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In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Cat Winters
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
Timothy Egan

Perfect Rigor: A Genius and the Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century

Perfect Rigor: A Genius and the Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century - Masha Gessen A glimpse into the rarified world of a mathematical genius. A world that included the anti-semitism of the Soviet Communist Party, and the escapism afforded to intellectuals who could pursue the abstraction of "pure math". Thankfully, discussions of math problems are minimal, because when they do appear, I can hardly follow. Perfect Rigor tells how Grigory Perelman made his way through the math clubs and competitions of his school years, to become one of the most astonishing minds in the math world today by solving nearly every problem put to him in an almost "Mozart"-like fashion. He ultimately solves the Poincare Conjecture, a complex topological problem unsolved for nearly a century, and is eligible for a million dollar prize. Instead, he withdraws from the world and abandons mathematics because of his strict inner code of moral structure and inability to deal with relationships. What I found particularly fascinating, was the educational draw that the study of mathematics had upon the intellectuals in Soviet Russia. "Mathematics held out the promise that one could not only do intellectual work without State interference (if also without it's support) but also find something not available anywhere else in late-Soviet society: a knowable singular truth." The people who spoke to the author about their relationship with Grisha, are a who's who in the top eschelons of academic study. It's also the story of the perilous academic journey that any Jew in the Soviet Union faced. This quota system would inhibit even the most talented Jews from access to a career, merely based what was allowed within this crushing system of exclusion. A story unlike most found anywhere. Absorbing.