Michael Harris 2015. Mathematics Without Apologies. Portrait of a problematic profession. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 438 pp.
It is rare to find a book with no redeeming features, but this is one. A fatuous, self-indulgent, undisciplined, unstructured and uninformative stream of conciousness from a professor of mathematics whose students are to be pitied. Or rescued. After a hundred pages of pointless drivel, and a skim through some random later pages, I gladly gave up. Even the extensive list of references had barely 5 items I felt worth reading. Four I already own. There are plenty of warning signs I should have been alert to before purchase: The chapter “How I Acquired Charisma”. The first sentence of the Preface: “When this book was nearly done and my colleagues started asking me what it is about, I found it simplest to answer that it’s about how hard it is to write a book about mathematics.” The repeated chapters revisiting the theme “How to explain number theory at a dinner party”. The absence of any notable modern mathematician or mathematics commentator among the promotional blurbs. A more accurate title would have been Self-portrait of a problematic mathematician (apologies: no mathematics within).
It is clear that, whether or not he is aware of it, Michael Harris had a readership of one in mind: himself.
I would give the book away but there is no-one I think so poorly of.