The Spirit of Mathematics

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


David Acheson is a mathematician and Jesus College, Oxford. His latest book The Spirit of Mathematics: Algebra and All That (Amazon UK, Waterstones) take a tour of a range of topics related to algebra.




The Spirit of Mathematics contains 30 short chapters, with each one covering a topic related to algebra. Topics appearing in the book magic squares, real and imaginary numbers, and the golden ratio. There are really charming pictures and illustrations throughout the book, and a few of the chapters contains puzzles for you to go away and think about.


This book is written in a very accessibly way, and the the illustrations really add to the friendly vibe that the book gives you. If you have a flick through the book, you’ll often find yourself reading a chapter that you didn’t mean to start reading, as the style of the book really draws you in.


If you’ve read a lot of pop maths books and magazines, you’ll be familiar with the majority of the topics covered in this book. But you will enjoy rediscovering them, and will probably find a few different perspectives on topics you’re familiar with.


I recommend this book to anyone looking to rekindle their love of algebra. Although many adults will enjoy it, the book would also be suitable for children in secondary school and would be a great way to expand their experience of and interest in algebra outside the school curriculum.


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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