The Man who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman
Paul Hoffman, in this marvellous biography, gives us a vivid and strangely moving portrait of this singular creature, one that brings out not only Erdos's genius and his oddness, but his warmth and sense of fun, the joyfulness of his strange life.' For six decades Erdos had no job, no hobbies, no wife, no home; he never learnt to cook, do laundry, drive a car and died a virgin. Instead he travelled the world with his mother in tow, arriving at the doorstep of esteemed mathematicians declaring 'My brain is open'. He travelled until his death at 83, racing across four continents to prove as many theorems as possible, fuelled by a diet of espresso and amphetamines.
Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges
This is the official story that has inspired the British film, The Imitation Game, a nail-biting race against time following Alan Turing, the pioneer of modern-day computing and credited with cracking the German Enigma code, and his brilliant team at Britain's top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British establishment, but his work and legacy live on.
The Man who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel
In 1913, a young unschooled Indian clerk wrote a letter to G H Hardy, begging the pre-eminent English mathematician's opinion on several ideas he had about numbers. Realising the letter was the work of a genius, Hardy arranged for Srinivasa Ramanujan to come to England. Thus began one of the most improbable and productive collaborations ever chronicled.
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
Economist and journalist Sylvia Nasar has written a biography of Nash that looks at all sides of his life. She gives an intelligent, understandable exposition of his mathematical ideas and a picture of schizophrenia that is evocative but decidedly unromantic. Her story of the machinations behind Nash's Nobel is fascinating and one of very few such accounts available in print (the CIA could learn a thing or two from the Nobel committees).