Friday, June 11, 2010

Easy as Pi (Book Review)

Easy as Pi: The Countless Ways We Use Numbers Every DayWhen I heard about Easy as Pi: The Countless Ways We Use Numbers Every Day by Jamie Buchan, I thought it sounded like a fun book to read.  Because I like learning about origins of phrases and because I'm kind of a science geek, I was looking forward to reading about where expressions like "the third degree" came from.  I'd also wondered about the title of the classic novel Fahrenheit 451 (why 451?), and the book answers that.

Easy as Pi is divided into logical chapters:  Numbers in Language; Numbers in Fiction; Numbers in Culture; Numbers in Mythology and Religion; and Numbers in Math and Science.  There's also a bit of math education here--including statistics, probability, and geometry--but it's not a textbook at all.

About the author:
Jamie Buchan was educated at Westminster School and is completing a Master of Arts degree in Architectural Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Many of his family members are involved in books: his great-grandfather John Buchan is the prolific novelist famous for The Thirty-Nine Steps; his grandfather D.J. Enright is a well-known Movement poet; and his uncle James Buchan is an award-winning novelist and historical writer. Both of his parents work in publishing.
For the most part, I enjoyed this book.  It's a fun and fairly quick read, but it contains a lot of information.  The logical arrangement of the items makes it easy to use for reference.

Two factors marred my enjoyment of the book.  I'll tell you so that you can decide if these are problematic for you or not.

First, there are a few editing errors.  The same footnote appears on page 63 and page 87, although it only belongs on one of those pages.  Page 78 contains two mentions of Revelations [sic] as a book of the Bible.  These may be picky details, but it made me question the accuracy of the rest of the book.

Second, the book seems to have an anti-Christian bias.  I could have overlooked the reference to evolution, but I didn't appreciate the author's use of the label "some increasingly vocal fringe religious types" for those who believe in a literal six-day Creation.  Agree or disagree, but there's no need for name-calling.

Aside from those two points, I really did enjoy this book.  I hope I've told you enough to make your own decision about it.

More information:
Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book, at no cost to me, for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

2 comments :

  1. Great review. Editing errors trip me up as well and I know exactly what you mean about the author's word usage, so to speak.

    Sadly, I first learned of Pi when my oldest was in high school. They had Pi Day (and she still has the t-shirt she made) and there were projects to do and everything. She really got into it and this would be a great book for me to read so I can bring up a Pi conversation. LOL... yes, we're a little nerdy around here. You should have heard the conversation about hippocampus and how I tell everyone about it.

    Have a great weekend.

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  2. I love you pointed them out so many don't and that can really trip you up when reading them.

    I remember in school we had the Pi contest to see how far one could go. It got very competitive, yes I was a dork and loved math :)

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