The Night is Large

A few weeks ago, I finished reading The Night is Large. It’s a book of collected essays written by the late Martin Gardner, a writer with long-time interests in mathematics and science. I read the book on Etienne’s recommendation (and kind loan) and, whilst it took a while to read amongst assorted train journeys and other travels, I found it fascinating and a worthwhile read.

The book covers a startling variety of subjects from physics and quantum mechanics to religion and economics. There’s also chapters on a handful of notable writers, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Rime of the Ancient Mariner) and L. Frank Baum (The Wizard of Oz). Many of the essays take the form of a book review, where Gardner introduces a book (or multiple) along with some of the concepts they feature. Even though each essay stands on its own, the order of essays through the book is used to introduce the reader to concepts built upon in later chapters - something I didn’t expect from an assorted collection of writings.

Despite the wide scope of topics, Gardner relates to a set of common themes throughout many of the essays. There’s a lot of discussion about scientific realism - whether laws of mathematics, physics and just about everything else exist independent of the human mind. There’s also a recurring fascination with metaphysics, the surrounding universe and our self-awareness as human beings. These culminate in a satisfying conclusion to the book which felt very much complete and thought-provoking.

I’m particularly glad that I read The Night is Large, and if you’re looking for something a bit different to give you a background in wide variety of subjects, I’d recommend you read it too.