The Joy of x

In 2010, award-winning professor Steven Strogatz wrote a series for The New York Times online called “The Elements of Math.” It was hugely popular: Each piece climbed the most emailed list and elicited hundreds of comments. Readers begged for more, and Steven has now delivered. In this fun, fast-paced book, he offers us all a second chance at math.

Each short chapter of The Joy of x provides an “Aha!” moment, starting with why numbers are helpful, and moving on to such topics as shapes, calculus, fat tails, and infinity. Steven explains the ideas of math gently and clearly, with wit, insight, and brilliant illustrations. Assuming no knowledge, only curiosity, he shows how math connects to literature, philosophy, law, medicine, art, business, even pop culture and current events. For example, did O.J. do it? How should you flip your mattress to get the maximum wear out of it? How does Google search the Internet? How many people should you date before settling down? Strogatz is the math teacher you wish you’d had, and The Joy of x is the book you’ll want to give to all your smart and curious friends.


  • A delightful exploration of the beauty and fun of mathematics, in the best tradition of Lewis Carroll, George Gamow, and Martin Gardner. The Joy of x will entertain you, amaze you, and make you smarter.
    — Steven Pinker, professor of psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Language Instinct
  • Steven Strogatz should do for math what Julia Child did for cookery. He shows that this stuff really matters, and he shows that it can nourish us.
    James Gleick, author of The Information and Chaos.
  • Steve Strogatz may be the only person alive with the skill to pied piper me into the murky abyss of set theory. I literally learned something on every page, despite my innumerate brain. This is a fantastic book, conveyed with clarity, technical mastery and infectious joy.
    Jad Abumrad, host of Radiolab
  • This joyous book will remind you just how beautiful and mesmerizing math can be. Steve Strogatz is the teacher we all wish we had.
    Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein
  • I loved this beautiful book from the first page. With his unique ingenuity and affable charm, Strogatz disassembles mathematics as a subject, both feared and revered, and reassembles it as a world, both accessible and magical. The Joy of x is, well, a joy.
    Janna Levin, professor of physics and astronomy, Barnard College, Columbia University, and author of How the Universe Got Its Spots and A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines.
  • Amazingly, mathematicians can see patterns in the universe that the rest of us are usually blind to. With clarity and dry wit, The Joy of x opens a window onto this hidden world with its landscapes of beauty and wonder.
    Alan Alda
  • This book is, simply put, fantastic. It introduces the reader to the underlying concepts of mathematics—presenting reasons for its unfamiliar language and explaining conceptual frameworks that do in fact make understanding complex problems easier. In a world where mathematics is essential but, largely, poorly understood, Steve Strogatz’s teaching skills and deft writing style are an important contribution.
    Lisa Randall, Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science, Harvard University, and author of Warped Passages andKnocking on Heaven's Door
  • Strogatz’s graceful prose is perfectly pitched for a popular math book: authoritative without being patronizing, friendly without being whimsical, and always clear and accessible. His x marks the spot—and hits it.
    Alex Bellos, author of Here's Looking at Euclid
  • Strogatz has discovered a magical function that transforms ‘math’ into ‘joy,’ page after wonderful page. He takes everything that ever mystified you about math and makes it better than clear—he makes it wondrous, delicious, and amazing.
    Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University, and author of Stumbling on Happiness

Book trailer


Foreign Edition Covers