Reading Books

I used to rarely read books, even assigned readings for classes at school. This all stopped when I began attending UNM, where I discovered just how helpful reading can be in a class. Since then and up until graduation, I had little time to read books for pleasure, but now I have started a small library of books. I like to visit used books and buy some of (sometimes most of) the mathematical/scientific books.

Below are books in my personal collection that I have read or plan to read. All of the books, with the exception of the textbooks have been bought from one of two used book stores, Twice Sold Tales in Farmington ME and Lion Around Books in Quakertown PA. I recommend to stop into both places if you have an opportunity.

Ones I've Read:
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(Read: 2010)
Ok, so I actually had to read this for a class, but it was just a really good book and also written for the general public with notes in the back if you are interested. It made me pause and think about many of the ideas put forth in the book. Although it has nothing to do with the book's subject, I love how Mitchell gives some background information about herself throughout the book when it has to do with the subject matter, and also takes time throwing in tid-bits about the major players in the fields that deal with subjects of the book. She goes as far as including a picture of every (as far as I could tell) person that she mentions that has influenced the subject about which she is discussing. This gives you a sense of history for the topics in the book. I always like to know a little bit about the people who have influenced the science and mathematics that I learn in school, I assume that Mitchell feels the same way because of the above inclusion in her writings, and I wish that more authors would do the same.
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(Read: June 2010)
A good description of this book for most people (including myself at the time) is, "Cool physics shit you probably don't know". It gives a great intuition for what time really is other than the usual innate thought of it being absolute, and that is in the first few chapters of the book. The remaining chapters continue on a pretty neat ride through other aspects of time, and the origins of the universe, fulfilling the reader's expectations resulting from its own title.
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(Read: July 2010)
This was a really cool book on String Theory with great analogies for the ideas proposed in the book, which gives you an idea of how Greene (and hopefully most great physicists) view problems and ideas from different angles to better understand their core. In the beginning of the book, Greene gives an intuition for special and general relativity much like "A Brief History of Time" does, but with many more easy-to-understand examples. This sets up the necessary background/thoughts for the later description and discussion of String Theory.
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(Read: Only to page 233 of 317)
I had really high hopes for this book, and after reading what was most likely the best opening section to a prologue I've ever read, I was quite short of enthralled when turning page after page of the rest of the book. Gleick's writing style is pretty darn witty, and most certainly uncommon and uncanny in its description of things, all of which I am a fan. Such was the form of the beginning of the prologue in his description of things from Feigenbaum's nocturnal research style in the hills of Los Alamos to a physicist's view of what kinds of problems are (almost "snobbly") obvious. Unfotunately this section did not only reveal the imagery in his writing for which I was in store, but equally did it bring to light, with its cliff-hanger abruption of a finish, his seemingly all-over-the-place thoughts that lead to this book's own perversion of logical flow. He constantly begins a story that has relevance to the title of the book, pauses at a, usually, interesting historical semi-climax, and then repeats the process, every once in a while breaking the cylce to pick up a plotline which he earlier dropped. You begin to think it will be like this for only a few chapters before you realize that you are doomed, and can better spend your time reading something else. I can easily see how he came up with the title of the book. Now maybe this is intentional, in order to underscore the notion of chaos, but if so, it was too much for me. If I had to give an example of a manifestation of this book's flow in plotline, it would be that of any one of a few times in my life when a squirrel has jumped out in front of my car to cross the street, only to get to the middle of my path before realizing the oncoming threat, at which point frantic movements occur, left-right-left-up-right-down-left, before a final, possibly fatal, decision is made. Much like my braking for squirrels in such peril, I discontinued reading the book.
I really hope that I'm incorrect in my thinking here, so if you have read this book, I look forward to you telling me otherwise.
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(Read: February 2011)
I mean, the front cover quote, "funny, brilliant, bawdy", pretty much says it all. There seems to be however a little bit of "modest" missing from that. It' arguable, but I saw some of it in this book, and I certainly admire that. I quite enjoyed reading this book if only to learn of the many antics in which RF was involved... HE FREAKIN' GOT GOOD AT OPENING SAFES. Out of the books listed here, this is the one I will most likely go back to read in full front-to-back at least once more.
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(Read: January 2012)
A nice book with some neat ideas that I could see possibly being used in future classes that I may teach. I know that's not exactly the point of the book, though. Being numerate (I'd like to think), I didn't find the book incredibly eye-opening, but most of my time reading it was spent muttering "yup", "uh-huh", and "got-that-right" to myself.
(Read: Halted Progress)
Currently reading this classic. I've been wanting to buy this book for myself, and specifically at a used book store. As Jess and I have recently moved to Quakertown, PA, I have found a used bookstore there that had this (Lion Around Books, no website). FINALLY!! I'll let you know more when I get done reading... UPDATE (1/2/2012) I stopped reading this book for now since I wasn't taking the appropriate time to properly absorb the many intricacies of the book. Reading the book over a couple months in shorts spurts doesn't bode well for my seeing the beauty within.
In The Future:
  • Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884), Edwin A. Abbott
  • Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919), Bertrand Russell
  • An Introduction to the History of Mathematics 3rd ed. (1953), Howard Eves
  • The Quark and the Jaguar (1960), Murray Gell-Mann
  • Lady Luck: The Theory of Probability (1963), Warren Weaver
  • The Cosmic Connection (1973), Carl Sagan
  • The Mind's I (1981), Douglas R. Hofstadter, Daniel C. Dennett
  • Einstein's Space & Van Gogh's Sky: Physical Reality and Beyond (1982), Lawrence LeShan, Henry Margenau
  • Genius (1992), James Gleick
  • The Web Of Life (1996), Fritjof Capra
  • Faster (1999), James Gleick
  • God's Equation (1999), Amir D. Aczel
  • The Universe In A Nutshell (2001), Stephen Hawking
  • The Black Swan (2007), Nassim Nicholas Taleb
I have began reading the following three books in my following the Math 55a/b sequence of Harvard. The work for it can be seen here.
  • Principles of Mathematical Analysis, Walter Rudin
  • Linear Algebra Done Right, Sheldon Axler
  • Algebra 1st Ed., Michael Artin
Farther Out:
  • Men of Mathematics, Bell
    Someone told me that this was a classic, and since I like to learn about the history of both mathematics and science, I will sometime sit down and read this almost-600-pager.
  • Einstein's Theory of Relativity, Max Born
    Another one of those gems that I found at the used bookstore in Farmington Maine, which I visit each year. This seems to include all the necessary mathematics (for a general scientific/mathematical audience) for the physics leading up to and including the famous theory. It should give me a better understanding (or at least allow me to make a small claim that I know what is going on) than what I have gotten through Greene and Hawking's books listed above.