"The Man Who Loved Only Numbers"
by Paul Hoffman
Reading history and reviews
Finished in 2007My friend Steve forced me to borrow this when I saw him near the start of the year, and I suppose I took it out of politeness. From the title I'd imagined this to be the story of some reclusive academic who was brilliant at mathematics and no good at anything else.
In fact I think that Paul Erdos - the brilliant and eccentric mathematical genius at the heart of this book - is done an enormous disservice by the title, since what emerges is a picture of a man who's passion for mathematics took him around the world engaging with as many people as he could. The title aside however I think that this is a great book. Not only do we learn about Erdos and the various people that he inspired, I think that Paul Hoffman also manages to communicate a little of what Erdos must also have found so beautiful and intriguing about mathematics and prime numbers. Only once did I really feel that the book wandered off at a tangent, with a long discussion of the Monty Hall Problem which is only tenuously connected to Erdos (it appears to better effect in Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time). Aside that I loved it. Thanks Steve!