Pi Books

reviewed by Eve Andersson


Home : Pi : Book Reviews

  1. A History of Pi
    by Petr Beckmann
    ISBN: 0312381859
    Eve's Rating:

    This is an incredible book. Beckmann traces the history of Pi from the ancient Babylonians (2000 BC) to near-modern times (1970s) and shows the parallels between the history of Pi, the history of mathematics, and the history of civilization. Beckmann tends to go off on lively tangents (e.g., how Roman "thugs" hindered mathematical progress), but I think this makes the story more interesting.

    I highly recommend this book, regardless of your mathematical background. If you already love Pi, this will only strengthen your admiration for the number. If you merely have a mild curiosity about Pi, this story will whet your appetite.

  2. The Joy of Pi
    by David Blatner
    ISBN: 0802775624
    Eve's Rating:

    I bet you never knew Pi could be this fun. Pi cartoons, poetry, facts, history, people, digits ... this little yellow book has it all. This book doesn't go too deep, but hey, sometimes you have to just stop thinking too hard -- just relax and celebrate Pi. This book will make you smile.

  3. Pi: A Source Book
    edited by Lennart Berggren, Jonathan Borwein, and Peter Borwein
    ISBN: 0387989463
    Eve's Rating:

    This reference book contains a ton of important historical material related to Pi. For example: Pi afficionados have undoubtably read about Lambert's 1761 proof of the irrationality of Pi. But how did he do it? Lambert's original proof is right there on page 141. Unfortunately, the proof is complicated, not to mention written in French, but luckily Ivan Niven's simple 1946 proof is given as well. Another example: you've probably heard that the Indiana State Legislature actually came close to passing a bill that would fix the value of Pi. You can read a copy of that 1897 bill on page 232.

    The editors have performed an incredible service, collecting into one volume approximately 70 important works on Pi. But I wish they had gone one step further and explained the significance and context of each work.

  4. Pi - Unleashed
    by Jörg Arndt and Christoph Haenel
    ISBN: 3540665722
    Eve's Rating:

    Pi-Unleashed is intended for readers with some background in mathematics and computer programming. The focus of the book is algorithms for computing Pi, although it also covers some Pi history and culture (look for my name on page 153!). It is much more modern than Beckmann's book and explains algorithms used to make recent Pi-calculation-history, e.g., those used by Kanada and the Chudnovsky brothers.

    The book comes with a CD-ROM containing digits of Pi and source code for calculating Pi. My biggest complaint is that the source code is not available on the web. That would surely increase this book's visibility. Few people, including Pi lovers, have heard of this book. My 2nd-biggest complaint is that the notation isn't always explained.

  5. Le Fascinant Nombre Pi (Bibliotheque Pour la Science)
    by Jean-Paul Delahaye
    ISBN: 2902918259
    Simon Plouffe's Rating:

    Because this book is written in French, I don't understand it. However, Simon Plouffe, discoverer of The Miraculous Bailey-Borwein-Plouffe Pi Algorithm, says that the book is a classic, in fact the best book ever written on Pi. Read Plouffe's full review.

  6. 3.1416 and All That
    by Philip J. Davis and William G. Chinn
    ISBN: 0671203320
    Eve's Rating:

    I first encountered this book many years ago, but I ignored it because of the title. The "6" sounds, to me, as grating as fingernails scraped across a chalkboard. This book is actually very entertaining and educational. It contains a series of essays, most of which originally appeared in Science World, exploring concepts of graph theory, group theory, number theory, geometry, numerical analysis, probability, music, and even mathematical beauty in a very readable and thought-provoking way. You don't need to have taken any higher mathematics courses to understand the text, although if you have taken these courses you'll enjoy seeing some of the same topics presented in a new and interesting light. If you want to taste a sampling of the many branches of mathematics, buy this book (it's out of print, so you'll have to find it used). If you're merely interested in Pi, however, you're better off with one of the aforementioned titles.

  7. Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (A Math Adventure)
    by Cindy Neuschwander, illustrated by Wayne Geehan
    ISBN: 1570911649
    Eve's Rating:

    The purpose of this book is to introduce children to the concept of Pi. However, this book's plot is farfetched, distracting, and may even cause young, impressionable readers to believe that Pi is exactly equal to 22/7. To the book's credit, the illustrations are gorgeous. But if you really want to teach your kids about Pi, I'd start by doing some hands-on measurements of circular objects around the house and then sit down and watch The Story of Pi video produced by Project MATHEMATICS!.

  8. Life of Pi
    by Yann Martel
    ISBN: 0156027321
    Eve's Rating:

    This book is a novel about a boy nicknamed Pi, not about the number Pi, although our beloved number does make a cameo appearance. It is an incredible book, but you don't have to take my word for it; the author, a Canadian writer named Yann Martel, was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize for this novel. The story is fascinating (a boy crossing the Pacific ocean in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger!), but what makes this book memorable is the way in which the story is told. The narration is a charming and brilliant combination of wisdom and innocence, and there are many thought-provoking ideas in this book. This is a book for every audience; people of all ages and interests will get something out of it.

  9. The Pi Conspiracy
    by Melvin Arndt
    ISBN: 1588206416
    Eve's Rating:

    Despite the intriguing title and the Pi symbol gracing its cover, this book has nothing to do with Pi. It is, in fact, a mystery novel involving private investigators, secret societies, and UFOs. Sadly, it sucked. Given that the publisher is 1st Books, whose motto is "Writing the book was hard. Publishing it doesn't have to be," I shouldn't have been surprised.