Brian Hayes wants to convince us that mathematics is too important and too much fun to be left to the mathematicians. *Foolproof, and Other Mathematical Meditations* is his entertaining and accessible exploration of mathematical terrain both far-flung and nearby, bringing readers tidings of mathematical topics from Markov chains to Sudoku. Hayes, a non-mathematician, argues that mathematics is not only an essential tool for understanding the world but also a world unto itself, filled with objects and patterns that transcend earthly reality. In a series of essays, Hayes sets off to explore this exotic terrain, and takes the reader with him.

Math has a bad reputation: dull, difficult, detached from daily life. As a talking Barbie doll opined, "Math class is tough." But Hayes makes math seem fun. Whether he's tracing the genealogy of a well-worn anecdote about a famous mathematical prodigy, or speculating about what would happen to a lost ball in the nth dimension, or explaining that there are such things as quasirandom numbers, Hayes wants readers to share his enthusiasm. That's why he imagines a cinematic treatment of the discovery of the Riemann zeta function ("The year: 1972. The scene: Afternoon tea in Fuld Hall at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey"), explains that there is math in Sudoku after all, and describes better-than-average averages. Even when some of these essays involve a hike up the learning curve, the view from the top is worth it.