Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality
Basic Books, 2013 ($27.99)
Like many adolescent males, young Frenkel had a one-track mind. He scaled fences, cut classes and arranged furtive rendezvous, all for his “secret lover”—abstract, high-level mathematics. Institutional anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union blocked his enrollment at Moscow State University, so he sought out informal advisers, snuck into lectures and devoured mathematical literature. Eventually Frenkel landed at Harvard University; he is now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Part ode, part autobiography, Love and Math is an admirable attempt to lay bare the beauty of numbers for all to see, even though some readers may balk at Frenkel's mentions of Kac-Moody algebras and of objects called hyperspheres.