Math Books you should read in 2020

Learn how mathematics influence every aspect of our life.

Przemek Chojecki
Feb 29, 2020 · 6 min read

Mathematics is behind every single process in today’s world. We breath mathematics even though we might not be aware of how it influences our behaviours. Maths is behind all the technological products we use. No matter what’s your background, you need to know how mathematics work in order to understand the world around you. These books will help you with that.

Math books you should read in 2020

Math books to read

The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data is a book which explains the importance of statistics in our daily life on great examples:

  • How many trees are there on the planet?
  • Do busier hospitals have higher survival rates?
  • Why do old men have big ears?

David Spiegelhalter guides the reader through the essential principles we need in order to derive knowledge from data. Drawing on real world problems to introduce conceptual issues, he shows us how statistics can help us determine the luckiest passenger on the Titanic, whether serial killer Harold Shipman could have been caught earlier, and if screening for ovarian cancer is beneficial.

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy is a book about algorithms and how they affect our lives:

  • where we go to school,
  • whether we get a car loan,
  • how much we pay for health insurance-

Those decisions often are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated.

But as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and incontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can’t get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his zip code), he’s then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a “toxic cocktail for democracy.” Welcome to the dark side of Big Data.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable is a book about black swan events and how they shape our world. A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.

Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe is a book about calculus.

Without calculus, we wouldn’t have cell phones, TV, GPS, or ultrasound. We wouldn’t have unraveled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in your pocket.

Steven Strogatz’s brilliantly creative, down-to-earth history shows that calculus is not about complexity; it’s about simplicity. It harnesses an unreal number — infinity — to tackle real-world problems, breaking them down into easier ones and then reassembling the answers into solutions that feel miraculous.

Infinite Powers recounts how calculus tantalised and thrilled its inventors, starting with its first glimmers in ancient Greece and bringing us right up to the discovery of gravitational waves (a phenomenon predicted by calculus). Strogatz reveals how this form of math rose to the challenges of each age: how to determine the area of a circle with only sand and a stick; how to explain why Mars goes “backwards” sometimes; how to make electricity with magnets; how to ensure your rocket doesn’t miss the moon; how to turn the tide in the fight against AIDS.

Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World is a book about how mathematics influences our life at every level: from the code running a website to the equations enabling the design of skyscrapers and bridges. Most of the time this math works quietly behind the scenes… until it doesn’t. All sorts of seemingly innocuous mathematical mistakes can have significant consequences.

Math is easy to ignore until a misplaced decimal point upends the stock market, a unit conversion error causes a plane to crash, or someone divides by zero and stalls a battleship in the middle of the ocean.

Exploring and explaining a litany of glitches, near misses, and mathematical mishaps involving the internet, big data, elections, street signs, lotteries, the Roman Empire, and an Olympic team, Matt Parker uncovers the bizarre ways math trips us up, and what this reveals about its essential place in our world. Getting it wrong has never been more fun.

Do Dice Play God?: The Mathematics of Uncertainty is a book about uncertainty. Uncertainty is everywhere: the weather, the economy, the sex of an unborn child — even quantities we think that we know such as populations or the transit of the planets contain the possibility of error. It’s no wonder that, throughout that history, we have attempted to produce rigidly defined areas of uncertainty — we prefer the surprise party to the surprise asteroid.

Ian Stewart explores the history and mathematics of uncertainty. Touching on gambling, probability, statistics, financial and weather forecasts, censuses, medical studies, chaos, quantum physics, and climate, he makes one thing clear: a reasonable probability is the only certainty.

The Princeton Companion to Mathematics is the ultimate guide to modern mathematics. This book, edited by Timothy Gowers, a recipient of the Fields Medal, presents nearly two hundred entries, written by world’s leading mathematicians. You will be introduced to:

  • basic mathematical tools and vocabulary;
  • trace the development of modern mathematics;
  • explain essential terms and concepts;
  • examine core ideas in major areas of mathematics;
  • describe the achievements of scores of famous mathematicians;
  • explore the impact of mathematics on other disciplines such as biology, finance, and music.

Everyone should have it on a shelf to look up any math concept coming up in their work or life.

This list will allow you to grasp how mathematics, statistics and algorithms shape the world we live in. Thanks to that knowledge you’ll be able to operate more efficiently and be more confident.

Have fun reading them!

If you’re looking for more book recommendations, have a look here:


*disclaimer: the above links are affiliate*

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Przemek Chojecki

Written by

CEO Contentyze, the text editor 2.0, PhD in maths, Forbes 30 under 30 — → Sign up for free at

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +792K followers.

Przemek Chojecki

Written by

CEO Contentyze, the text editor 2.0, PhD in maths, Forbes 30 under 30 — → Sign up for free at

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +792K followers.

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