joseph love this book?

More than any other, this book influenced me most about wanting to study mathematics. Of course, I was young at the time and strongly partial to Einstein’s remark, “This is beyond doubt the most interesting book on the evolution of mathematics which has ever fallen into my hands.” Many years later, when I exhaustively tried to find the book in any bookstore I passed, it was out of print. So I suggested it to my publisher, who immediately acquired the rights and republished it under my editing guidelines. It is the quintessential lure into mathematics for readers of any age.   

By Tobias Dantzig,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Number as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Beyond doubt the most interesting book on the evolution of mathematics which has ever fallen into my hands."—Albert Einstein

Number is an eloquent, accessible tour de force that reveals how the concept of number evolved from prehistoric times through the twentieth century.  Renowned professor of mathematics Tobias Dantzig shows that the development of math—from the invention of counting to the discovery of infinity—is a profoundly human story that progressed by “trying and erring, by groping and stumbling.” He shows how commerce, war, and religion led to advances in math, and he recounts the stories of individuals whose breakthroughs expanded the…


Book cover of The Unexpected Universe

Eric M. Schlegel Author Of The Restless Universe: Understanding X-Ray Astronomy in the Age of Chandra and Newton

From my list on humbly learning our place in the universe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been increasingly interested in astrophysics since I was six years old. My mother hooked me on reading at five by stopping novels at critical points and urging me to continue. I’ve ever since read a broad range of books. I stumbled upon Dr. Loren Eiseley in the early 1970s and enjoyed his books immensely. As soon as a book by Dr. Carl Sagan was published, I wanted to read it. As I’ve grown older, I try not to think that ‘peak humanity’ is behind us–and books such as Sagan, Eiseley, and Rovelli offset that potentially depressing thought and provide solid encouragement.

Eric's book list on humbly learning our place in the universe

Eric M. Schlegel Why did Eric love this book?

Eiseley first became known for his book The Immense Journey. I enjoyed that book, but I enjoyed this one considerably more, perhaps because its context was closer to my interests.

There were paragraphs within this book where my thoughts were right there on the page. I found that to be very exciting.

By Loren Eiseley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Unexpected Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing from his long experience as a naturalist, the author responds to the unexpected and symbolic aspects of a wide spectrum of phenomena throughout the universe.Scrupulous scholarship and magical prose are brought to bear on such diverse topics as seeds, the hieroglyphs on shells, lost tombs, the goddess Circe, city dumps, and Neanderthal man. AUTHOR: Loren Eiseley's many works include The Night Country, The Invisible Pyramid, The Immense Journey and The Firmament of Time, all available in Bison Books editions. He worked at the University of Pennsylvania until his death.


Book cover of The Collapse of Chaos: Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World

Michael Edgeworth McIntyre Author Of Science, Music, and Mathematics: The Deepest Connections

From my list on to get you past selfish-gene theory.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scientist at the University of Cambridge who’s worked on environmental research topics such as jet streams and the Antarctic ozone hole. I’ve also worked on solar physics and musical acoustics. And other branches of science have always interested me. Toward the end of my career, I became fascinated by cutting-edge issues in biological evolution and natural selection. Evolution is far richer and more complex than you’d think from its popular description in terms of ‘selfish genes’. The complexities are central to understanding deep connections between the sciences, the arts, and human nature in general, and the profound differences between human intelligence and artificial intelligence.

Michael's book list on to get you past selfish-gene theory

Michael Edgeworth McIntyre Why did Michael love this book?

It achieves an important and unusual cross-fertilization between two very different kinds of expertise. Both authors are highly innovative, and creative, thinkers, Cohen in biology and Stewart in mathematics.

Cohen is a biologist fascinated by the complexity observed in the living world, and Stewart is an expert on the mathematics of chaos and complexity. The result is a profound and multifaceted view of many natural phenomena, and of evolution in particular. It becomes very clear how selfish-gene theory fails to take account of important evolutionary mechanisms.

By Jack Cohen, Ian Stewart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Collapse of Chaos as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Moving on from his books on chaos ("Does God Play Dice?") and symmetry ("Fearful Symmetry"), the author of this book deals with the wider field of complexity theory. The book tackles the question of how complexity arises in nature, of how life overcomes chaos and entropy to create developing order. Co-written with biologist Jack Cohen, the book will range across the central areas of modern science, from quantum mechanics and cosmology to evolution and intelligence, looking at the central questions of order, chaos, reductionism and complexity.


Book cover of Is Math Real? How Simple Questions Lead Us to Mathematics' Deepest Truths

Jo Boaler Author Of Math-ish: Finding Creativity, Diversity, and Meaning in Mathematics

From my list on women rocking math and science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a British writer, (though I now live and work in California) and a Stanford professor who is passionate about helping everyone know they have endless potential and that math is a subject of creativity, connections, and beautiful ideas. I spend time battling against math elitism, systemic racism, and the other barriers that have stopped women and people of color from going forward in STEM. I am the cofounder of youcubed, a site that inspires millions of educators and their students, with creative mathematics and mindset messages. I've also made a math app, designed to help students feel good about struggling, called Struggly.com. I love to write books that help people develop their mathematical superpowers!

Jo's book list on women rocking math and science

Jo Boaler Why did Jo love this book?

I love all of Eugenia’s books, she is a cool mathematician working to educate the public about real mathematics – a subject of deep explorations and connected ideas.

Eugenia shares the creativity in mathematics, and the importance of pushing against boundaries, including the gender boundaries that often stop girls and women going forward in STEM. Her playful use of mathematical ideas to disrupt the myths of narrow and inequitable mathematics and the dominance of men in the field, is so fascinating, especially for those of us perturbed by the inequities in STEM.

This is a great book for those who would like to love mathematics a little more than they do now.

By Eugenia Cheng,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Is Math Real? How Simple Questions Lead Us to Mathematics' Deepest Truths as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the world’s most creative mathematicians offers a new way to look at math—focusing on questions, not answers 

Where do we learn math: From rules in a textbook? From logic and deduction? Not really, according to mathematician Eugenia Cheng: we learn it from human curiosity—most importantly, from asking questions. This may come as a surprise to those who think that math is about finding the one right answer, or those who were told that the “dumb” question they asked just proved they were bad at math. But Cheng shows why people who ask questions like “Why does 1 +…


Book cover of Love + Math

Tiffani Teachey Author Of What Can I Be? STEM Careers from A to Z

From my list on engaging kids in STEM.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a Sr. Mechanical Engineer, STEM advocate, TEDx international speaker and international best-selling author of children's books, I have a deep expertise and passion for inspiring young minds in the world of science, technology, engineering, and math. Through my books, including What Can I Be? STEM Careers from A to Z and the STEM Crew Kids Adventures series, I aim to introduce kids to diverse STEM careers and empower them to pursue their dreams fearlessly. My background in engineering and dedication to youth mentorship drives me to promote STEM education and underrepresented voices. I believe in the power of books to spark curiosity and open doors to endless possibilities for future innovators and problem-solvers.

Tiffani's book list on engaging kids in STEM

Tiffani Teachey Why did Tiffani love this book?

Love + Math is a delightful math book that transforms kids' perception of math from boring to enjoyable.

With engaging examples and colorful illustrations, it shows how math is present in everyday life, making it relatable and fun. This book helps kids see the beauty of math and replaces "I hate math" with "I love math."

It's a fantastic resource to instill a positive attitude towards math and encourage young minds to embrace the subject's possibilities. Get ready to witness a delightful transformation as kids discover the joy of math all around them!

Book cover of Newton: The Making of Genius

John Derbyshire Author Of Unknown Quantity: A Real and Imaginary History of Algebra

From my list on mathematical biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Bertrand Russell wrote that: “Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.” I agree. Math is, however, a human thing, all tangled up with the nature of human personality and the history of our civilizations. Well-written biographies of great mathematicians put that “stern perfection” in a proper human context.

John's book list on mathematical biographies

John Derbyshire Why did John love this book?

When I was asked to review this book, my first instinct was to decline. Newton (1642-1727) was a towering genius but a dull fellow, with no interest in other human beings. He often published anonymously for fear that, he explained: "Public esteem, were I able to acquire and maintain it … would perhaps increase my acquaintance, the thing which I chiefly study to decline." How can a biographer make such a person interesting?

The author dodges very nimbly around this problem, giving us an account, not so much of the man as of his reputation and influence. Perhaps this means that her book is not a true biography, but it is done with such skill and wit, I include it anyway.

By Patricia Fara,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Newton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Isaac Newton has become an intellectual avatar for our modern age, the man who, as even children know, was inspired to codify nature's laws by watching an apple fall from a tree. Yet Newton devoted much of his energy to deciphering the mysteries of alchemy, theology, and ancient chronology. How did a man who was at first obscure to all but a few esoteric natural philosophers and Cambridge scholars, was preoccupied with investigations of millennial prophecies, and spent decades as Master of the London Mint become famous as the world's first great scientist? Patricia Fara demonstrates that Newton's reputation, surprisingly…


Book cover of Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else

Philip Nelson Author Of Biological Physics Student Edition: Energy, Information, Life

From my list on have your own science or math ideas.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught undergraduate and PhD students physics and biophysics for 36 years, and I never get tired of it. I always look for hot new topics and everyday things that we all see but rarely notice as interesting. I also look for “how could anything like that possibly happen at all?”-type questions and the eureka moment when some idea from physics or math pries off the lid, making a seemingly insoluble problem easy. Finally, I look for the skills and frameworks that will open the most doors to students in their future work.

Philip's book list on have your own science or math ideas

Philip Nelson Why did Philip love this book?

A readable, yet profound tour of what math is really all about.

This book will help you have your own ideas because it opens your eyes to mathematical themes that go to the heart of things you care about yet may never have thought of as mathematical. For me, the analysis of gerrymandering was a sobering prime example.

By Jordan Ellenberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shape as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An instant New York Times Bestseller!

“Unreasonably entertaining . . . reveals how geometric thinking can allow for everything from fairer American elections to better pandemic planning.” —The New York Times  

From the New York Times-bestselling author of How Not to Be Wrong—himself a world-class geometer—a far-ranging exploration of the power of geometry, which turns out to help us think better about practically everything.

How should a democracy choose its representatives? How can you stop a pandemic from sweeping the world? How do computers learn to play Go, and why is learning Go so much easier for them than learning…


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