Saturday, March 13, 2010

Two book recommendations

Very high recommendations for the following books, which I stockpiled in advance of my trip to China, but ended up reading most of before departure...

The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason, a Borges-ian retelling of the Odyssey in 44 short stories.

Perfect Rigor by Masha Gessen, on Grisha Perelman and the proof of the Poincare / Geometrization Conjecture. I already knew a bit about the completion of Hamilton's program thanks to colleagues who work on Ricci flow. What I found most interesting in the book is the insider description of the Soviet math system, including the nurturing of young talents and the training for competitions like the IMO.


Yan Shen said...

Steve, here's another book that I'm sure you and all of your loyal readers would heartily endorse; Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang. The book details the former premier's sympathetic stance towards the Tiananmen Square protesters during 1989 and his subsequent purge by hardliners in the Communist Party as a result of his ideological orientation. He was relegated to house arrest for the remainder of his life. The book is a fascinating reminder to all of us that even an institution as reclusive and authoritarian as the Chinese government is far from being entirely monolithic. It's refreshing to know that there have been a few decent men in the upper echelon's of China's governing elite who have had real courage and vision.

Ian Smith said...

Perfect Rigor should be titled How to Throw Away Your Talent on Trivia.

M said...


Have you seen David Shenk's new book 'The Genius in All of Us'? Here is the first chapter. It seems Shenk is attacking a biological determinist strawman.

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