The mathematician, whose new book is ''X+Y'', sees the gaps between art and science as ''artificial constructs by humans, like the boundaries between colors in a rainbow.''

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

Both at the same time. I don't see these things as a dichotomy. In fact for me they are intimately related. Intellectual stimulation is an emotional experience for me, and something will only be a really deeply emotional experience for me if it engages me intellectually as well.

Describe your ideal reading experience [when, where, what, how].

My ideal reading experience is epic and uninterrupted. I don't like reading in small daily installments; I like reading an entire book in one sitting. That's if it's a novel, anyway, and if it's any good.

Deep nonfiction takes longer to absorb, and math books take years. I love the act of turning pages when I'm reading a novel; when I am studying a math book I might need to spend several weeks on one paragraph.

Unfortunately this means I'm often wary of starting a new novel because I can be fairly sure it will wipe out the rest of my day [and night].

What's the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

I learned many things from Elaine Castillo's deep and rich novel ''America Is Not the Heart,'' a saga of several generations of Filipino-Americans in California.

It's about culture and alienation, at all levels: from one's family, one's country, one's community, one's profession, and for many reasons, including politics, money, skin-color, sexual orientation.

The specific nugget of information I learned was that doctor's from other countries are not allowed to practice as doctors in the U.S., no matter how expert, experienced, and well-qualified they are, without completely retraining from scratch.

As a result being a nurse is a smoother path to immigration than being a doctor, and some doctors end up either in unskilled work or in medical-adjacent professions such as the medical sciences in a lab.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Aside from being surprised that I read novels, people are often really surprised that I read self-help. I love self-help books because I definitely need help improving myself and think it would be arrogant to suggest that I don't.

Yes, some of what's written in self-help is phony and platitudinous, or I'm not really the target audience, but there is plenty there that has profoundly helped me to become a batter, more compassionate, more empathetic, less stressed person.

The key, I think, is finding what helps and ignoring what doesn't.


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