What We Are Reading Today: Finding Fibonacci by Keith Devlin

Updated 29 June 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Finding Fibonacci by Keith Devlin

  • Finding Fibonacci is Devlin’s compelling firsthand account of his 10-year quest to tell Fibonacci’s story

In 2000, Keith Devlin set out to research the life and legacy of the medieval mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, popularly known as Fibonacci, whose book ‘Liber abbaci’ has quite literally affected the lives of everyone alive today. Although he is most famous for the Fibonacci numbers — which, it so happens, he didn’t invent — Fibonacci’s greatest contribution was as an expositor of mathematical ideas at a level ordinary people could understand. 

In 1202, Liber abbaci — the ‘Book of Calculation’ — introduced modern arithmetic to the Western world. Yet Fibonacci was long forgotten after his death, and it was not until the 1960s that his true achievements were finally recognized.

Finding Fibonacci is Devlin’s compelling firsthand account of his 10-year quest to tell Fibonacci’s story, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Devlin, a math expositor himself, kept a diary of the undertaking, which he draws on here to describe the project’s highs and lows, its false starts and disappointments, the tragedies and unexpected turns, some hilarious episodes, and the occasional lucky breaks. 


What We Are Reading Today: Good Form by Jesse Rosenthal

Updated 14 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Good Form by Jesse Rosenthal

  • For most, Victorian moralizing is one of the period’s least attractive and interesting qualities

What do we mean when we say that a novel’s conclusion “feels right”? How did feeling, form, and the sense of right and wrong get mixed up, during the 19th century, in the experience of reading a novel? 

Good Form argues that Victorian readers associated the feeling of narrative form — of being pulled forward to a satisfying conclusion —with inner moral experience, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Reclaiming the work of a generation of Victorian ‘intuitionist’ philosophers who insisted that true morality consisted in being able to feel or intuit the morally good, Jesse Rosenthal shows that when Victorians discussed the moral dimensions of reading novels, they were also subtly discussing the genre’s formal properties.

For most, Victorian moralizing is one of the period’s least attractive and interesting qualities. But Good Form argues that the moral interpretation of novel experience was essential in the development of the novel form — and that this moral approach is still a fundamental, if unrecognized, part of how we understand novels.