Saturday, March 14 is Pi Day, set aside to celebrate 3.14 (see what they did there?), also known as ‘pi’, also known as everyone’s favorite irrational, transcendental number, which has absorbed mathematicians and us regular folks going back at least to the third century BC.
Conveniently enough, Albert Einstein’s birthday was also March 14, and according to Answers.com, his favorite pie was “apple second ruberry.” Is this true, and if so, what is “second ruberry”? I don’t know, honestly. That’s as much information as my Google search revealed on the subject.
But in honor of the day (and the theoretical physicist), here is a list of five books with Pi (and sometimes pie) related content, some more literal than others.
The Joy of Pi by David Blatner
At 144 pages, this book, described as “a tribute to all things pi,” could be a great Pi Day read, and it’s also available as an audio book. According to the publisher’s description, it includes pi trivia and fun facts, mnemonic devices for memorizing extremely long digit sequences, and pi-related cartoons, poems, limericks, and jokes.
Pi: A Biography of the World’s Most Mysterious Number by Alfred S. Posamentier, Ingmar Lehmann
Widely praised as a book that will help the layperson find beauty and pleasure in mathematics, it traces the history of pi from ancient times through the present, sharing funny, quirky pi-related anecdotes and how to apply it in everyday life. What struck me about the title of this book, which I’ve never read but would like to, is that it personifies a number/concept. I figure: If you love a math concept so much that you think of it as a person, that passion must translate into your writing about it, right?
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
As far as I can recall, the novel has nothing explicitly to do with pi, but its story offers an exploration on the nature of truth. And isn’t that kind of what mathematics is all about?
The “Pi” in question is 16-year old Pi Patel. He, his parents, and their zoo animals are emigrating from India to America via a Japanese cargo ship. But disaster strikes, the ship sinks, and Pi finds himself trapped on a lifeboat with a 450-pound Bengal tiger and three animals that become its prey. Somehow, Pi manages to survive. But when interrogated by Japanese authorities, who don’t buy his story for a hot second, an alternate narrative emerges. But which is “true”?
I liked the novel well enough while reading it, but I loved it upon completing the final chapter.
Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass. In this book for young readers ages 8 – 12, Joss, “the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe,” is stuck delivering pies, though these aren’t ordinary pies: they contain the secrets of the universe. Life gets a little more interesting, and complicated, when Earth mysteriously disappears, and Joss, along with his friend, Earthling Annika, have to find a way to bring it back.
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander. There’s a whole series of books for 8 – 12 year olds starring this math-centric King Arthur lookalike (Neuschwander got the idea for the series while visiting medieval English castles). In this one, Sir Cumference has been rendered a fire-breathing dragon, courtesy of a potion. “Radius” has the task of turning him back, and the cure might just lie in that most magical of numbers.
What are you reading for Pi Day?
Are you eating pie?