An enthusiastic celebration of the beauty of mathematics.
Benjamin (Mathematics/Harvey Mudd Coll.; co-author: The Fascinating World of Graph Theory, 2015, etc.) brings to this book the stage presence of a video lecturer who has contributed math programs to the Great Courses series. Indeed, the book is a distillation of one of those courses and is filled with the patter, puns, and occasional poetry of the stage performer. Presumably because he also loves magic and has learned tricks of the trade, the author compares the workings of math to magic. This is misleading because, as he well acknowledges, math is based on logic and proofs—not magic at all. Benjamin does a fine job of explaining the variety of proofs that math uses (by contradiction, induction, etc.). He begins with a chapter on numbers, number patterns, and tricks on doing mental arithmetic. He then moves on with what is essentially a high school syllabus on algebra, Euclidean geometry, and trigonometry, with a few chapters on Fibonacci series, pi, and probabilities. The author provides several different proofs of well-known results like the Pythagorean theorem. The going gets tougher as Benjamin moves on to more advanced math in the form of complex numbers, e, and calculus. Here, the author is more skilled at telling rather than showing as he introduces how e, for example, appears in odd places and amazing equations. He does a better job at explaining differential (but not integral) calculus, but he devotes much of that chapter to how to differentiate certain functions—a nice tutorial for a test crammer, perhaps, but not of interest to general readers. A final chapter on infinities is better articulated and interestingly shows how performing a few illegal tricks with infinite series can yield astonishing answers.
Forget magic. Benjamin delivers a primer generously filled with insights and intuitions that make math approachable, interesting, and, yes, beautiful.
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)
This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)