The Secret Lives of Numbers

We review the fourth of this year’s nominees for Book of the Year


Kate Kitagawa is an author and historian of mathematics and Timothy Revell is a journalist and New Scientist’s deputy US editor. The Secret Lives of Numbers (Amazon UK, Waterstones ) is their book on the history of mathematics with a focus on the contributions of underrepresented figures.




This is a fairly standard popular mathematics book. Each chapter explains the history of a mathematical concept from counting numbers to calculus. The historical stories are interesting and it is nice to learn about mathematicians who are often excluded from the historical narrative.


The ideas are well explained and the historical focus gives an interesting context to how the mathematical ideas were discovered and how they have evolved.


There are many popular mathematics books which cover similar ground. The historical angle is slightly unique, though I had heard most of the stories before.  It is an enjoyable read and worth checking out.


This book would go down well with anyone who has an interest in the history of mathematics.


You can vote for your favourite book on the Book of the Year shortlist below. The winning book will be crowned the Chalkdust Readers’ Choice. Voting closes at 1pm (BST) on Saturday 30 March.

What is your favourite book on the 2023 Book of the Year shortlist?

  • That's Mathematics by Chris Smith (91%, 277 Votes)
  • Once Upon a Prime by Sarah Hart (3%, 10 Votes)
  • How to Expect the Unexpected by Kit Yates (2%, 6 Votes)
  • Short Cuts: Maths by Katie Steckles (2%, 5 Votes)
  • Headscratchers by Rob Eastaway (1%, 2 Votes)
  • The Spirit of Mathematics by David Acheson (0%, 1 Votes)
  • The Truth Detective by Tim Harford (0%, 1 Votes)
  • The Secret Lives of Numbers by Kate Kitagawa & Timothy Revell (0%, 1 Votes)
  • A Year in Numbers by Kyle D Evans (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 303

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