I recently read the 2007 novel A Certain Ambiguity, one of several mathematically-influenced gifts I received for Christmas. Written by Gaurav Suri and Hartosh Singh Bal, the novel explores the certainty of knowledge through the prisms of mathematics and religion. The story is told through from the perspective of a Stanford undergraduate, whose grandfather was a mathematician and who, it is discovered (spoiler alert!), was arrested in the early twentieth century under a blasphemy law in New Jersey for remarks he made against organized religion.

The grandson, Ravi Kapoor, delves into this mysterious part of his grandfather’s past while taking a mathematics class analogue of “Physics for Poets” – in other words, a math class aimed at non-mathematics students. The story jumps between classroom discussions and fictionalized historical records in an attempt to make clear the beauty of mathematics and give insight into the quest for truth (including, but not . . . → Read More: A Certain Ambiguity