Q: Hey Ben, do you have any surreal and exhilarating news?
Yes! I’ve written a book! Even more surreal, I’ve written and illustrated a book!
It comes out September 18th, 2018.
Q: Wow! Are you excited?
So excited! It’s the best and coolest thing I’ve ever created, mostly because I didn’t create it by myself. I had help from so many talented and far-thinking people.
Q: What’s it about?
Q: That’s… kind of a big topic?
Yeah, that’s what I thought at first. A book about “math in general” felt as impossible as one about “history in general” or “ideas in general.” Too big, too broad. I ain’t got the whole world in my hands.
But when I started writing, it began to click.
The opening section, “How to Think Like a Mathematician,” tackles the big questions in the discipline—how notation works, the relationship between “pure” and “applied,” the aims of mathematical inquiry. If you read this blog, you’ll recognize the themes (though the writing, I assure you, is all new!).
Then it fans out. And it becomes a book about… well, everything.
As a math person, I’m always boasting that math underlies every aspect of life. I figured it was time to walk the walk.
So every chapter tackles a new topic. Why architects use triangles. Why people buy lottery tickets. How to evaluate schools statistically. Why the economy collapsed in 2008. Why there aren’t giants. The benefits and costs of building a spherical Death Star.
Q: Wow, that’s a lo—
Income taxes. The genetics of sibling resemblance. Batting average. Non-cubical dice. Why I first hated and then came to love the paper in the UK.
Q: Okay, I get the—
The dawn of modern economics. The statistical analysis of literature. Weird insurance programs. The replication crisis in science. The chaos theory of history.
Q: Are you finished?
Yeah, I think that’s it.
Q: Finally! So how did—
Oh, and the Electoral College!
Q: So how did this book happen?
In 2015, a magical pair of literary agents asked me if I wanted to write books. I did, desperately, so I panicked and said “AAAAAGHHH.”
Then, in 2016, a magical editor asked if I wanted to write a book for her imprint (which creates gorgeously designed and illustrated nonfiction). I did, desperately, so I ran to my agents and said “AAAAAGHHH.”
Q: You sound… not very good at this.
Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a spell of cosmic and totally unearned good luck, but it’s very anxiety-provoking.
Anyway, I guess my wordless fear-joy constituted a contract, so I spent 2017 writing, and 2018 watching as a parade of ninjas (copy editor, production editor, designer…) assembled my scribbles and screams into an actual, printable, readable, lovable book.
Q: Is the book funny?
Among its 400+ color illustrations, you’ll find a bowling ball, a series of Mario tubes, and Dwayne Johnson. I believe that answers your question.
Q: Not really, no.
Then yes, it’s hilarious.
Q: Have any famous people said wonderfully generous things about it?
Indeed they have!
“Brilliant, wide ranging, and irreverent, MATH WITH BAD DRAWINGS adds ha ha to aha. It’ll make you smile – plus it might just make you smarter and wiser.”
―Steven Strogatz, Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University, author of The Joy of x and The Calculus of Friendship
Steve is also a leading candidate for the title of Nicest Person Alive.
“Orlin’s ability to masterfully convey interesting and complex mathematical ideas through the whimsy of drawings (that, contrary to the suggestion of the title, are actually not that bad) is unparalleled. This is a great work showing the beauty of mathematics as it relates to our world. This is a must read for anyone who ever thought math isn’t fun, or doesn’t apply to the world we live in!”
―John Urschel, mathematician named to Forbes® “30 Under 30” list of outstanding young scientists and former Baltimore Ravens player
John is 4 years younger than me, knows 4 times as much math as I do, and has thrown NFL defensive linemen to the ground.
“Ben Orlin is terribly bad at drawing. Luckily he’s also fantastically clever and charming. His talents have added up to the most glorious, warm and witty illustrated guide to the irresistible appeal of mathematics.”
–Hannah Fry, Mathematician, University College London and BBC Presenter
Fun Fact: Hannah is so friendly and cool that she does “friendly and cool” professionally on television.
“Illuminating, inspiring, and hilarious, MATH WITH BAD DRAWINGS is everything you wanted to learn in class but never thought to ask. A joyful romp through mathematics and all its wisdom.”
–Bianca Bosker, author the New York Times-bestselling Cork Dork
Bianca (1) is a brilliant writer, and (2) has not drunk the “math popularizer” Kool-Aid, so you know you can trust her.
Q: That sounds great! Where can I buy this delightful book?
Q: Will you be doing events and interviews?
Yes! I’m super excited for the chance to share this book with you. If you’re interested in scheduling an event or an interview, email me! (Just the name of the blog at gmail.)