Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mathematics Week


This week we each read a mathematics book from one of the subtopics we laid out for Reading University.  Our subtopics needed to fit one of the following criteria:

Math - fiction or non-fiction book involving mathematics or numbers, or a math teacher or mathematician as a main character
Probability and Statistics - fiction or non-fiction book about odds, gambling, or a gambler. May also include books about chess or a chess player
Computers and Cryptography - fiction or non-fiction book about computers, computer science, or cryptography
Finance - fiction or non-fiction book about money, the stock market, or a book where the main character is a millionaire or on a quest for riches

Books Selected:

Zach (Probability and Statistics - Gambling)

Banker by Dick Francis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Banker starts off with a bang.  Tim's boss has a meltdown and soaks himself in the fountain outside of work.  While he is recovering, Tim takes over his duties at the merchant banking house and uncovers a horse racing mystery that nearly costs him his life.

I was surprised at how much I liked this book.  I thought it would be boring, but it kept my interest.

Michelle (Finance - Money)

 Banker by Dick Francis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dick Francis was the master of writing the everyman hero: ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations. It's part of the appeal for me. He always found a way to combine an interesting topic with characters you could root for, and worked them seamlessly into the world of horse racing. This time, we step into the world of finance with merchant banker Tim Ekaterin. As Tim takes on more responsibility at his family's banking house to cover for a sick colleague, he takes a chance on financing a prize-winning race horse. What follows takes on twists and turns, with some surprising revelations.

The good: I liked Tim. Like most Francis protagonists, he was a good guy, and you want everything to work out for him. The mystery kept me guessing. Just when I thought, "Oh, I totally know what's going on," another piece of the puzzle dropped and made me rethink my suppositions. The unique topic was banking, and it was an interesting look into the world of finance and how some of the decisions are made. And the racing! I love horse racing, and his books make me wish I was an English trainer, or jockey, or horse owner.

The bad-ish: The ending was abrupt, and I felt like this book was begging for an epilogue. Minor nitpick, but still a bit disappointing. Subtracting a half-star for that.  Otherwise, it was an enjoyable read for me, as always.

Maddie (Probability and Statistics - Chess)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book in the epic series, we join Harry as he begins his life as a young wizard.

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