a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Mathematical Magpie: Being more stories, mainly transcendental, plus subjects of essays, rhymes, music, anecdotes, ... (1962)
Clifton Fadiman (editor)
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)
Highly Rated!

This is the second of the two wonderful, classic collections of mathematically flavored literature and such by Clifton Fadiman. (The first was "Fantasia Mathematica".) Here is a partial listing of the table of contents including links to those works that have separate entries on this database.


Cartoon by Abner Dean

Introduction by Clifton Fadiman


Cartoon by Alan Dunn

The Feeling of Power by Isaac Asimov

The Law by Robert M. Coates

The Appendix and the Spectacles by Miles J. Breur, MD

Paul Bunyan Versus the Conveyor Belt by Wiliam Hazlett Upson

The Pacifist by Arthur C. Clarke

The Hermeneutical Doughnut by H. Nearing Jr.

Star, Bright by Mark Clifton

FYI by James Blish

The Vanishing Man by Richard Hughes

The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke


Three Mathematical Diversions by Raymond Queneau

The Wonderful World of Figures by Corey Ford

A B and C -- the Human Element in Mathematics by Stephen Leacock

Cartoon by Johnny Hart

A Note on the Einstein Theory by Max Beerbohm

The Achievement of HT Wensel by H. Allen Smith

Needed: Feminine Math by Parke Cummings (Note: This is way politically incorrect in the year 2000. -ak)

Cartoon by Alfred Frueh

Two Extracts by Mark Twain

Mathematics for Golfers by Stephen Leacock

The Mathematician's Nightmare: The Vision of Professor Squarepunt by Bertrand Russell

Milo and the Mathemagician by Norton Juster


Cartoon by Saul Steinberg

Sixteen Stones by Samuel Beckett

O'Brien's Table by J.L. Synge

The Abominable Mr. Gunn by Robert Graves

Coconuts by Ben Ames Williams

Euclid and the Bright Boy by J.L. Synge

The Purse of Furtunatus by Lewis Carroll

Cartoon by Saul Steinberg

The Symbolic Logic of Murder by John Reese


(two songs, including sheet music)


(poems, cartoons, anecdotes, limericks, etc.)

Contributed by Bob Dvorak

Star, Bright is probably my all time favorite short story, possibly because of the age at which I read it. It was published ca. 1955 in a compilation called The Mathematical Magpie, Clifton Fadiman, ed. This book (MM) was reprinted ca. 2005. At that time I purchased a copy, although I since lent it to someone and it was, resultantly, lost. I'll pick it up again one of these days.

The MM compilation consists of short stories and poetry, all with a mathematics theme of some sort, without requiring a deep knowledge of any particular branch of mathematics. Star, Bright can be understood by a typical teen but will likely not be of great interest to the typical teen.

I withdrew MM from my local public library in, perhaps, 1960. It is indicative of both the literary quality and the magical content of the story that, at age 62, I'm wistful to re-acquire the book and re-read the story. Other notable stories: The Pacifist, The Tachypomp. It's indicative of how often I withdrew that book from the library that, fifty years later, I remember the story titles. As well as one of its poems that I memorized at the time. ("I think that I shall never see a calculator made like me... A me that likes martinis dry, and on the rocks, a little rye... A me that looks at girls and such, but mostly girls, and very much... They make computers for a fee but only moms can make a me." I don't remember the author or title, and there are a few couplets missing.)

To anyone who has a really bright kid of age 10-12 who's into more than the latest phone app, MM is a must-get. I hope Star, Bright strikes some child's imagination with the impact with which it struck mine.

More information about this work can be found at
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to The Mathematical Magpie: Being more stories, mainly transcendental, plus subjects of essays, rhymes, music, anecdotes, ...
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Fantasia Mathematica : Being a Set of Stories, Together With a Group of Oddments and Diversions, All Drawn from ... by Clifton Fadiman (editor)
  2. Reality Conditions: short mathematical fiction by Alex Kasman
  3. Mathe-Matti by Anuradha Mahasinghe
  4. Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder by Rudy Rucker (editor)
  5. Imaginary Numbers : An Anthology of Marvelous Mathematical Stories, Diversions, Poems, and Musings by William Frucht (editor)
  6. Number Stories: Learning Arithmetic Through the Adventures of Ralph and His Schoolmates by Alhambra G. Deming
  7. Do Androids Dream of Symmetric Sheaves?: And Other Mathematically Bent Stories by Colin Adams
  8. Riot at the Calc Exam and Other Mathematically Bent Stories by Colin Adams
  9. Number Stories of Long Ago by David Eugene Smith
  10. Racconti Matematici by Claudio Bartocci (Editor)
Ratings for The Mathematical Magpie: Being more stories, mainly transcendental, plus subjects of essays, rhymes, music, anecdotes, ...:
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:
4/5 (3 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (3 votes)


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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)