Friday, September 12, 2014

Something Different: My Ten Books!

If you happen to be on Facebook (and checked your news feed in the past few days), you’ve probably witnessed a bunch of “Top 10 Books that Changed My Life” or some similar title.  The directions for the viral status update is to think of 10 books that had some sort of lasting effect on you without deliberating too long on your list.  Since I don’t often share more personal stuff on my blog, I thought it might be fun to share my list here.  The books are in no particular order.

1. The Drunkard's Walk:  How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow.  
I credit this book along with the John Allen Paulos book with opening my eyes to how people see (and don’t see) mathematics in the so-called “real world.”  I’m currently reading The Signal and the Noise : Why Most Predictions Fail – but Some Don't by Nate Silver which is another book that would fit in the same category.

2. Innumeracy:  Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences by John Allen Paulos.
Along with the Mlodinow book, Innumeracy is the book that I believe helped shape my Mathematics of Games and Gambling class – in fact, I would say the idea of the course started to formulate in my head as I read the book.  

3. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.
I have no explanation about why I loved this book as a kid other than the fact that I generally gravitated towards mystery novels.  I think it’s the ending of the book that sealed the deal for me.

4. The Hardy Boys Series by Franklin W. Dixon.
There’s no way that I could pick any single book in the series (and let’s be honest, each book in the series is basically like any other) but I loved the Hardy Boys as a kid.  I had a great teacher in elementary school who owned the full collection of books and would allow me to “borrow” each book in order.  

5. Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine.
I would imagine if I were to try to reread any one of the Goosebumps books I would instantly cringe and wonder why I ever liked them.  However, the directions for the list say to list the books that somehow stayed with me for which Goosebumps certainly applies.

6. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
I don’t read many novels more than once, but Catch-22 is one such book that I’ve read multiple times.  The first time I read it I was much too young to fully appreciate it, but even at that point I knew the book had more value than most of the drivel that I typically read.

7. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
For my American Literature course, I ended up being assigned Slaughterhouse Five as a book to independently read and then write a paper on it.  If you’ve ever read the book you can probably imagine how difficult the novel is to analyze (especially for a math major who wasn’t overly keen on literature analysis to begin with)!  That said, the book was easily my favorite book that I had to read for a college class.

8. Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Methods for an Ancient Art, Second Edition by Robert J. Lang.
While not a book that one would read from start to finish necessarily, Origami Design Secrets was the book that married my love of mathematics with my love of origami.  The book was also instrumental in my junior mathematics colloquium presentation where I gave a talk on circle packing and tree theory.  This was also my first foray into Graph Theory which ended up becoming my favorite branch of mathematics.

9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
I doubt I’m alone in saying To Kill a Mockingbird is the first novel that I was assigned to read in school and for which I had to somehow analyze.  I ended up reading this book for three different classes (8th grade, 9th grade, and 11th grade) so I don’t think the novel will ever totally escape my consciousness.  I almost put The Scarlet Letter here instead but that as a novel that I only was assigned to read and analyze in one class (10th grade).  For what it’s worth, I think The Scarlet Letter is a better novel.

10. My Best Mathematical and Logic Puzzles by Martin Gardner.
The final title on my list is certainly a cop out because you could pretty much pick any book of mathematical puzzles.  I’ve always loved challenges – and over my 30+ years on this planet I’ve accumulated a small library of puzzle books.  However, if I had to throw out all my puzzle books except one, the Gardner book would be the one I’d keep (and thus, the Gardner book makes my list)!

Other books that I considered but that didn’t ultimately make my list include:  The Lost World by Michael Crichton, The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, and Where’s Waldo by Martin Handford.


Hackenbush said...

I'm a book guy so I appreciate seeing your list. One of the better captcha's came up for my comment, "Speaking Daysnot".

cynicalbuddha said...

Interesting. We have a couple of books in common, but I'm going to let you guess which ones.

Fuji said...

Haven't heard of most of the books on this list... but then again... I don't read a lot of books. To Kill a Mockingbird would definitely be in my Top 10 list though. I read it my freshman year and couldn't put it down.

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