Mathnovels
This page was initiated on April 25, 2008 and is online since July 24, 2011. Last update October 23, 2020. By Oliver Knill Department of Mathematics, Harvard University. See also Math in Movies.Catherine Shaw, The Three Body Problem: A beautiful and clever novel with three mathematicians being killed the three bodies. Written much in letter form, it is quite poetic. Reading it as a mathematician is certainly rewarding. It plays at the time when the King Oscar prize problem was posed around 1889. The story about Poincare and his dramatic submission appears. There is also on the side quite a bit of mathematics making cameos in the movie in which shows the author is a mathematician. It is no secret that Catherine Shaw is a pen name for Leila Schneps (an academic sibling of Andrew Wiles with the same PhD father John Henry Coates). Leila had been visiting ETH for some months when I was a graduate student there. A few graduate students (Frank Josellis, Andy Stirnemann, Leila and me, later also my wife Ruth) had quite many dinners at ETH restaurant and went also to some cultural events (we had a ``culture club"). |
Walter Tevis, The Queen's Gambit: The movie is great, the book refreshingly short and to the point. See in the math in movies collection. The book is quite close but there are differences. The math quote in school "A binomial is mathematical expression containing two terms" and ``They told me at Methuen that you were marvelous at math."" are in the book. That Beth's mother was a mathematician is a movie addition. There are some nice changes in the film like Mrs Wheatley playing piano or the end scene with the ``Segrayem" which in the book is with some stranger who does not recognize Beth. |
Karl Kuhlemann, Der Untergang von Mathemagika: In this beautiful novel (written in German), a 8th year math student and his friend Dio who is a bar tender make the acquaintance of a 3 sphere (a hedge hog which can be combed) which is actually a portal to Mathemagika, a mathematical world, in which mathematicians like Cantor or Goedel are alive. Lots and lots of undergraduate pop culture math appears like Hilbert's hotel, incompleteness, the axiom of choice and of course the Banach Tarski paradox, which plays a central role. Thanks to Mikhail Katz for informing me about this novel. |
Hans Magnus Enzensberger, The Number Devil: This mathematical adventure consists of 12 dreams of Robert. Topics include arithmetic, number systems, fractions, irrational numbers, sequences of numbers including Fibonacci, the Pascal triangle, combinatorics, the harmonic sequence, the golden ratio, Euler characteristic. Its not really a novel, but more like a collection of short interlinked short stories. |
Michael Milford, A question of Will: A mathematics thriller about 16 year old Will Graham who needs to find out why somebody killed his uncle. Accused as a terrorist, he is hunted not only by police but also by the madman killer. Trailer and Tutorials and Worksheets about the over 20 math bits woven into the story. |
Christos Papadimitriou, Turing: This novel about computation is essentially a novel incarnation of a popular computer science book. Turing, the interactive turoring program explains some "pop" themes in the mathematics of computation. |
Arturo Sangalli, Pythagorean Revenge: Originally planned as a popular mathbook, it became a novel. And what a good one. Features for example a nice exposition about the 15 puzzle, the pythagoreans, or randomness. |
Tefcros Michaelides, Pythagorean Crimes: A thriller about a mystery murder committed for mathematical reasons. Features the international Congress of Mathematicians in 1900. |
Mark Cohen, The Fractal Murders (2004): A detective roman in which several mathematicians working on fractals were killed. The Harvard mathematics department and especially the main office is featured in this book. |
Donald Knuth, Surreal numbers (1974): A love story in which two mathematicians find themselves alone on an island. A stone reveals a strange axiom system for numbers, the surreal numbers |
Apostolos Doxiadis: Uncle Petros and the Goldbach conjecture (1992): The story of a boy who after failing to solve a challenge given to him by his onlcle becomes a mathematician. |
Rudy Rucker: Mathematicians in Love (2006): A gnarly cyberpunk SciFi romantic love triangle comedy. |
Ben Mezrich: Bringing down the house (2002): A few MIT Students take down Vegas. |
Edwin Abbott: Flatland (1884): The archetype of a math novel which explains the difficulty to see higher dimensional space. |