Posted on January 14, 2012
by Jack Kelly

Tags: readings

I’ve finished another book. This one is The Bedside Book of Geometry. It’s a fairly light read and probably needs a Year 12 or so understanding of mathematics to enjoy. It starts with constructions with compass and straightedge and covering all manner of interestinng topics. Space-filling curves, fractals, map colourings, graph theory and the golden ratio all get a mention. Interleaved with the mathematical concepts are biographies of various mathematicians from Euclid to Grigori Perelman and Martin Gardner.

Each page is presented beautifully and it’s clear that whoever laid out the book knew what they were doing. Almost every topic and bigraphy is given two pages, a large chunk of which is assigned to side-bars and diagrams. This is especially important in the compass and straightedge constructions, but every topic benefits greatly from its diagrams.

My main complaint with the book is that it’s too short. Most topics end quite abruptly just as they’re getting interesting. Adding a second page to each topic wouldn’t go astray, but the number of topics would need to be reduced. Otherwise, this pleasant little volume would become an intimidating tome.

Would I recommend it? Sure, but probably only to mathematically inclined non-mathematicians. I fear it’d be a bit too demanding otherwise.