Paperback Pickings

Rekindle the old magic

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 3.04.09

Rekindle the old magic

A Mathematical Mosaic: Patterns and Problem Solving (Westland, Rs 250) by Ravi Vakil is a book of the kind that one rarely chances upon nowadays. The author, who had won the Canadian Mathematical Olympiad twice while in high school and is the recipient of America’s Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, brings together science and literature in this book almost in the manner of the early Humanists. Intimidating mathematical formulae are traced to the points of their origin. The ‘stories’ behind, say, the Fibonacci sequence or Zeno’s Paradox, thus revealed, seem to make them less daunting. There are short pieces called “Historical Digression” on the lives and achievements of some of the greatest mathematicians down the ages inserted in between the mathematical problems. The ancient Greeks saw mathematics as intrinsically related to beauty and perfection and built their entire philosophical system on this premise. Since few try to rekindle the magic of mathematics these days, Vakil’s book is worth spending time on, and this applies even to those for whom numbers are synonymous with terror.


Buddhist Tales in Modern Times: Stories of the Soul (Sterling, Rs 150) by Ven. Gyomo Nakamura are tales illustrating the Buddha’s teachings, told in a simple, unpretentious style. The author, a Buddhist monk from Tokyo who now lives in India, has travelled throughout the world spreading the Buddha’s message of peace. There are illustrations in this book by Ven Thupstan Paldan, who is also a monk, and a writer in the Tibetan language. Some of the stories in this book are based on those in the Lotus Sutra but are adapted to modern times and settings. Part fable, part fairy-tale, these stories are quite delightful.

Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior (Puffin, £3.25) by Chris Bradford will be of interest to all those children and young adults who watch the adventures of Samurai Jack with avid interest on television. Jack Fletcher is shipwrecked off the coast of Japan, and the crew, including Jack’s father, is slaughtered by ninja pirates. The swordmaster, Masamoto Takeshi, takes upon himself the task of transforming Jack into an invincible samurai warrior. Jack must fight innumerable hurdles and vicious enemies to emerge victorious in the end. Bradford, quite unusually, is a martial artist as well as a singer and guitarist, besides being a writer.