This is a delightful book which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. In some sense it is hardly surprising that I would enjoy it, since I enjoy Sudoku, mathematics and good writing, and this book combines all three of these. However, I doubt anyone needs to enjoy all three to enjoy this book; a person with very limited background in mathematics, or a person without much experience solving Sudoku puzzles, could still find something of interest here. While it is not intended as a text for any kind of traditional course in mathematics, I did keep thinking, as I read it, that it would be fun to offer an honor’s seminar based on it. Finally, I should also mention that it is quite reasonably priced: it is (as of this writing, at least) available for sale for just over twenty dollars, with a Kindle edition available for ten. I would, however, enthusiastically recommend this book even if it cost more.
I also got a kick out of the review’s opening paragraph:
Jason Rosenhouse seems to have gotten hold of an interesting idea, one that he has now successfully exploited in two books. His first, The Monty Hall Problem: The Remarkable Story of Math’s Most Contentious Brain Teaser, used that famous probability problem as the jumping-off point for a wide-ranging inquiry into various related topics. In this book, he and coauthor Laura Taalman, herself a coauthor of three other Sudoku-variation puzzle books as well as an article in the September 2007 issue of Math Horizons also entitled Taking Sudoku Seriously, have, instead of addressing a famous mathematical problem, turned their attention to a hugely popular puzzle, Sudoku. The common theme of both books — the “interesting idea” alluded to earlier — is to use one central problem to discuss a broad spectrum of topics in mathematics (and sometimes other disciplines as well).
Come to think of it, the forthcoming BECB (the big evolution/creationism book) fits into this mold as well. I use my specific experiences at creationist conferences as a jumping off point for discussing more general topics in science, religion and philosophy.
Anyway, the review is quite thorough (and quite favorable!) so go check it out. And then go buy the book, of course.