“The Joy of X” is the kind of book a lot mathematicians probably could write but few ever do: it is a quick tour of some of the more interesting ideas in mathematics discussed in non-mathematical terms. Written in the language of a smart high-schooler (which is a compliment here), Strogatz joyfully touches everything from basic mathematics to algebra to calculus to number theory and does his best to get the reader not just to care but to marvel at the beauty of the ideas and the creativeness of the people who brought them to life.
Many chapters stand out but my favorite is “Loves Me, Loves Me Not,” where he graphs Romeo and Juliet’s love using differential equations — Shakespeare for quants! Other standouts include his illustration of how a the area of a circle is calculated and his “analyis” of the Moebius technique for cutting bagles.
Overall, this a fun, light-hearted look at a complex subject. It makes a great read on a long plane flight or gift for a bright teenager who happens to love math.
Get it here: http://www.amazon.com/Joy-Guided-Tour-Math-Infinity/dp/0547517653/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1359810715&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Joy+of+X