The Housekeeper and the Professor

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

A short Japanese book about math? It can’t be that bad.

1) “We called him the Professor. And he called my son Root, because, he said, the flat top of his head reminded him of the squared root sign.”

This opening line is basically a summary of the book.

2) “‘The sum of the factors of 220 is 284, and the sum of the factors of 284 is 220. They’re called ‘amicable numbers,’ and they’re extremely rare.'” – the Professor

Not sure what the significance of amicable numbers is, but it’s a cool concept.

3) “Solving a problem for which you know there’s an answer is like climbing a mountain with a guide, along a trail someone else has laid.”

There’s an order of magnitude difference in difficulty between learning everything within an existing boundary and expanding that boundary even by a little bit.

4) “‘Naturally, the sums of the divisors of numbers other than perfect numbers are either greater or less than the numbers themselves. When the sum is greater, it’s called an “abundant number,” and when it’s less, it’s a “deficient number.”‘” – the Professor

There are no abundant numbers whose sum of divisors is just 1 greater than the number itself.

5) “During the 1968 season, he set a world record with 401 strikeouts.”

Does this Enatsu world record mean anything? Is Japanese baseball apples-to-apples with MLB?

6) “‘Nut a for natu of jar a trade would dybono.'” – the Professor

I cannot unsee that Natu is tuna with reversed syllables.

7) “Math has proven the existence of God, because it is absolute and without contradiction; but the devil must exist as well, because we cannot prove it.”

I still vividly remember my friend at Oxford explaining how math was the only way to find God.

8) “‘This is the fifty-eighth no-hitter…in major league history.'” – the announcer

The only baseball game I’ve ever been to was Clay Buchholz’s 10-0 no-hitter. At the time, I thought it was normal. Wow.

9) “‘That’s how we spend the summer, complaining about the heat.'” – the Professor

Spring, summer, fall.

10) “‘They made all kinds – some had real signatures by the players on them, others had holograms, and some had actual slivers from game bats embedded in them.'” – the shopkeeper

One day, my Pokemon cards will be worth more than me.

This book was way below my expectations. It felt like a mix of If Cats Disappeared from the World and Strange Weather in Tokyo.

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