First edition of Perfect Rigor published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2009
Perfect Rigor is an interesting biography in that it recounts the life of famed, reclusive mathematician Grigori Perelman, but was written completely without any interviews or information of any kind from Perelman (who is still living). Perelman became famous in the last decade for his solving of the Poincare Conjecture, one of the world's more famous unsolved problems and one of several Clay Millenium Problems whose solution earns the winner a million dollars. Perelman oddly posted his solutions on the internet in three relatively brief papers that took years for others to digest, and was ultimately correct. He is particularly famous for rejecting a Fields Medal and the million dollar prize, among other things, and retreated back to Russia to live in a depressing flat block with his mother. Perelman has also since ceased trimming his beard or fingernails. Gessen's biography recounts Perelman's upbringing as a bright math prodigy and Jew behind the Iron Curtain, through the collapse of the Soviet Union and his eventual migration to America to begin teaching. Told mostly through interviews with contemporaries and people who've known and worked closely with Perelman, Gessen's book paints a seemingly accurate portrait of a genius who has no interest in others knowing about his life, and is enthralling to read. With book design by Brian Moore, this edition is surprisingly inoffensive for a more recent hardcover publication and is currently still in print.