a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Smilla's Sense of Snow (1993)
Peter Hoeg
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Contributed by Fusun Akman, Coastal Carolina University

"Smilla Qaavigaaq Jaspersen is a part-Inuit Dane who is an expert on ice and snow, and a mathematician to boot. She is depressed and/or anxious most of the time, and the story is very dark, depressing, and cold, but oddly fascinating. Mathematics appears from time to time, for example, this lady is so kooky she reads Euclid's "Elements" to a little boy who visits her often. She uses her knowledge of ice to sort the clues in a crime scene (and every chance she gets) and I suppose it is due partly to her early childhood training and partly to mathematics."

Contributed by Raja Thiagarajan

"The book has some interesting mentions of mathematics (which forms a good deal of Smilla's pleasure reading) but has some bizarre elementary mistakes. I don't know if the mistakes are due to Hoeg's ignorance or the ignorance of the English translator (the book was written in Danish). The movie version has Hollywood's usual disdain for mathematics; all math has been removed, except for a scene where Smilla reads Euclid's Elements to a young boy for about a minute, then says "You couldn't possibly be interested in this." Ugh!" ]

Note that this book was also made into a movie.

Contributed by Anonymous

This international bestseller follows a strong female character in a thrilling mystery adventure across Greenland. What makes this especially interesting to read is the incredible number of connections to other subjects the author makes. A scientist by training, the main character sees the world and sees life in terms of mathematics and science. The characters are very well developed, which is especially surprising for the genre, but this is a surprising book all around and a pleasure to read. I have read it many many times over the years. I have yet to find another book that can find both tension in bread-baking and sadness in negative numbers.

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Works Similar to Smilla's Sense of Snow
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. It's My Turn by Claudia Weill (director)
  2. Antonia's Line by Marleen Gorris
  3. Two Moons by Thomas Mallon
  4. Gambler's Rose by G.W. Hawkes
  5. Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land by John Crowley
  6. Contact by Carl Sagan
  7. Distress by Greg Egan
  8. Proof by David Auburn (playwright)
  9. The Theory of Everything by Lisa Grunwald
  10. Probabilities by Michael Stein
Ratings for Smilla's Sense of Snow:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (5 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.86/5 (7 votes)

MotifFemale Mathematicians,
MediumNovels, Films,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)