Book ends

Freelance artist Malavika P.C.
Freelance artist Malavika P.C.PHOTO: CHAN SUNDAR
Art Forms In Nature by Ernst Haeckel
Art Forms In Nature by Ernst HaeckelPHOTO: AMAZON
The Book Of Universes by John D. Barrow
The Book Of Universes by John D. BarrowPHOTO: AMAZON
The Man Of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution by Keith Devlin
The Man Of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution by Keith DevlinPHOTO: BOOKS KINOKUNIYA

Who: Malavika P.C., 32, is a freelance artist from Tamil Nadu. She has illustrated books from India, such as Intergalactic Idol by Samit Basu; The Mouse Series by Pankaja Srinivasan and Tamil Women's Poetry: A Current Of Contemporary Voices selected by Kutti Revathi.

Most recently, she illustrated a children's book, The Magic Bird, by prolific Australian author Ken Spillman. An exhibition of the book's artworks will be held at bistro-cum-shop SPRMRKT in McCallum Street till Tuesday.

What are you reading now?

I am reading The Book Of Universes by English author John D. Barrow. It is a chronological guide which hypothesizes about what the universe could be.

I enjoyed the playful way in which scientific theory was asserted and developed - the book's content pages list at least 30 to 40 plausible constructions of possible alternate universes.

I am also reading The Man Of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution by Keith Devlin. Leonardo of Pisa - better known today as Fibonacci - was the first Westerner to recognise the power of the Hindu-Arabic number system (featuring the numbers zero to nine), which offered a simpler method of calculation than the finger reckoning and cumbersome Roman numerals used at the time.

Despite the ubiquity of his discoveries, he has largely slipped from the pages of history. British author Devlin re-creates the life and legacy of this brilliant yet overlooked mathematician.

What books would you save from a burning house?

I would save Kunstformen der Natur (known in English as Art Forms In Nature), a book of lithographic and half-tone prints by German biologist Ernst Haeckel. The volume was first published between 1899 and 1904 and highlights his research.

The prints and plates illustrate his fundamental monistic notion of the "unity of all living things", where a variety of existing things can be explained in terms of a single reality or substance. The pages document the world in its most diversified forms, from incipient microscopic organisms to highly developed flora and fauna. It is beautiful and a book I would dive back into the fire for.

•Art Forms In Nature by Ernst Haeckel (Prestel, 2008, $20.04) and The Book Of Universes by John D. Barrow ( W. W. Norton & Company, 2012, $14.31) are available from Amazon.com. The Man Of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution by Keith Devlin (Walker & Co (US), 2012, $24.38) is available from Books Kinokuniya.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2015, with the headline '(No headline) - BOOKENDS05'. Print Edition | Subscribe