#BookReview: Shape by Jordan Ellenberg

Love Song To Geometry – And A Look At How It Is Truly Everywhere. This is a mathematician showing just how prevalent geometry is in our every day lives – and why modern math classes tend to ruin it for most people. As a mathematics oriented person myself (got one math-derived degree, very nearly got two others almost at the same time, former math teacher, current active software developer), this was fairly easy to follow – Ellenberg mentions some advanced concepts without actually *showing* many of them, though there *is* more actual equations in here than some might like in a “popsci” level book. Thanks to Ellenberg’s explanations of said equations and concepts, this *should* be an easy enough follow for most anyone. And he really does do a great job of showing how even advanced ideas really do come down to the most basic principles – just applied in particularly interesting ways. Indeed, the only real critique I have here is that when Ellenberg gets off the math specifically and into more political and social commentary – even when ostensbily using the math as a shield – it gets much closer to “Your Mileage May Vary” level. Overall, those moments weren’t quite pervasive enough nor did they stray far enough from the central premise to warrant dropping a star, and thus the book maintains the full five stars that all books start with for me. Very much recommended.

This review of Shape by Jordan Ellenberg was originally written on March 27, 2021.

#BookReview: You Bet Your Life by Paul A Offit

Startling Look At (Mostly Relatively Recent) Medical History. I consider myself a fairly well-read guy who is fairly knowledgeable about a *very* wide range of topics. Here, Offit shares stories of medical breakthroughs – including several which are now literally every day occurrences – and how the initial days of these breakthroughs weren’t always so routine. Indeed, many of the stories Offit shares about these breakthroughs – some of which were still being litigated within the last decade – are quite horrific, both from the practitioners really not understanding what they were doing and in some cases when they *did* know what they were doing – and did it anyway. Including one tale in particular about the (now) famous Jonas Salk himself that was quite disturbing to read. In the end, the book does exactly what it sets out to do – shows that there is always inherent risk in any medical procedure, particularly novel ones, and that often times it is those whose lives will be cut short with or without the procedure that take the risks that ultimately reduce those risks for later people and indeed enhance the lives of people they will never know many years down the line. And yes, all of this is wrapped around the current debate over the COVID-19 vaccines – though while these are discussed, they are not actually a core component of the text itself. The discussion here is current circa early November 2020 and is slightly outdated even as I read the text in early February 2021 – and certainly will have advanced even further by the time of the book’s actual publication in mid September 2021. Ultimately a truly fascinating read that is equally disturbing and enlightening, this book is very much recommended.

This review of You Bet Your Life by Paul A Offit was originally written on February 8, 2021.