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The Best Textbooks on Every Subject

167 Post author: lukeprog 16 January 2011 08:30AM

For years, my self-education was stupid and wasteful. I learned by consuming blog posts, Wikipedia articles, classic texts, podcast episodes, popular books, video lectures, peer-reviewed papers, Teaching Company courses, and Cliff's Notes. How inefficient!

I've since discovered that textbooks are usually the quickest and best way to learn new material. That's what they are designed to be, after all. Less Wrong has often recommended the "read textbooks!" method. Make progress by accumulation, not random walks.

But textbooks vary widely in quality. I was forced to read some awful textbooks in college. The ones on American history and sociology were memorably bad, in my case. Other textbooks are exciting, accurate, fair, well-paced, and immediately useful.

What if we could compile a list of the best textbooks on every subject? That would be extremely useful.

Let's do it.

There have been other pages of recommended reading on Less Wrong before (and elsewhere), but this post is unique. Here are the rules:

  1. Post the title of your favorite textbook on a given subject.
  2. You must have read at least two other textbooks on that same subject.
  3. You must briefly name the other books you've read on the subject and explain why you think your chosen textbook is superior to them.

Rules #2 and #3 are to protect against recommending a bad book that only seems impressive because it's the only book you've read on the subject. Once, a popular author on Less Wrong recommended Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy to me, but when I noted that it was more polemical and inaccurate than the other major histories of philosophy, he admitted he hadn't really done much other reading in the field, and only liked the book because it was exciting.

I'll start the list with three of my own recommendations...


Subject: History of Western Philosophy

Recommendation: The Great Conversation, 6th edition, by Norman Melchert

Reason: The most popular history of western philosophy is Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy, which is exciting but also polemical and inaccurate. More accurate but dry and dull is Frederick Copelston's 11-volume A History of Philosophy. Anthony Kenny's recent 4-volume history, collected into one book as A New History of Western Philosophy, is both exciting and accurate, but perhaps too long (1000 pages) and technical for a first read on the history of philosophy. Melchert's textbook, The Great Conversation, is accurate but also the easiest to read, and has the clearest explanations of the important positions and debates, though of course it has its weaknesses (it spends too many pages on ancient Greek mythology but barely mentions Gottlob Frege, the father of analytic philosophy and of the philosophy of language). Melchert's history is also the only one to seriously cover the dominant mode of Anglophone philosophy done today: naturalism (what Melchert calls "physical realism"). Be sure to get the 6th edition, which has major improvements over the 5th edition.


Subject: Cognitive Science

Recommendation: Cognitive Science, by Jose Luis Bermudez

Reason: Jose Luis Bermudez's Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Science of Mind does an excellent job setting the historical and conceptual context for cognitive science, and draws fairly from all the fields involved in this heavily interdisciplinary science. Bermudez does a good job of making himself invisible, and the explanations here are some of the clearest available. In contrast, Paul Thagard's Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science skips the context and jumps right into a systematic comparison (by explanatory merit) of the leading theories of mental representation: logic, rules, concepts, analogies, images, and neural networks. The book is only 270 pages long, and is also more idiosyncratic than Bermudez's; for example, Thagard refers to the dominant paradigm in cognitive science as the "computational-representational understanding of mind," which as far as I can tell is used only by him and people drawing from his book. In truth, the term refers to a set of competing theories, for example the computational theory and the representational theory. While not the best place to start, Thagard's book is a decent follow-up to Bermudez's text. Better, though, is Kolak et. al.'s Cognitive Science: An Introduction to Mind and Brain. It contains more information than Bermudez's book, but I prefer Bermudez's flow, organization and content selection. Really, though, both Bermudez and Kolak offer excellent introductions to the field, and Thagard offers a more systematic and narrow investigation that is worth reading after Bermudez and Kolak.


Subject: Introductory Logic for Philosophy

Recommendation: Meaning and Argument by Ernest Lepore

Reason: For years, the standard textbook on logic was Copi's Introduction to Logic, a comprehensive textbook that has chapters on language, definitions, fallacies, deduction, induction, syllogistic logic, symbolic logic, inference, and probability. It spends too much time on methods that are rarely used today, for example Mill's methods of inductive inference. Amazingly, the chapter on probability does not mention Bayes (as of the 11th edition, anyway). Better is the current standard in classrooms: Patrick Hurley's A Concise Introduction to Logic. It has a table at the front of the book that tells you which sections to read depending on whether you want (1) a traditional logic course, (2) a critical reasoning course, or (3) a course on modern formal logic. The single chapter on induction and probability moves too quickly, but is excellent for its length. Peter Smith's An Introduction to Formal Logic instead focuses tightly on the usual methods used by today's philosophers: propositional logic and predicate logic. My favorite in this less comprehensive mode, however, is Ernest Lepore's Meaning and Argument, because it (a) is highly efficient, and (b) focuses not so much on the manipulation of symbols in a formal system but on the arguably trickier matter of translating English sentences into symbols in a formal system in the first place.


I would love to read recommendations from experienced readers on the following subjects: physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, probability theory, economics, statistics, calculus, decision theory, cognitive biases, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, molecular biochemistry, medicine, epistemology, philosophy of science, meta-ethics, and much more.

Please, post your own recommendations! And, follow the rules.


Recommendations so far (that follow the rules; this list updated 02-25-2017):

If there are no recommendations for the subject you want to learn, you can start by checking the Alibris textbooks category for your subject, and sort by 'Top-selling.' But you'll have to do more research than that. Check which textbooks are asked for in the syllabi of classes on your subject at leading universities. Search Google for recommendations and reviews.

Comments (327)

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 06 September 2017 03:57:43AM *  4 points [-]

I made a post with ideas for what to do if you can't find a textbook in this thread that covers the subject you want to learn.

Comment author: Crab 06 August 2017 11:14:48PM *  2 points [-]

It would be useful for me if some of you guys shared your methodology of choosing textbook / course / whatever for learning X, especially if X has something to do with math, computer science or programming.

My methodology (in no particular order):

  • Go to this thread and look at recommendations
  • Go to libgen, search for the keyword and sort by the publisher or by year
  • Check rating on goodreads and/or on amazon
  • Check top comments by usefulness on goodreads and/or amazon
  • Download the book, look at the Contents section, see how much I like what I see
  • Google best textbook on ${subject name}, ${book title 1} vs ${book title 2}. Pay special attention to results on stackexchange. Do the same google search with site:reddit.com
Comment author: Crab 06 August 2017 11:08:11PM 0 points [-]

Post the title of your favorite textbook on a given subject. You must have read at least two other textbooks on that same subject. You must briefly name the other books you've read on the subject and explain why you think your chosen textbook is superior to them.

Subject: Probability Theory

Recommendation: Feller's An Introduction to Probability Theory is better than Jaynes' Probability Theory: The Logic of Science and MIT OpenCourseware: Introduction to Probability and Statistics

Jaynes' book probably has more insight for someone who already knows probability theory very well. MIT course should be better if you want ot learn some probability theory and statistics very fast skipping proofs and other stuff. Feller's book is better if you want to learn a lot of probability theory, you have a lot of time and Jaynes' book is too difficult for you.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 30 May 2017 08:21:14PM *  0 points [-]

Subject: History of Economics

Recommendation: Economics Evolving, by Agnar Sandmo

Reason: A superbly clear overview of the history of economics, from Adam Smith until the 1970s. Each chapter provides a guide to further reading. I found this book much better than the alternatives in the genre that I consulted, including Lionel Robbins' opinionated A History of Economic Thought and Joseph Schumpeter's chaotic History of Economic Analysis.

As a companion, I recommend Keynes' Essays in Biography, a collection of wonderfully written (and astonishingly well-researched) essays on some of the great English economists, including Malthus, Jevons, Edgeworth and Marshall.

Comment author: PeterDonis 30 March 2017 09:19:36PM *  1 point [-]


Recommendation: Spacetime and Geometry

Author: Sean Carroll

This is an expanded version of Carroll's lecture notes on relativity, which he has used to teach courses and which are available for free online (see the "Lecture Notes" tab on the page linked to above). I find it to be an excellent introduction to the subject, which covers the mathematical tools used, the basics of the theory, and the most common applications, all in a straightforward fashion. I have recommended this text (or its corresponding lecture notes) many times on Physics Forums as a reference for people who want a good introduction to the subject.

Other Textbooks Read:

Spacetime Physics, by Taylor & Wheeler. The text that I first learned Special Relativity from, and still a good introduction, with an emphasis on building physical intuition. However, it does not cover General Relativity. (Taylor apparently has a follow-on text covering GR at least as it applies to black holes, but I have not read it.)

Gravitation, by Misner, Thorne, & Wheeler: The classic text, and still a good comprehensive reference even though it was published in 1973. However, it is very comprehensive and detailed, has a somewhat idiosyncratic style, and can be difficult if you don't already have considerable background in the subject. It also weighs enough to seem like it might undergo gravitational collapse and become a black hole. :-)

General Relativity, by Robert Wald. Another classic, with a more abstract mathematical approach than MTW, not as comprehensive but covering some topics in more detail and from a different viewpoint than MTW. Published in 1984, so it also covers some topics, such as quantum fields in curved spacetime, that were too new to be covered when MTW was published. Not as recent as Carroll's text (published in 1984), and going into topics that are probably too advanced for readers who are being introduced to the topic for the first time.

The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime, by Hawking & Ellis. The definitive text on global geometric methods and causal structure in GR. It covers the classic singularity theorems of Hawking & Penrose in detail. However, it is really a monograph, not a comprehensive GR text, and requires the reader to already have considerable background in the subject.

The Usenet Physics FAQ has a long list of relativity references here:


Comment author: lukeprog 07 March 2017 10:24:42PM 5 points [-]

Lists of textbook award winners like this list might also be useful.

Comment author: justwanttorecommend 07 August 2016 10:32:31AM 2 points [-]

For Biology 101, Life by David Sadava is amazing. I wasn't even particularly interested in the subject and just needed the course credit, but it was a fascinating page turner and made everything so clear.


I don't know if this counts as a textbook, but Python for the Absolute Beginner is so good for beginning programming. Python is a great language to learn programming with. This book is just so perfectly paced. It's the exercises that make it work so well. It increments the difficulty just a smidgeon with each exercise to gradually get you used to more and more concepts.


Comment author: zedzed 08 August 2016 04:07:29AM 1 point [-]

Second the rec on Sadava. I strongly preferred it to Campbell, the other standard intro bio text, which I found insufficiently precise. I'd go to make an Anki card about some concept, only to find that Campbell's discussion lacked enough precision for me to state exactly what was going on. Sadly, I haven't read another biology book (having been quite satisfied with Sadava's), so I can't make a Luke-compliant recommendation.

Comment author: Smaug123 05 April 2016 09:23:36PM 2 points [-]

On introductory non-standard analysis, Goldblatt's "Lectures on the hyperreals" from the Graduate Texts in Mathematics series. Goldblatt introduces the hyperreals using an ultrapower, then explores analysis and some rather complicated applications like Lebesgue measure.

Goldblatt is preferred to Robinson's "Non-standard analysis", which is highly in-depth about the specific logical constructions; Goldblatt doesn't waste too much time on that, but constructs a model, proves some stuff in it, then generalises quite early. Also preferred to Hurd and Loeb's "An introduction to non-standard real analysis", which I somehow just couldn't really get into. Its treatment of measure theory, for instance, is just much more difficult to understand than Goldblatt's.

Comment author: Will_BC 03 March 2016 09:31:53AM 1 point [-]

Regarding the McAfee economics book, the link appears to have changed. I believe this link directs to the appropriate text


Comment author: zedzed 04 March 2016 02:16:19AM 0 points [-]

Book's homepage: http://www.mcafee.cc/Introecon/

There seems to be threeish versions about:

  1. The original (the one your link goes to), which McAfee believes may be preferred by the mathematically sophisticated or engineers. This is the one I'm personally using, currently.

  2. A second version, meant to improve accessibility, which McAfee expects professors considering the text to prefer

  3. Version 2.1, which appears to be a refinement of version 2. Includes solutions to exercises, cosmetic improvements, and "small edits for consistency of notation and for clarity."

(I'm vaguely reminded of Debian-Ubuntu-Mint Linux distros. Yay open source?)

Comment author: lukeprog 03 October 2015 05:52:52AM 1 point [-]

Another attempt to do something like this thread: Viva la Books.

Comment author: marai2 05 October 2015 04:44:21PM 0 points [-]

Thanks so much!

Comment author: Dahlen 28 September 2015 12:59:52AM *  2 points [-]

Does anyone have a recommendation for a comprehensive history textbook, covering ancient as well as modern history, and several geographical regions? Just something to teach me about major events and dates, wars, rulers & dynasties, interactions between civilisations, etc., without neglecting the non-geopolitical aspects of history. College-level, please. (A dumbed-down alternative to what I'm asking would be to start looking for my old high school textbooks, but obviously that wouldn't be very satisfactory.) Comprehensive accounts of single civilisations in a single period could work as well, but I'm looking for a book that is mainly didactic in purpose and with a broad subject matter.

Also: should I supplant whatever I'm studying with Wikipedia, so that I have the option of going in as much depth as I like? Or is it too unreliable even for basic learning purposes?

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 28 September 2015 12:34:30PM *  1 point [-]

Can't recommend a book I've read, but I've had J.M. Roberts' The New Penguin History of the World on my reading list for a while now. It's more big picture than facts.

If you're after rulers, dates and the like, just diving into wikipedia, starting from high-level articles and taking your own notes might not be a terribly bad approach.

Comment author: gjm 29 September 2015 11:39:06AM 0 points [-]

Is the fact that it's been on your reading list for some time but you haven't read it a strike against it? E.g., does it indicate that it's intimidating rather than engaging?

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 30 September 2015 11:10:55AM 0 points [-]

No, it's just indicating that I haven't made any sort of concentrated effort at clearing my reading list or maintaining some sort of FIFO discipline on it. The Complete History of the World in Impeccable Engaging Detail tends to not do very well against a Warren Ellis comic book about shooting aliens wearing human skin suits in the head with flesh-eating bullets when picking random media to consume during idle time.

Comment author: gjm 30 September 2015 11:32:24AM 0 points [-]

Yup, understood. (My own to-be-read shelves have maybe 350 books on them, and I have the same failure mode where mind candy gets consumed faster than meatier fare. If it actually is a failure mode, which maybe it isn't.)

Comment author: Vaniver 28 September 2015 04:04:15PM 1 point [-]

If you're after rulers, dates and the like, just diving into wikipedia, starting from high-level articles and taking your own notes might not be a terribly bad approach.

I actually expect that this is a very good way to approach learning world history.

Comment author: Vaniver 28 September 2015 01:17:28AM 1 point [-]

There's a lot of history. Something that covers both ancient and modern history is going to be something like Sapiens (my summary) or the Big History Project. But Sapiens is about a particular viewpoint of history / the general arc drawn through the datapoints, not the datapoints themselves.

Consider, for example, a request for a book on all of science. The only real thing that could be recommended is a book on the scientific method, or a general history of the most important scientific ideas, but nothing that could be considered "comprehensive." To just grab four history books off my shelf, I have a 300 page one on the history of materials and material science (and how that impacted economics and politics), a 420 page book detailing the evidence for evolution over the last ~500 years in Britain, a 900 page book that tersely describes important cultural works and events in Western civilization over the last 500 years, and another 900 page book that describes four distinct cultural groups in Britain that are the ancestors of the major cultural forces in the modern US.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 28 September 2015 02:13:57AM 1 point [-]

Would you be willing to share the titles and authors of those books?

Comment author: Vaniver 28 September 2015 03:47:36PM 1 point [-]

The Substance of Civilization by Stephen L. Sass

A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clark (Note that many contest the claims on comparisons to China, claiming that the pressures detailed were even stronger there.)

From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun

Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fisher (there is a more recent book on a very similar subject that I have not yet read here, but it has fewer pages and covers more groups, so I imagine it has less details but may be worth reading with / instead of Albion's Seed.)

Comment author: Dahlen 28 September 2015 01:34:55AM *  2 points [-]

Here's, for example, a textbook I was looking into: World History by Duiker & Spielvogel. The table of contents looks pretty much like what I was seeking, though there's less focus on geopolitics and more on the civilisational "big picture" than I would have liked. (Edit: and perhaps if it were thrice the page count it would have been closer to the level of detail I was trying to get.) I was interested in getting a comparison between, for instance, this book and others of the same type.

What I'm trying to remedy is a very poor knowledge of the most basic, boring kind of historical data: who ruled when, what were the major battles and their dates and locations, what political entities and subdivisions existed and when were they founded and ended/conquered, what major reforms were made, what people produced and traded etc. I too have and can find books on very specific historical matters, and take pleasure in reading them, but they would fit better in an understanding of the hard facts and data relevant to those historical circumstances.

Comment author: Lumifer 28 September 2015 03:48:13PM -1 points [-]

most basic, boring kind of historical data: who ruled when, what were the major battles and their dates and locations

Why do you want to know this? You'll forget the great majority of this data in half a year.

Comment author: Dahlen 28 September 2015 10:50:48PM 1 point [-]

I know a lot less about it than you might expect. I'm able to recall various tidbits about people's life and culture in who-knows-what historical era, but the "big picture" is very low-res. I don't want to keep having surprises like, "oh, these peoples existed", "hey, Afrikaans sounds Germanic, what's up with that", "I've been listening to a song about this guy for months, but I don't know wtf he did" etc.

Comment author: Lumifer 28 September 2015 11:47:30PM -1 points [-]

So study the big picture. Who ruled when and in which particular year did a battle take place are not very useful for that.

Comment author: Vaniver 28 September 2015 04:00:50PM *  3 points [-]

The difference between recall and recognition is perhaps important for this. Even if you can't recall things unbidden, recognizing that something fits with your "sense of history" or not is useful. For example, if someone says "remember that time a Muslim army invaded central France?" you might think "oh yeah, what was that battle's name? Wasn't Charlemagne's father involved?" instead of "that sounds like an AU timeline."

(The 'dates and battles' view is better than ignorance, but I still think it's a very oversold perspective relative to scientific / economic / engineering history.)

Comment author: Lumifer 28 September 2015 04:27:14PM -1 points [-]

Even if you can't recall things unbidden, recognizing that something fits with your "sense of history" or not is useful.

Yes, but it's the standard school approach of "throw a lot of everything at the wall, something will stick". It doesn't look efficient or effective. I can see some sense in it during the middle/high school years because you're basically training kids to deal the overwhelming amounts of information (e.g. by forcing them to figure out what's important and what's not) -- however adult self-education should be able to do a lot better.

Comment author: [deleted] 19 September 2015 05:25:58AM *  -1 points [-]

I was immensely impressed by the original ideas I hadn't seen elsewhere in the following books at the library. After my skim reading I'm gonna go back to borrow them and recommend them to ya'll. The marketing books are exceptions - the titles just look compelling, didn't flick through them. Hope I get time to get round to finding them again.

why it sells by 'danesh', critical marketing,

quantiative methods in marketing,

data driven business models,

aesthetics in marketing,

controversy in marketing theory.

Too lazy to get the links for the rest. They are: psychology of marketing, values in organizations emerging perspectives


against utility based economics, first principles in economics, rationality in economics, why economics is not yet a science, the economics anti-textbook and the philosophy of the australian liberal party.

Wlll these be a waste of time? I doubt they're all the best in their niches or that those niches are important.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 28 July 2015 12:26:35PM *  1 point [-]

Subject: Written style and composition

Recommendation: Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects, by Martha Kolln and Loretta Gray

Reason: After reading Pinker's The Sense of Style, I wanted a meatier syllabus in the mechanics of writing well. My follow-up reading was Rhetorical Grammar and Joseph Williams' Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace.

I would actually recommend reading all three. Rhetorical Grammar is the most textbook-y of the recommendations, and The Sense of Style is more like a weighty, popular book on the subject, with Ten Lessons being more of an extended exposition/workbook on (you will be unsurprised to learn) ten broad principles of clear writing. All three books have similar messages and convergent positions on the subject matter. Rhetorical Grammar wins out for being the book I imagine one would learn most from.

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 26 July 2015 11:38:52PM -1 points [-]

On philosophy, I think it's important to realize that most university philosophy classes don't assign textbooks in the traditional sense. They assign anthologies. So rather than read Russell's History of Western Philosophy or The Great Conversation (both of which I've read), I'd recommend something like The Norton Introduction to Philosophy.

Comment author: pscheyer 25 June 2015 05:29:01AM *  6 points [-]

Subject: Warfare, History Of and Major Topics In

Recommendation: Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, by Peter Paret, Gordon Craig, and Felix Gilbert.

I recommend this book specifically over 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu or 'On War' by Clausewitz, which seem to come up as the 'war' books that people have read prior to (poorly) using war as a metaphor. The Art of War is unfortunately vague- most of the recommendations could be used for any course of action, which is sort of a common problem with translations from chinese due to the heavy context requirements of the language. Clausewitz is actually one of the articles in Makers of Modern Strategy- the critical portions of On War are in the book, in historical context.

The important part of Makers of Modern Strategy is that each piece (the book is a collection of the most important essays in the development of military thought through the ages, starting with the medieval period and through nuclear warfare. I have other recommendations for the post-nuclear age of cyberwarfare and insurgency and I'll post them separately.) is placed in context and paraphrased for critical details. Military strategy is an ongoing composition, but the inexperienced read a single strategic author and think they have everything figured out.

This book is great because it walks you through each major strategic innovation, one at a time, showing how each is a response to the last and how each previous generation being sure they've got everything figured out is how their successors defeat them. My overall takeaway was one of humility- even the last section on nuclear war has been supplanted by cyber and insurgent warfare, and it is a sure bet that someone will always find a way to deploy force to defeat an opponent. This book walks you through how to defeat naive and inexperienced combatants in a strategic sense. Tactics, as always, are contingent on circumstances.

Comment author: Epictetus 10 February 2015 11:23:20AM *  12 points [-]

I suppose I can think up a few tomes of eldritch lore that I have found useful (college math specifically):


Recommendation: Differential and Integral Calculus

Author: Richard Courant


Stewart, Calculus: Early Transcendentals: This is a fairly standard textbook for freshman calculus. Mediocre overall.

Morris Kline, Calculus: An Intuitive and Physical Approach: Great book. As advertised, focuses on building intuition. Provides a lot of examples that aren't the usual contrived "applications". This would work well as a companion piece to the recommended text.

Courant, Differential and Integral Calculus (two volumes): One of the few math textbooks that manages to properly explain and motivate things and be rigorous at the same time. You'll find loads of actual applications. There are plenty of side topics for the curious as well as appendices that expand on certain theoretical points. It's quite rigorous, so a companion text might be useful for some readers. There's an updated version edited by Fritz John (Introduction to Calculus and Analysis), but I am unfamiliar with it.

Linear Algebra:

Recommended Text: Linear Algebra

Author: Georgi Shilov


David Lay, Linear Algebra and its Applications: Used this in my undergraduate class. Okay introduction that covers the usual topics.

Sheldon Axler, Linear Algebra Done Right: Ambitious title. The book develops linear algebra in a clean, elegant, and determinant-free way (avoiding determinants is the "done right" bit, though they are introduced in the last chapter). It does prove to be a drawback, as determinants are a useful tool if not abused. This book is also a bit abstract and is intended for students who have already studied linear algebra.

Georgi Shilov, Linear Algebra: No-nonsense Russian textbook. Explanations are clear and everything is done with full rigor. This is the book I used when I wanted to understand linear algebra and it delivered.

Horn and Johnson, Matrix Analysis: I'm putting this in for completion purposes. It's a truly stellar book that will teach you almost everything you wanted to know about matrices. The only reason I don't have this as the recommendation is that it's rather advanced and ill-suited for someone new to the subject.

Numerical Methods

Recommendation: Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing

Author: Press, Teukolsky, Vetterling, Flannery


Bulirsch and Stoer, Introduction to Numerical Analysis: German rigor. Thorough and thoroughly terse, this is one of those good textbooks that only a sadist would recommend to a beginner.

Kendall Atkinson, An Introduction to Numerical Analysis: Rigorous treatment of numerical analysis. It covers the main topics and is far more accessible than the text by Bulirsch and Stoer.

Press, Teukolsky, Vetterling, Flannery, Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing: Covers just about every numerical method outside of PDE solvers (though this is touched on). Provides source code implementing just about all the methods covered and includes plenty of tips and guidelines for choosing the appropriate method and implementing it. THE book for people with a practical bent. I would recommend using the text by Atkinson or Bulirsch and Stoer to brush up on the theory, however.

Richard Hamming, Numerical Methods for Scientists and Engineers: How can I fail to mention a book written by a master of the craft? This book is probably the best at communicating the "feel" of numerical analysis. Hamming begins with an essay on the principles of numerical analysis and the presentations in the rest of the book go beyond the formulas. I docked points for its age and more limited scope.

Ordinary Differential Equations

Recommended: Ordinary Differential Equations

Author: Vladimir Arnold


Coddington, An Introduction to Ordinary Differential Equations: Solid intro from the author of one of the texts in the field. Definite theoretical bent that doesn't really touch on applications.

Tenenbaum and Pollard, Ordinary Differential Equations: This book manages to be both elementary and comprehensive. Extremely well-written and divides the material into a series of manageable "Lessons". Covers lots and lots of techniques that you might not find elsewhere and gives plenty of applications.

Vladimir Arnold, Ordinary Differential Equations: Great text with a strong geometric bent. The language of flows and phase spaces is introduced early on, which becomes relevant as the book ends with a treatment of differential equations on manifolds. Explanations are clear and Arnold avoids a lot of the pedantry that would otherwise preclude this kind of treatment (although it requires more out of the reader). It's probably the best book I've seen for intuition on the subject and that's why I recommend it. Use Tenenbaum and Pollard as a companion if you want to see more solution methods.

Abstract Algebra:

Note: I am mainly familiar with graduate texts, so be warned that these books are not beginner-friendly.

Recommended: Basic Algebra

Author: Nathan Jacobson


Bourbaki, Algebra: The French Bourbaki tradition in all its glory. Shamelessly general and unmotivated, this is not for the faint of heart. The drawback is its age, as there is no treatment of category theory.

Lang, Algebra: Lang was once a member of the aforementioned Bourbaki. In usual Serge Lang style, this is a tough, rigorous book that has no qualms with doing things in full generality. The language of category theory is introduced early and heavily utilized. Great for the budding algebraist.

Hungerford, Algebra: Less comprehensive, but more accessible than Lang's book. It's a good choice for someone who wants to learn the subject without having to grapple with Lang.

Jacobson, Basic Algebra (2 volumes): Note that the "Basic" in the title means "so easy, a first-year grad student can understand it". Mathematicians are a strange folk, but I digress. It's comprehensive, well-organized, and explains things clearly. I'd recommend it as being easier than Bourbaki and Lang yet more comprehensive and a better reference than Hungerford.

Elementary Real Analysis:

"Elementary" here means that it doesn't emphasize Lebesgue integration or functional analysis

Recommended: Principles of Mathematical Analysis

Author: Walter Rudin


Rudin, Principles of Mathematical Analysis: Infamously terse. Rudin likes to do things in the greatest generality and the proofs tend to be slick (i.e. rely on clever arguments that don't really clarify the thing being proved). It's thorough, it's rigorous, and the exercises tend to be difficult. You won't find any straightforward definition-pushing here. If you had a rigorous calculus course (like Courant's book), you should be fine.

Kenneth Ross, Elementary Analysis: The Theory of Calculus: I'd put this book as a gap-filler. It doesn't go into topology and is rather straightforward. If you learned the "cookbook" approach to calculus, you'll probably benefit from this book. If your calculus class was rigorous, I'd skip it.

Serge Lang, Undergraduate Analysis: It's a Serge Lang book. Contrary to the title, I don't think I'd recommend it for undergraduates.

G.H. Hardy, A Course of Pure Mathematics: Classic text. Hardy was a first-rate mathematician and it shows. The downside is that the book is over 100 years old and there are a few relevant topics that came out in the intervening years.

Comment author: pinyaka 28 July 2015 08:01:42PM 0 points [-]

I purchased Shilov's Linear Algebra and put it on my bookshelf. When I actually needed to use it to refresh myself on how to get eigenvalues and eigenvectors I found all the references to preceding sections and choppy lemma->proof style writing to be very difficult to parse. This might be great if you actually work your way through the book, but I didn't find it useful as a refresher text.

Instead, I found Gilbert Strang's Introduction to Linear Algebra to be more useful. It's not as thorough as Shilov's text, but seems to cover topics fairly thoroughly and each section seems to be relatively self contained so that if there's a section that covers what you want to refresh your self on, it'll be relatively self contained.

Comment author: Boogie 19 May 2015 11:15:54PM 0 points [-]

How about Piskunov? I've tried James Stewart, Thomas Finn and Guidorizzi before but now I'm studying through Piskunov and I think it is a good one. But since I didn't finished already I'm more inclined ti hear what is good and bad with this book.

Comment author: lukeprog 15 April 2015 12:19:58AM 1 point [-]

Updated, thanks!

Comment author: SanguineEmpiricist 15 April 2015 12:50:25AM *  1 point [-]

How can baby rudin possibly be recommended in almost all use cases there is something better -_-, less wrong is supposed to give good advice not status-signaling type.

Rudin = Bourbaki and I thought we were anti-bourbaki here

Alternatives: Abbot & Bressoud combo(has mathematica code), Pugh, or Strichartz's book(the one patrick says is good)

Comment author: Epictetus 15 April 2015 02:47:20AM 1 point [-]

How can baby rudin possibly be recommended in almost all use cases there is something better -_-, less wrong is supposed to give good advice not status-signaling type.

I recommend Rudin because he dives right into the topology and metric space approach. It's a lot easier to pick it up when it's used to develop the familiar theory of calculus. It also helps put a lot of point-set topology into perspective. I appreciated it once I started studying functional analysis and all those texts basically assumed the reader was familiar with the approach. The problems are great to work through and the terseness is a sign of things to come for a reader who wants to go on to advanced texts.

There is a caveat. Rudin is not a good text for a student's first foray into the rigors of real analysis. IF one has already seen a rigorous development of calculus, Rudin bridges the gap with a minimum of fluff. If not, the reader is better served elsewhere.

I'm no expert in undergraduate math texts so maybe there's something else that works better. I read Rudin on my own in undergrad and with my background at the time I got a lot out of it, so I'm recommending it.

Rudin = Bourbaki and I thought we were anti-bourbaki here

Bourbaki has its place. There comes a time when you need a good reference for the general theory and that's where the Bourbaki style shines. It makes for bad pedagogy and is cruel to foist upon beginners, but on the other hand good pedagogical books tend to limit their scope and seldom make good references.

Comment author: SanguineEmpiricist 15 April 2015 02:57:10AM 1 point [-]

I agree with this post much more. My concern was more ability to learn the subject & less wrong aesthetic in this direction which I think is correct.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 15 April 2015 02:13:42AM 0 points [-]

Echoing Hairyfigment here, what is wrong with Bourbaki?

Comment author: SanguineEmpiricist 15 April 2015 02:39:31AM *  1 point [-]

not meant for learning except for stuff like lang, conversations like this deserve a thread. sleep apnea related sleep deprivation is hitting me so i will update this later with more info

if less wrong is to have any aesthetic imo we should be able to keep mathematical orientations like this, i'm interested in Eliezer's opinions on this

Comment author: hairyfigment 15 April 2015 01:15:39AM 1 point [-]

What? Did I miss an anti-Bourbaki fatwa? The one mention of their name in the post does not come close to a general stance on Bourbaki, and in any case there must be someone on the site who likes them. In fact, here's one.

Comment author: SanguineEmpiricist 15 April 2015 01:27:22AM *  0 points [-]

Just use patrick's recs for analysis and use yours for pretty much the other stuff(strang for lin algebra?). No serious person would recommend baby rudin give me a break.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 02 January 2015 06:28:40AM 1 point [-]

Just so you know, the title of Spivak's book has been misspelled as 'Caclulus.'

Comment author: lukeprog 15 April 2015 12:07:56AM 0 points [-]

Fixed, thanks.

Comment author: Natha 05 November 2014 07:16:32AM *  2 points [-]

Subject: Animal Behavior (Ethology)

Recommendation: Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach (6th Edition, 1997) Author: John Alcock

This is an excellent, well organized, engagingly written textbook. It may be a tiny bit denser than the comparison texts I give below, but I found it to be far and away the most rewarding of the three (I've just read the three). The natural examples he gives to illustrate the many behaviors are perfectly curated for the book. Also, he uses Tinbergen's four questions to frame these discussions, which ensured a rich description of each behavior. The author gives a cogent defense of sociobiology in the last chapter, which was icing on the cake.

Other #1: Principles of Animal Behavior (1st Edition, 2003) Author: Lee Alan Dugatkin

This was one I had to read for a class; it's a bit shorter than Alcock, and maybe it has been improved upon since this inaugural edition, but I found the fluff-to-substance ratio to be concerningly high. It was much more basic than Alcock, perhaps better suited for a high school audience. The chapters were written like works of fiction and the author maintained this style throughout, which I found distracting (though others may like it). Bottom line: If you have had a decent college level class in biology, you would definitely be better off going straight to an older edition of Alcock.

Other #2: Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach (9th Edition, 2009) Author: John Alcock

I read through this edition too (I think there's a 10th out now) while writing my undergraduate thesis to make sure I hadn't missed any important updates in the field (I hadn't). The new edition had ~100 fewer pages; it was long on pictures (quite a few more than its predecessor) and short on content. It's been several years now and I can't remember exactly the ways in which it differed, but “watered down” comes to mind. I would highly recommend picking up an older edition unless this one is specifically required.

Comment author: lukeprog 23 November 2014 02:47:22AM 0 points [-]

Added, thanks!

Comment author: AuroraDragon 07 April 2014 08:44:07PM 1 point [-]

Does anyone know some good textbooks for animal anatomy and ecology? I haven't found any good ones so far...

Comment author: SatvikBeri 13 August 2013 07:55:27PM *  3 points [-]

Subject: Commutative Algebra

Recommendation: Introduction to Commutative Algebra by Atiyah & MacDonald

Contenders: the introductory chapters of Commutative Algebra With a View Towards Algebraic Geometry by Eisenbud and the commutative algebra chapters of Algebra by Lang.

Atiyah & MacDonald is a short book that covers the essentials of Commutative Algebra, while most books cover significantly more material. So this review should be seen as comparing Atiyah & MacDonald to the corresponding chapters of other Commutative Algebra books. There are a few reasons why Introduction to Commutative Algebra is better than most other books:

  • Better abstractions. The abstractions Atiyah & MacDonald use (especially towards rings and ideals) are simply more broadly applicable and make several proofs simpler. Conversely other books tend to use an older set of abstractions which make the same proofs significantly more complex.

  • Exercise-driven approach. Atiyah & MacDonald's exercises are beautifully structured so that you build up important parts of the theory yourself. There's a very satisfying feeling of castle-buildng: each exercise draws upon your understanding of the previous problem, and they come together to form very nice results. Many books can give you the feeling of understanding Commutative Algebra, but this one helps you discover it, which is much more enjoyable and provides a much deeper understanding.

  • The right kind of conciseness. Atiyah & MacDonald's book is short because they cover a limited range of topics, but they do cover all the essential tools that are widely used. In contrast most books tend to bloat by trying to cover too many things, or tend to leave out critical parts of the theory.

Comment author: lukeprog 30 October 2014 07:54:55PM 1 point [-]

Thanks! Added.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 August 2013 08:16:16PM *  1 point [-]

Atiyah-MacDonald isn't comparable to Eisenbud, as the latter covers a vastly wider swath of commutative algebra and algebraic geometry.

Comment author: SatvikBeri 13 August 2013 08:49:19PM 1 point [-]

Good point. I've edited the comment to explicitly compare to the introductory chapters of Eisenbud.

Comment author: SatvikBeri 13 August 2013 07:41:42PM 4 points [-]

Subject: Introductory Real (Mathematical) Analysis:

Recommendation: Real Mathematical Analysis by Charles Pugh

The three introductory Analysis books I've read cover-to-cover are Lang's, Pugh's, and Rudin's.

What makes Pugh's book stand out is simply that he focuses on building up repeatedly useful machinery and concepts-a broad set of theorems that are clearly motivated and widely applicable to a lot of problems. Pugh's book is also chock-full of examples, which make understanding the material much faster. And finally, Pugh's book has a very large number of exercises of varying difficulty-Pugh has more than 500 exercises total.

In contrast, Rudin's book tends to focus on "magic." Rudin uses the shortest possible proofs for a given theorem. The problem is that the shortest proofs aren't necessarily the most instructive-while Baby Rudin is a beautiful work of Math qua Math, it's not a particularly good book to learn from.

Finally, Lang's book is frankly subpar. Lang leaves out critical details of some proofs (dismissing one 6 page proof as trivial!), is poorly motivated by examples, and has a number of mistakes.

If you want to really understand Mathematical Analysis and get to the point where you can use the concepts to create proofs and solve problems, Pugh is the best book on the topic. If you want a concise summary of undergraduate analysis to review, pick Rudin's book.

Comment author: lukeprog 30 October 2014 07:54:48PM 1 point [-]

Thanks! Added.

Comment author: richard_reitz 19 March 2015 10:31:18PM *  2 points [-]

"Baby Rudin" refers to "Principles of Mathematical Analysis", not "Real and Complex Analysis" (as was currently listed up top.) (Source)

Comment author: lukeprog 19 March 2015 11:08:36PM 1 point [-]

Fixed, thanks!

Comment author: Jotto999 20 June 2013 03:20:41PM *  0 points [-]

Okay, I'm going to take your word for it! So I just got The Great Conversation, Sixth Edition in the mail and it looks very good. But if I want to know more about Gottlob Frege or the philosophy of language or analysis, and I'm a layperson who needs something accessible, where should I go for that? Should I just get Meaning and Argument?

Comment author: orthonormal 24 April 2013 01:05:09AM 7 points [-]

Calculus: Spivak's Calculus over Thomas' Calculus and Stewart's Calculus. This is a bit of an unfair fight, because Spivak is an introduction to proof, rigor, and mathematical reasoning disguised as a calculus textbook; but unlike the other two, reading it is actually exciting and meaningful.

Analysis in R^n (not to be confused with Real Analysis and Measure Theory): Strichartz's The Way of Analysis over Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis, Kolmogorov and Fomin's Introduction to Real Analysis (yes, they used the wrong title; they wrote it decades ago). Rudin is a lot of fun if you already know analysis, but Strichartz is a much more intuitive way to learn it in the first place. And after more than a decade, I still have trouble reading Kolmogorov and Fomin.

Real Analysis and Measure Theory (not to be confused with Analysis in R^n): Stein and Shakarchi's Measure Theory, Integration, and Hilbert Spaces over Royden's Real Analysis and Rudin's Real and Complex Analysis. Again, I prefer the one that engages with heuristics and intuitions rather than just proofs.

Partial Differential Equations: Strauss' Partial Differential Equations over Evans' Partial Differential Equations and Hormander's Analysis of Partial Differential Operators. Do not read the Hormander book until you've had a full course in differential equations, and want to suffer; the proofs are of the form "Apply Theorem 3.5.1 to Equations (2.4.17) and (5.2.16)". Evans is better, but has a zealot's disdain of useful tools like the Fourier transform for reasons of intellectual purity, and eschews examples. By contrast, Strauss is all about learning tools, examining examples, and connecting to real-world intuitions.

Comment author: Princess_Stargirl 04 November 2014 01:22:35AM *  3 points [-]

In my opinion the "good stuff" in evans is in chapters 5-12. Evans is a pretty good into book on the modern "theory" of Linear and Non-linear PDEs. Strauss by comparison is a much less demanding book that is concerned with concrete examples and applications to physics. (less demanding is a good thing if the material covered is similar, but in this case its not).

Possibly Strass is overall the better book. And I really dislike Evan's chapter 1-4 (he does not use Fourier theory when it helps, his discussion of the underlying physics of some equations is very lacking, etc). But directly comparing Strauss and Evans seems odd to me. The books have very different goals and target audiences.

If the comparison is evans 1-4 vs strauss then I too would recommend Strauss. And this restricted comparison makes a ton of sense imo.

Comment author: orthonormal 09 November 2014 09:06:49PM 1 point [-]

I'll agree with that. Evans would be better for a second course on PDEs than a first course.

Comment author: lukeprog 30 October 2014 07:54:41PM 1 point [-]

Thanks! Added.

Comment author: komponisto 25 April 2013 02:21:16AM 0 points [-]

And after more than a decade, I still have trouble reading Kolmogorov and Fomin.

Huh. I've always liked Kolmogorov and Fomin. (And shouldn't it be under "Real Analysis and Measure Theory"?)

Have you looked at Jost's Postmodern Analysis, by chance? (I found the title irresistibly curiosity-provoking, and the book itself rather good, at least if memory serves.)

Comment author: [deleted] 24 April 2013 01:15:30AM 0 points [-]

I'm confused. Did you mean the entire 4-volume set of Hormander -- in which case, it's not remotely comparable to Evans or Strauss -- or the first volume that you linked -- in which case, it's not even really about PDEs?

In terms of introductory PDE books, I'd favor Folland over all three.

Comment author: TimS 24 April 2013 01:15:05AM 1 point [-]

Spivak was a lot of fun - and very readable. Amusing footnotes, too. (I still remember the rant against Newtonian notation for derivatives).

Comment author: [deleted] 24 April 2013 01:17:28AM 0 points [-]

If you like Spivak, they've reprinted his five volume epic on differential geometry. It's pretty glorious.

Comment author: JohnWittle 03 April 2013 10:32:37PM *  2 points [-]

For someone who currently has a teacher's-password understanding of physics and would like a more intuitive understanding, without desiring to put in the work to obtain a technical understanding (i.e. learning the math), I would recommend Brian Green's Fabric of the Cosmos, which I feel does for physics (and the history of physics) what An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes Law does for Bayesian probability. It goes through history, starting with Newton and ending with modern day, explaining how the various Big Names came up with their ideas, demonstrates how those ideas can explain reality incrementally better than the previous ideas by using easy-to-envision thought experiments, and also contains a skippable explanation of the mathematic principles behind the new ideas for those who want that, although the book is valuable even without these sections. In this way, it's like a popular science book with an optional textbook component.

It has a couple weaknesses, like taking M-theory seriously, but in general I would say that it accomplishes its goal of imparting an intuitive understanding better than other popular physics books with similar goals, like Hawking's A Brief History of Time, The Universe in a Nutshell, or Green's The Elegant Universe.

Comment deleted 04 April 2013 01:20:10PM [-]
Comment author: JohnWittle 04 April 2013 06:45:05PM 1 point [-]

As opposed to not elevating any particular hypothesis out of the hypothesis-space before there is enough evidence to discern it as a possibility. Privileging the Hypothesis and all that.

Comment author: whowhowho 04 April 2013 08:56:42PM 0 points [-]

The majority of physicists working on those kinds of questions are using some form of M-theory of string theory. The next nearest rival is Loop Quantum Gravity. Other theories are minority views. M-theory is favoured because milage can be got out of it in terms of research. The metaphor or a random grab into hypothesis-space isn't appropriate.

Comment author: JohnWittle 06 April 2013 07:40:35AM *  1 point [-]

Without knowing anything in particular about the difference between Quantum Loop Gravity or why M-theory is useful, I concede the point, although I'm a bit annoyed that I feel obligated to leave my comment there to collect negative karma while the parent, whoever they were, felt no similar obligation and removed any context my comment might be placed in.

Comment author: whowhowho 06 April 2013 01:26:00PM -2 points [-]

What? I really didn't understand that.

Comment author: JohnWittle 06 April 2013 05:34:02PM 1 point [-]

To a non string theorist, string theory seems like a theory which makes few testable predictions, like phlogiston. That's the feel I got from it from whenever I read all the relevant Wikipedia articles, anyway. If it is not like phlogiston, but actually useful for designing experiments, then obviously I concede.

My annoyance came from the fact that my 06:45:05 comment got a few down votes, while the parent got deleted for reasons unknown. I can't remember who the parent was, or what it said, and it bothers me that they deleted their post, while I feel an obligation to not delete my own downvote-gathering comment for reasons like honesty and the general sense that I really meant what the comment said at the time, which makes it useful for archival purposes.

Comment author: whowhowho 06 April 2013 06:17:02PM -1 points [-]

To a non string theorist, string theory seems like a theory which makes few testable predictions, like phlogiston

it made testable predictions and was falsified for them. There are a lot of retrodictive and purely theoretical constraints on a candidate ToE, they have to be pretty good just to be in the running.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 10 May 2013 03:03:01AM 0 points [-]

it made testable predictions and was falsified for them

Do you have specific examples in mind?

Comment author: whowhowho 12 May 2013 02:42:09PM 0 points [-]

Phlogiston. Falsified because combusted materials gain weight.

Comment author: transh 04 March 2013 10:30:43PM *  2 points [-]

Question: what are the recommended books on the following topics?


*Innovation management

*Inspiration (how to get inspiration for yourself and for others)

*Social Science research methods


Comment author: Plubbingworth 29 September 2012 08:10:57PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 31 August 2012 05:27:26AM 2 points [-]

There is a thread on calculus textbook recommendations here. And here are some useful textbook recommendations on mathematical logic, math foundations and computability theory, courtesy of Vladimir_M.

Comment author: lukeprog 31 August 2012 01:03:17AM *  2 points [-]

On the basics of (normative) decision theory, I recommend Peterson's An Introduction to Decision Theory over Resnik's Choices: An Introduction to Decision Theory and Luce & Raiffa's Games and Decisions. Peterson's book has clearer explanations and is more up to date than these others. It's main failing is to ignore the work on decision theory in computer science and in Bayesian statistics, but the other two standard decision theory textbooks (Resnik; Luce & Raiffa) skip those subjects, too.

In statistical decision theory you've got Chernoff & Moses and Berger, but they're kinda out of date now and perhaps too difficult for the beginner.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 04 August 2012 07:56:40PM *  2 points [-]

This guy reviewed 5 freely available calculus textbooks and chose Elementary Calculus: An Approach Using Infinitesimals by Jerome H. Keisler as his favorite. Note that the book uses a nonstandard approach.

Here are some physics and quantum mechanics recommendations that may not meet the "read three books" requirement.

Another strategy for finding good textbooks is to surf around Amazon and see what seems to have good reviews.

Comment author: Bundle_Gerbe 20 July 2012 04:13:00PM *  5 points [-]

For abstract algebra I recommend Dummit and Foote's Abstract Algebra over Lang's Algebra, Hungerford's Algebra, and Herstein's Topics in Algebra. Dummit and Foote is clearly written and covers a great deal of material while being accessible to someone studying the subject for the first time. It does a good job focusing on the most important topics for modern math, giving a pretty broad overview without going too deep on any one topic. It has many good exercises at varying difficulties.

Lang is not a bad book but is not introductory. It covers a huge amount but is hard to read and has difficult exercises. Someone new to algebra will learn faster and with less frustration from a less advanced book. Hungerford is awful; it is less clear, less modern, harder, and covers less material than Dummit and Foote. Herstein is ok but too old fashioned and narrow, and has too much focus on finite group theory. The part about Galois theory is good though, as are the exercises.

Comment author: magfrump 26 October 2012 04:52:32AM *  0 points [-]

I'll second this; I used Herstein a lot but after the classes it was assigned for I have never referenced anything but Dummit and Foote.

Comment author: iDante 20 July 2012 05:39:28AM *  3 points [-]

Special relativity: Spacetime Physics by Taylor and Wheeler is excellent. It reminds me of the general style of the Feynman lectures, but is in depth and has good problem sets. Like the Feynman lectures it is based on developing intuition, which is important for relativity because, like QM, every single human is born with the wrong intuition. It takes time and practice to develop. Also like Feynman, the writing style isn't akin to a barren wasteland like most textbooks. It is written to teach, not as an accompaniment to a university course. Finally, the problem sets are the best I've ever run into in any physics book.

The Feynman lectures has a few chapters about special relativity but they're short and not nearly as good as the rest of the lectures.

The first time I learned this material was through the book Modern Physics by Harris. Dodge this book at all costs. The writing is as clear as a muddied lake, or maybe a blizzard sky of deepest winter. The problems are numerous and boring. Rote physics indeed.

The MIT intro to special relativity is decent, but very dry like all the other MIT intro books. Not recommended for self study, but great as a class companion.

These are all that I've read, but there are many many more out there. This site is a bit dated but contains lots of good books. It recommended spacetime physics which turned out to be amazing. One book I see overlooked often is Einstein's own explanation of the subject. Be careful what printing you buy, or download it off of Gutenberg. It is somewhat outdated and very short, but if you only have a few hours to spare it will give you a good outline of both theories. Since it's free and short I'd recommend giving it a go before buying a textbook. I personally find SR fascinating, but others might not and this will help you decide.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 May 2012 03:45:48AM *  0 points [-]

I'd like some recommendations for precalculus textbooks. I'll be starting university in the fall and I'll taking calculus I honors, as well as other math courses. I'll likely be doing a math major. But I'm not confident in my knowledge/ability to do rigorous math, so am spending the summer reviewing past material. I'd like to make sure that I master the basics before moving on, so to speak. I already know a bit of calculus, and I know from that studying that two of my weaknesses are with logarithms and trigonometry,

Comment author: Vaniver 06 May 2012 04:59:04AM 2 points [-]

Have you taken a look at Khan Academy? They've got extensive logarithm and trig sections, as well as an unlimited supply of exercise problems.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 May 2012 06:13:20PM 0 points [-]

I've done a bit of work with them, and it wasn't too bad. In lieu of finding a better textbook, I'll stick with them. My worry is that they won't cover everything in enough rigor like a great textbook might. Maybe that fear is ill-founded?

Comment author: reydv 02 April 2012 02:53:37PM 1 point [-]

For Introduction to Computational Fluid Dynamics, the book I would recommend is "Numerical Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow" by S. V. Patankar.

Most common Finite Volume codes used for incompressible flows are based on a method (SIMPLE) originally created/invented by the author, Patankar and this book has a from-the-horse's-mouth appeal and doesn't disappoint. The book is somewhat limited because everything builds up to explain the SIMPLE algorithm and the focus is narrow. However it does this very well. Another limitation is that it is short on worked out examples thought it does have end of the chapter problems. The other issue is that the last edition is from early 80s and so there is very little coverage of anything that has happened in this field since then, which is quite a lot. Still, the book is very good for what it does and quite short too.

Other books that address some of the shortcomings of Patankar's book are:

1A) "An introduction to computational fluid dynamics: The finite volume method" by HK Versteeg and W Malalasekera. This contains a lot of nice worked out examples that help explain the concepts well. I would happily recommend this book as a replacement for Patankar's book - it was a tossup. They keep adding more stuff to each edition though and you should get this book too.

2) "Computational Methods for Fluid Dynamics" by Joel Ferziger and Milovan Peric - this is an excellent book too. It is more of a general CFD book and covers much more of the subject that the first 2 books, though not with as much detail on any one subject. There are little or no worked out examples in this book.

3) One of the standard books for CFD is the book "Computational Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer" by Richard Pletcher , John C. Tannehill , Dale Anderson. It is a classic.

4) Numerical Methods for Internal and External Flows by C Hirsch is quite comprehensive too.

Would love to hear from others on what books they use, both from academics and people in the industry.

Comment author: lukeprog 29 July 2012 06:00:26PM 0 points [-]

After reading your post, I think the most appropriate recommendation for this thread would be Versteeg & Malalasekera, not Patankar, given the limitations of the former. What do you think, at this point?

Comment author: rhodium 02 April 2012 01:51:07AM 2 points [-]

For organic chemistry, all the textbooks have more or less the name "Organic Chemistry", The best, if most rigorous, is by Clayden, Greeves, Stuart Warren (main author) and Wothers. Much less rigorous are the books by McMurray, or Jan Smith or many others. I find the Wm. Brown book well written but rather similar to all the rest. The market requires that the book prepare one for the MCATs which means all chemistry discovered after about 1980 is omitted. Perhaps that is why Clayden is good, it is English. Modesty prevents me from naming the one I wrote, but I would suggest that if you want to organize your thoughts, writing a textbook is not a bad way to do it.

Comment author: ghodith 21 May 2014 09:56:12AM 1 point [-]

Organic Chemistry V2 Quick question, how would you compare volume two over the original? If you have read it that is.

Comment author: Manfred 02 April 2012 02:37:47AM *  0 points [-]

I also found CGWW really good. It was better written than the other (two) chemistry books I've read - it just happens to be the size of two textbooks.

Comment author: sweeticetea 01 April 2012 05:51:52AM 2 points [-]

For transport phenomena (momentum, mass, heat) I recommend Bird, Stewart, Lightfoot over Welty, Wicks, Wilson, Rohrer or Deen. WWWR is good if you need a quick reference and Deen is great for mathematical treatments, but nothing beats BSL if you are trying to actually learn transport phenomena.

For Physical Chemistry, McQuarrie and Simon is better than Atkins.

For basic Calculus, James Stewart has the best treatment.

Comment author: lukeprog 29 July 2012 05:55:12PM 1 point [-]

I need book titles, please.

Comment author: strange 27 March 2012 04:29:16AM 2 points [-]

Subject: Criminal Justice Recommendation: Criminal Justice: Mainstream and Crosscurrents/John R. Fuller

Reason: The other intro texts on the subject are somewhat dry and tend to be just recitations of the Uniform Crime Reports and other government documents, with little interpretation. There are books by several authors (Neubauer and Albanese are two), but Fuller's book takes a critical view of the system without demonizing the system or those who work in it. Fuller's writing is also better, making reading a pleasure, which is an unusual trait for textbook. Nearly all CJ intro books delve into criminological theory, which students (including me) hate, but Fuller makes the theories clear and easier to understand. He also introduces a bit more history. Personally, I like to know where criminal justice practices come from and why. So much of it is based on common law, custom, and precedent!

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 26 March 2012 01:58:04AM 2 points [-]

This article showed up on the front page of HackerNews and on the front page of metafilter today.

Comment author: madhadron 25 March 2012 06:01:37PM 7 points [-]

I'd love to give recommendations on probability, but I learned it from a person, not a book, and I have yet to find a book that really fits the subject as I know it. The one I usually recommend is Grimmett and Stirzaker. It develops the algebra of probability well without depending on too much measure theory, has decent exercises, and provides a usable introduction to most of the techniques of random processes. I found Feller's exposition of basic probability less clear, though his book's a useful reference for the huge amount of material on specific distribution in it. Feller also naturally covers much less ground (probability and stochastic processes has developed a lot since he wrote that book). Kolmogorov's little book (mentioned elsewhere in the threads) is typical Kolmogorov: deliciously elegant if you know probability theory and like symbols. I would love to be able to recommend Radically Elementary Probability Theory by Nelson, and it's certainly worth a read as a supplement to Grimmett and Stirzaker, but I would hesitate to hand it to someone trying to understand the subject for the first time.

For statistics, I favor Kiefer's 'Introduction to Statistical Inference'. It begins with the decision theoretic foundations and builds from there, skipping or bypassing huge numbers of standard topics, and using a notation I can only describe as Baroque, but it is the best source of real understanding and intuiton I know of. Hogg and Craig's 'Introduction to Mathematical Statistics' is a pretty nice text as well, but less precisely pitched than Kiefer's (and it covers a lot more of the standard topics). Casella and Berger's 'Statistical Inference' and Lehmann's two books 'Point Estimation' and 'Hypothesis Testing' are the more typical graduate statistics texts, but are hard going compared to my other recommendations.

I'm going to disagree about Griffiths for electromagnetism, but admit that I don't have a really good alternative to offer. I found the second volume of Feynman clearer. Jackson is utterly opaque, a book length exercise in Green's functions methods in linear partial differential equations, and one without mathematical rigor. Schwinger's 'Classical Electrodynamics' is actually a remarkably useful text. I would probably recommend Purcell's 'Electricity and Magnetism', but it's out of print.

For thermodynamics, Hatsopoulos and Keenan's 'Principles of General Thermodynamics' is the best text I know. It's certainly better than any of the recommendations I received in my physics department. There are lots of beautiful texts -- Fermi's, Sommerfeld's, the opening couple chapters of volume 5 of Landau and Lifshitz, etc. -- but they all assume a developed conception in the student's mind of the nature of a thermodynamic system, while Hatsopoulos and Keenan spell it out in utter clarity. My only caveat about this book is that their exercises are given in Imperial units.

For statistical mechanics, I still think that Landau and Lifshitz volume 5 is the best text I know of. Sethna's 'Entropy, Order Parameters, and Complexity' is really neat, and touches on a lot more modern techniques, but has less real meat, less direct physics, than L&L. After that I think Reichl is probably my favorite, and he does set things up in a nice way, but not as nicely as Sethna.

Despite six years of wearing the big white suit in a tuberculosis laboratory, I am unaware of a microbiology textbook that should be read instead of burned.

Comment author: pragmatist 23 September 2012 06:08:22AM 3 points [-]

After that I think Reichl is probably my favorite, and he does set things up in a nice way, but not as nicely as Sethna.

A small point, but an important one I think: Reichl is a woman.

Comment author: lukeprog 29 July 2012 05:43:55PM 1 point [-]

Thanks for all your recommendations! Purcell's Electricity and Magnetism is not out of print.

Comment author: Mimi 19 March 2012 02:04:24AM *  2 points [-]



Enderton, "A mathematical introduction to logic" then Shoenfield's classic "Mathematical logic"

Cori and Lascar, "Mathematical logic: a course with exercise" for exercises for self-study

Manin, "A course in mathematical logic" for additional enrichment


Van Dalen's "Logic and Structure" and then Fitting, "First Order Logic and Automated theorem proving" to fill in the gaps


From Frege to Goedel: a sourcebook in mathematical logic

additional works by Frege and Cantor in dover reprints or in the original.

"Goedel's Proof" by Nagel

"Goedel, Escher and Bach" by Hofstadter

--modal and fuzzy

Goldblatt, "Logics of Time and Computation" (Introduction to modal logic through temporal logic)

Bergmann, "An introduction to many valued and fuzzy logic"


Apostol, "Calculus" 2 volumes (Still a classic)

Demidovich, "Problems in mathematical analysis" (Classic drill book)


Viro, "Elementary Topology Problem Textbook" (Based on a classic course)

Modern Abstract Algebra:

Jacobson, "Basic Algebra" volumes 1 and 2

History of Western Philosophy:

Basic primary sources in western philosophy (Not a textbook!)

Comment author: ArthurRainbow 06 September 2016 01:10:46PM 0 points [-]

I think you are supposed to tell which is the one you recommend. I would like to read a textbook on mathematical logic, and would like to know which one to choose. And you just give a list without any advice

Comment author: gjm 08 September 2016 05:20:07PM -1 points [-]

Yup. Preferably with some explanation of why the recommended book is being recommended over some of its rivals. But the comment you're replying to is from >4 years ago, and the person who wrote it hasn't written anything else here for >4 years, so I suspect there's little point complaining.

Comment author: caustic 16 March 2012 09:00:01PM *  1 point [-]

These two books are great for those who want to study Computer Sciense in a breadth-first manner. While each topic is not discussed in great details, the number of covered topics is mind-boggling. From trivial ones such as Sorting and Searching to more esoteric matter like Pricing Algorithms for Financial Derivatives, etc.

Comment author: Mimi 19 March 2012 02:33:07AM 0 points [-]

"The (New) Turing Omnibus" is better for this purpose.

Comment author: Arepo 14 March 2012 12:51:08PM *  7 points [-]

I don’t know how relevant improv is to Less Wrongers, but I find it helpful for everyday social interactions, so:

Primary recommendation: Salinsky & Frances-White’s The Improv Handbook.

Reason It’s one of the only improv books which actually suggests physical strategies for you to try out that might improve your ability rather than referring to concepts that the author has a pet phrase for that they use as a substitute for explaining what it means. Not all of the suggetions worked for me, and they’re based on primarily on anecdotal evidence (plus the selection effect of the authors having run a reasonably successful improv group in the hostile London climate and only then written a book), but I know of no other book that has as constructive an approach. It also has a number of interview sections and similar, which are eminently skippable – only half the book is really worth reading for performance advice, but fortunately the table of contents make it pretty clear which half that is.

I’m recommending it over Keith Johnstone’s ‘Impro’ and ‘Impro for Storytellers’, whose ideas it incorporates, breaks down and structures far better, over Chris Johnston’s ‘The Improvisation Game’, which is an awful mishmash of interviews and turgid academic writing, over Charna Halpern’s ‘Truth in Comedy’, which has quite a different set of ideas but spends more time boasting about how good they are than explaining them, over Jimmy Carrane and Liz Allen’s Improvising Better, which has a few nice tips and is mercifully short, but doesn’t have anything close to a coherent set of principles, ‘The Improvisation Book’, which I haven’t read in depth but seems to be little more than a list of games, and Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson’s ‘Whose Line is It Anyway’, which unsurprisingly is very heavily focused on emulating the restrictive format of the show of the same name.

Secondary recommendation: Mick Napier’s Improvise, which comes from a different school of thought to TIH’s – the same one as ‘Truth in Comedy’.

Reason It's the only one of any of those I’ve mentioned (TIH included) to explicitly suggest scientific reasoning in developing and assessing improv methods. After the author’s initial proclamation to that effect, he doesn’t really communicate how he’s tried to do so, and his advice seems to assume you’re already quite comfortable with being in an unspecified scene with no preset rules (one of the hardest things for an improviser to find himself in, IME), so I wouldn’t recommend it as a beginner’s guide.

Comment author: Karmakaiser 16 March 2012 07:51:43PM 1 point [-]

This will be a study project to me after the semester so thanks for the recommendations.

Comment author: magfrump 08 March 2012 06:17:38PM 5 points [-]

For Elliptic Curves:

I recommend Koblitz' "Elliptic Curves and Modular Forms"

It stays more grounded and focused than Silverman's "Arithmetic of Elliptic Curves," and provides much more detail and background, as well as more exercises, than Cassel's "Lectures on Elliptic Curves."

Is this thread still being maintained? There was a recommendation for it to be a wiki page which seems like a great idea; I'd be willing to put the initial page together in a couple weeks if it hasn't been done but I don't think I can commit to maintaining it.

Comment author: Karmakaiser 15 February 2012 10:17:08PM *  -1 points [-]

I do not have the expertise to review all the books, but this is a reddit/r/compsci produced list canonical introductory textbooks covering the major branches of computer science.


Comment author: Chris_Cooper 07 February 2012 03:56:12PM 4 points [-]

I'd like to request Best Textbook suggestions for: climate science and/or climate policy.


Comment author: Peacewise 02 November 2011 02:09:51AM *  5 points [-]

World War II.

"A World at Arms" by Gerhard L. Weinberg is my preferred single book textbook (as a reference) on World War II.

It is a suitably weighty volume on WW2, and does well in looking at the war from a global perspective, it's extensive bibliography and notes are outstanding. In comparison with Churchill's "The Second World War" - in it's single volume edition, Weinburg's writing isn't as readable but does tend to be less personal. Churchill on the other hand is quite personal, when reading his tome, it's almost as if he is sitting there having a chat with you. Churchill is quite frank in revealing his thought processes for making decisions, in fact LWer's might particularly enjoy reading Churchills' account for that reason. Weinberg's A World at Arms is better at looking at multiple view points of the war, whereas Churchill tends to present everything from his point of view. "The Politics of War" by David Day is an Australian centric view point of WW2, it stands as an excellent reference from that perspective, but isn't able to provide an overall picture equal to either Weinburg or Churchill.

Comment author: kjmiller 08 October 2011 03:44:01PM *  7 points [-]

Introduction to Neuroscience

Recommendation: Neuroscience:Exploring the Brain by Bear, Connors, Paradiso

Reasons: BC&P is simply much better written, more clear, and intelligible than it's competitors Neuroscience by Dale Purves and Fundamentals of Neural Science by Eric Kandel. Purves covers almost the same ground, but is just not written well, often just listing facts without really attempting to synthesize them and build understanding of theory. Bear is better than Purves in every regard. Kandel is the Bible of the discipline, at 1400 pages it goes into way more depth than either of the others, and way more depth than you need or will be able to understand if you're just starting out. It is quite well-written, but it should be treated more like an encyclopedia than a textbook.

I also can't help recommending Theoretical Neuroscience by Peter Dayan and Larry Abbot, a fantastic introduction to computational neuroscience, Bayesian Brain, a review of the state of the art of baysian modeling of neural systems, and Neuroeconomics by Paul Glimcher, a survey of the state of the art in that field, which is perhaps the most relevant of all of this to LW-type interests. The second two are the only books of their kind, the first has competitors in Computational Explorations in Cognitive Neuroscience by Randall O'Reilly and Fundamentals of Computational Neuroscience by Thomas Trappenberg, but I've not read either in enough depth to make a definitive recommendation.

Comment author: lukeprog 07 July 2011 01:19:20AM 5 points [-]
Comment author: DBreneman 03 June 2011 11:13:31PM 5 points [-]

It's not exactly a textbook series, but I've found the videos at khan academy http://www.khanacademy.org/#browse to be really helpful with getting the basics of a lot of things. The most advanced math it covers is calculus, which will get you a long way, and the language of the videos is always simple and straightforward.

... Guess I need to recommend it against other video series, to keep to the rules here.

I do recommend watching the stanford lecture videos http://www.youtube.com/user/StanfordUniversity?blend=1&ob=5 , but I recommend Khan over them for simplicity's sake on getting the basics. (Then watch stanford for a more complex understanding)

And though it just covers abiogenesis and evolution, cdk007 http://www.youtube.com/user/cdk007?blend=1&ob=5#p/a does have quite a bit of overlap with khan's biology section. But it's a lot more narrow than what khan covers, and pretty much is just there to counter creationists. While that's a pretty good goal, and the videos are good, it's not as good for learning in my opinion.

Comment author: badger 26 May 2011 02:29:46AM *  8 points [-]

Subject: Introductory Decision Making/Heuristics and Biases

Recommendation: Judgment in Managerial Decision Making by Max Bazerman and Don Moore.

This book wins points by being comprehensive, including numerous exercises to demonstrate biases to the reader, and really getting to the point. Insights pop out at every page without lots of fluffy prose. The recommendations are also more practical than other books.


  • Rational Choice in an Uncertain World by Reid Hastie and Robyn Dawes. A good, well-rounded alternative. Its primary weakness is the lack of exercises.
  • Making Better Decisions: Decision Theory in Practice by Itzhak Gilboa. Filled with exercises, this book would be a great supplement to a course on this subject, but it wouldn't stand alone on self-study. This book specializes in probability and quantitative models, so it's not as practical, but if you've read Bazerman and Moore, read this next if you want to see more of the economic/decision theory approach.
  • How to Think Straight about Psychology by Keith Stanovich. Slanted towards what science is and how to perform and evaluate experiments, this is still a decent introduction.
  • Smart Choices by John Hammond, Ralph Keeney, and Howard Raiffa. Not recommended. Few studies cited and few technical insights, if my memory is correct. The book doesn't go far beyond "clarify your problem, your objectives, and the possible alternatives".
Comment author: lukeprog 26 May 2011 10:25:14PM 4 points [-]

Excellent. I also like Baron's Thinking and Deciding.

Comment author: Zetetic 15 May 2011 12:36:28AM 9 points [-]

Subject: Problem Solving

Recommendation: Street-Fighting Mathematics The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving

Reason: So, it has come to my attention that there is a freely available .pdf for the textbook for the MIT course Street Fighting Mathematics. It can be found here. I have only been reading it for a short while, but I would classify this text as something along the lines of 'x-rationality for mathematics'. Considerations such as minimizing the number of steps to solution minimizes the chance for error are taken into account, which makes it very awesome.

in any event, I feel that this should be added to the list, maybe under problem solving? I'm not totally clear about that, it seems to be in a class of its own.

Comment author: lukeprog 17 May 2011 06:40:26PM 2 points [-]

If you come up with relevant comparison volumes, let me know!

Comment author: [deleted] 17 May 2011 07:04:31PM 5 points [-]

Seemingly relevant comparison volumes:

Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do

Back-of-the-Envelope Physics

How Many Licks? Or, How to Estimate Damn Near Anything

Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin

Also, the books below are listed as related resources in another class on approximation in science & engineering by the author of the Street-Fighting textbook on OCW, so they may be relevant for comparison, too, or at least interesting.

Engel, Arthur. Problem-solving Strategies. New York, NY: Springer, 1999. ISBN: 9780387982199.

Schmid-Nielsen, Knut. Scaling: Why is Animal Size So Important? New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1984. ISBN: 9780521319874.

Vogel, Steven. Life in Moving Fluids. 2nd rev. ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780691026169.

Vogel, Steven. Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780691112978.

Pólya, George. Induction and Analogy in Mathematics. Vol. 1, Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning. 1954. Reprint, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990. ISBN: 9780691025094.

Comment author: lukeprog 17 May 2011 08:40:34PM 0 points [-]

Great list, thanks!

Comment author: Zetetic 17 May 2011 06:57:39PM *  1 point [-]

Well, they aren't necessarily comparison volumes, but the author suggested that the book should be used as a compliment to the following:

How to Solve It, Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning, Vol. II, The Art and Craft of Problem Solving

He implies that his book is more rough and ready for applications, but those books are more geared towards solving clearly stated problems in, say, a competition setting.

I would add Putnam and Beyond to the list, classifying it as advanced competition style problem solving (some of the stuff in that book is pretty tough).

Comment author: lukeprog 17 May 2011 07:02:56PM 0 points [-]

Have you read any of those? If so, what did you think of them in comparison to 'Street-Fighting Mathematics'?

Comment author: Zetetic 17 May 2011 07:37:46PM *  1 point [-]

I have only read/skimmed through/worked a few problems out of Putnam and Beyond. I can attest to its advanced level (compared to other problem solving books, I have looked at a few before and found that they were geared more towards high school level subject matter; you won't find any actually advanced [read; grad level] topics in it) and systematic presentation, but that is about it. Its problems are mainly chosen from actual math competitions, and it seems to present a useful bag of tricks via well thought out examples and explanations. I am currently working through it and have a ways to go.

I've heard How to Solve It mentioned a number of times, but I've never really looked into it. I can't really say anything about the other books beyond what the author said about them.

Comment author: sriku 10 May 2011 02:01:53AM *  7 points [-]

Subject: Basic mathematical physics

Recommendation: Bamberg and Sternberg's A Course in Mathematics for Students of Physics. (two volumes)

Reason: It is difficult to compare this book with other text books since it is extremely accessible, going all the way from 2D linear algebra to exterior calculus/differential geometry, covering electrodynamics, topology and thermodynamics. There is potential for insights into electrodynamics even compared to Feynman's lectures (which I've slurped) or Griffith's. For ex: treating circuit theory and Maxwell's equations as the same mathematical thing. The treatment of exterior calculus is more accessible than the only other treatment I've read which is in Misner Thorne Wheeler's Gravitation.

Comment author: lukeprog 17 May 2011 06:39:35PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for this! I can't add it to the list because the comparison examples don't quite fit the bill. Though I understand this may be because there simply are no comparisons. If you think of more/better comparisons, please add them so I can reconsider adding it to the list above.

Comment author: sriku 10 May 2011 02:09:48AM 0 points [-]

I must add that I kept both volumes with me under continuous reborrowal from the univ library for an entire year during my undergrad! Sad and glad that nobody else wanted it :)

Comment author: thomblake 09 May 2011 10:16:27PM *  0 points [-]

I should mention that on "machine ethics", "Moral Machines" is not exactly a textbook but it is currently the best source for a view of the entire field. I do not have other books to compare it to because at the moment they do not exist.

CORRECTION: The Andersons' Machine Ethics has been released, so I'll review that and update this.

Comment author: jsalvatier 28 April 2011 10:02:26PM 1 point [-]

I'd like to request a book on Mathematical Economics that teaches you the basics of building and solving utility based microeconomic models (without strategic behavior).

Comment author: Barry_Cotter 28 April 2011 11:11:52PM 2 points [-]

Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics by Alpha C. Chiang is a sufficient basis for entering a graduate programme in Economics. Mathematics for Economists by Carl P. Simon and Lawrence Blume is a higher level book. For miroeconomics as such you probably want to start with Intermediate Microeconomics by Hal Varian, and if you need more you can go to Microeconomic Analysis by same. David D. Friedman's Price Theory is absolutely fine and on his website, free as well.

Comment author: jsalvatier 29 April 2011 12:22:34AM 0 points [-]

Oh good, I've already read Varian, and Chiang was what I was starting to look at.

Comment author: badger 28 April 2011 10:27:15PM 1 point [-]

Could you clarify what you are looking for? When I think of mathematical micro models without strategic behavior, my mind goes to general equilibrium models with a continuum of agents. Your use of 'building' suggests you are thinking of something else though.

Comment author: jsalvatier 28 April 2011 10:49:49PM 0 points [-]

That actually sounds like exactly what I want. Can you clarify why 'building' indicates otherwise? I meant 'building' as in 'constructing'.

Comment author: badger 29 April 2011 01:08:25PM 2 points [-]

Since most economists think the Arrow-Debreu model is essentially synonymous with general equilibrium, it just seems odd to talk about building models. If you are thinking of 'model' as a description of a particular economy rather than as a general framework, there are books on computable general equilibrium, but I can't give any particular recommendations.

If you are looking for standard GE theory, look at Existence and Optimality of General Equilibrium by Aliprantis, Burkinshaw, and Brown. It is currently very cheap used on Amazon. There is also a companion book with all the end-of-chapter problems and solutions.

I think I was projecting my skepticism of GE models onto you, assuming that couldn't be what you are really asking for. I'm not sure what theorems about complete-market economies tell us about the real world. There are GE models with incomplete markets, but they involve differential topology beyond my grasp.

Comment author: jsalvatier 29 April 2011 03:21:35PM 0 points [-]

OK, I guess I had in mind something significantly simpler. I am trying to build a model for gaining and sharing understanding. Therefore, I require analytic solutions or another way of characterizing the behavior of the model.

Here's the problem I am trying to model. I want to model a multiple period monetary economy with money treated as a good and couple of other goods and monetary trade only. I am trying to model a minimal interesting model of this sort, so I don't fundamentally care how many agents or other goods there are. I guess the model will probably have two representative agents, and two goods. My model should be 'general equilibrium' in the sense that it is modeling the whole economy, but obviously doesn't need to have remotely complete markets. This seems like it should be possible to do without getting into anything especially fancy, but perhaps I misunderstand.

Do you have any advice?

Comment author: badger 30 April 2011 02:23:16AM 2 points [-]

Alright, hopefully I can give useful recommendations by this point...

Varian's Microeconomic Analysis is probably the best to learn the basics of consumer theory and GE analysis. Since these models don't have any frictions, there isn't any role for money. If you are interested in monetary models, try looking through Kiyotaki and Wright's On Money as a Medium of Exchange or Shapley and Shubik's Trade Using One Commodity as a Means of Payment. These are relatively accessible micro-founded models that should give you an idea of where to head, even if they don't make complete sense now. I don't think models like these have percolated into any textbooks yet.

Comment author: jsalvatier 30 April 2011 10:12:26PM 0 points [-]

OK, thanks! Those are all helpful suggestions.

Comment author: Fhyve 31 March 2011 07:27:24PM *  2 points [-]

Recommendation requests: Intro to calculus. I know about derivatives and I can use them and I sort of understand integrals but my knowledge is very fragmented. For instance, I don't know what half of the notation is supposed to actually represent. Also, I want strategies for solving problems rather than being given a bunch of (apparently) unrelated tools and told to just figure it out.... yea, I didn't have a good math teacher

Set theory and other discrete mathematics.


Something or other on the scientific method (how to design experiments)

Biology. General, human, micro, intro or advanced... Just trying to make the list more comprehensive

Chemistry. See above.

Physics. There are already some here but I want more topics (thermodynamics is the first that comes to mind).

In recommendations, I would suggest another criteria be added related to learning type. Some books are being praised for their concreteness and others for their topical comprehensiveness and others for their pedagogical comprehensiveness (addresses most common misconceptions etc.) and other sometimes mutually exclusive traits. Just a way of systematizing this and making it easier for people to get the type of book that they are looking for.

Edit: Another topic: writing. I have read elements of style but I haven't read anything else on the subject. I would like to see how it compares to other (newer?) books.

Comment author: Mimi 19 March 2012 02:12:34AM 1 point [-]

Re: how to design experiments:

Look into statistics. Most experiments have a statistical or hidden statistical basis.

See my suggestions above for calculus.

Comment author: Natha 05 November 2014 07:28:06AM *  1 point [-]

I've got a recommendation for experimental design/general inference:

Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference, by Shadish, Cook, and Campbell (2001)

Admittedly, this is the only textbook I've ever used that was expressly for experimental design, but I really do think it is superb. Does anyone else have comparison texts for this kind of thing? The validity typology alone is heroic; statistical conclusion validity, internal validity, construct validity, and external validity are each covered in great detail, as are common threats to each of these types of validity.

Comment author: alexflint 27 March 2011 10:42:58PM 2 points [-]

Subject: Automated Theorem Proving

Recommendation: Harrison, Handbook of Practical Logic and Automated Reasoning

Reason: Afraid I'm going to break the rules here, I haven't read any other books on the subject but as there's nothing posted here on ATPs I thought this might be useful to someone. The book is an excellent introductory text for someone who has a CS background but not in logic, and who wants to learn about theorem provers for from a practical perspective.

Comment author: lukeprog 10 March 2011 02:28:34AM 3 points [-]

Subject: Meta-ethics

Recommendation: Miller, An Introduction to Contemporary MetaEthics

Reason: Jacobs' The Dimensions of Moral Theory is shorter and easier, for beginners, but it doesn't explain contemporary debates hardly at all. Miller's books is more comprehensive, precise, and contemporary, and even includes some original arguments (the section on Railton is particularly good). I'd like to see an updated third edition, but the 2nd edition from 2003 is still the best thing out there for an overview of meta-ethics. Smith's Ethics and the A Priori is pretty good, but of course it's the opinion of just one philosopher's views, and not good for an overview.

Comment author: somervta 08 April 2013 10:16:34AM 2 points [-]

The new edition (second edition - Luke must have got it wrong, the 2003 edition is the first) has arrived.

Comment author: Swimmer963 10 March 2011 12:02:09AM 1 point [-]

Can anyone think of a good textbook on research in nursing? The one I have is abysmal and I literally cannot read it, thus I have a C in the class. Something in English might help. (I'm taking the class in French and although I'm almost equally fluent in both, I do find it harder work to read in French.)

Comment author: [deleted] 21 February 2011 12:48:03AM 1 point [-]

Any recommendations for a textbook on cryptography?

Comment author: dlthomas 08 November 2011 08:56:20PM 3 points [-]

The math, or application thereof?

For the latter, Applied Cryptography, by Bruce Schneier is the standard response, and surprisingly readable. I've read other books in the field, but nothing I can think of that's quite as much a "textbook", so this recommendation may or may not officially count.

And of course, a caveat applies to any book on cryptography: don't read it and start coding your own algorithms - anyone can invent a cryptosystem he can't break himself. If you're planning on doing development, the only safe way to handle this stuff is to use well reviewed, well maintained libraries. A textbook will give you a sense of what's available and how things might fit together.

Comment author: fr00t 15 February 2011 11:38:22PM *  2 points [-]

I would like to request a recommendation for a text that provides a comprehensive introduction to Lisp, preferably one with high readability.

Comment author: Barry_Cotter 21 February 2011 08:48:52AM 1 point [-]

Structure and Implementation of Computer Programs

How to design Programs

The Little Schemer

HTDP teaches Scheme, SICP teaches computer science concepts using Scheme.

Comment author: diegocaleiro 18 February 2011 10:11:26PM 0 points [-]

I would like a general introduction to Programming.

Computational Neuroscience would also be great..... though the field is kind of new....

Comment author: kjmiller 08 October 2011 03:24:35PM 0 points [-]

Theoretical Neuroscience by Dayan and Abbot is a fantastic introduction to comp neuro, from single-neuron models like Hodgkin-Huxley through integrate-and-fire and connectionist (including Hopfield) nets up to things like perceptrons, reinforcement learning models. Requires some comfort with Calculus.
Computational Exploration in Cog Neuro by Randall O'Reilly purports to cover the similar material on a slightly more basic level, including lots of programming exercises. I've only skimmed it, but it looks pretty good. Kind of old, though, supposedly Randy's working on a new edition that should be out soon.

Comment author: lukeprog 07 February 2011 02:01:12AM 1 point [-]

Updated again. Thanks, people! Keep 'em coming!

Comment author: BrandonReinhart 07 February 2011 01:43:33AM 2 points [-]

Request for textbook suggestions on the topic of Information Theory.

I bought Thomas & Cover "Elements of Information Theory" and am looking for other recommendations.

Comment author: fiddlemath 07 February 2011 01:47:12AM 5 points [-]

MacKay's Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms may not be exactly what you're looking for. But I've heard it highly recommended by people with pretty good taste, and what I've read of it is fantastic. Also, the pdf's free on the author's website.

Comment author: john-lawrence-aspden 26 May 2011 09:46:15PM 1 point [-]

I highly recommend this book, but then it's currently my introduction to both Information Theory and Bayesian Statistics, and I haven't read any others to compare it to. I find it difficult to imagine a better one though.

Clear, logical, rigorous, readable, and lots of well chosen excellent exercises that illuminate the text.

Comment author: etymologik 31 January 2011 07:38:09AM 3 points [-]

Recommended for LINGUISTICS: "Contemporary Linguistics", by William O'Grady, John Archibald, Mark Aronoff, & Janie Rees-Miller. Truly comprehensive, addressing ALL the areas of interesting work in linguistics -- phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, historical linguistics, comparative linguistics & language universals, sign languages, language acquisition and development, second language acquisition, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, sociolinguistics & discourse analysis, written vs spoken language, animal communication, & computational/corpus linguistics. Each chapter is sharp & targetted; you will really know what you want to read next after studying this text.

NOT recommended: "Linguistics: An Introduction to Linguistic Theory", edited by Victoria A. Fromkin & authored by Bruce Hayes, Susan Curtiss, Anna Szabolcsi, Tim Stowell, Edward Stabler, Dominique Sportiche, Hilda Koopman, Patricia Keating, Pamela Munro, Nina Hyams, & Donca Steriade. This text provides a solid guide to generative phonology, generative syntax, and formal semantics -- but only in their mainstream (aka Chomskian) formulations, and with no reference to actual language use (which, for theoretical reasons, is anathema to the Chomskian crowd). Interestingly, at least 8 of the authors I recognize as faculty from UCLA, which makes the text a bit ingrown for my taste.

NOT recommended: "Syntax: A Generative Introduction", by Andrew Carnie. First problem: This book covers syntax and only syntax, and does so solely from a generative perspective. Second problem: Although Carnie is a reknowned expert in Irish Gaelic syntax and doubtless knows his stuff, he can't write a clear expository textbook to save his soul. This is the most confusing book on linguistics that I've ever read.

Comment author: etymologik 31 January 2011 07:49:48AM 1 point [-]

I would also like to recommend two superb encyclopedia-style works on linguistics:

(1) "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language", by David Crystal

(2) "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language," by David Crystal

Both are characterized by lot of short articles, sidebars, pictures, cartoons, and examples of texts to the point at hand. I read them both cover to cover, and have refered to them again and again when beginning to explore a new topic in the field.

Comment author: jsteinhardt 29 January 2011 04:31:28PM 5 points [-]

For topology, I prefer Topology by Munkres to either Topology by Amstrong or Algebraic Topology by Massey (the latter already assumes knowledge of basic topology, but the second half of Munkres covers some algebraic topology in addition to introducing point-set topology in the first half).

Both Armstrong and Massey try to make the subject more "intuitive" by leaving out formal details. I personally just found this confusing. Munkres is very careful about doing everything rigorously at the beginning, but this lets him cover much more material more quickly later, because he can safely talk about something without wondering whether the reader will correctly guess an implication, because the reader (in theory) understands the background material completely and will be able to tell what is going on.

Munkres' treatment is also far more comprehensive.

Munkres also has a lot of really good exercises, although I didn't get far enough into the other two books to really evaluate how good their exercises are.

One caveat: in topology it is easy to push definitions around without understanding what's going on. It helps to be able to draw pictures of e.g. Haussdorf condition to be able to figure out what's going on.

Comment author: BrandonReinhart 29 January 2011 07:04:37AM 2 points [-]

Thank you for this post. It is profoundly useful. I noted it when it first appeared and recently had the need for a textbook on a subject. Came over here and found a great one.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 January 2011 05:06:45PM 10 points [-]

Everyone should pass this post along to their favorite professors.

Professors will have read numerous textbooks on several subjects, and can often say which books work best for their students.

Comment author: squigglier 24 January 2011 05:33:59AM 1 point [-]

I haven't had much success with textbooks. I have found them to be mostly boring and riddled with errors. I interpret boredom to mean that I'm not learning anything.

Here's a possible explanation for the boringness. Are you familiar with the experience of not being able to understand how you didn't get something, right after you've got it? The same presumably applies in the minds of professors.

It's hard for them to imagine not understanding the ideas. One can't know what the reader knows and doesn't know and what his misconceptions are. Teaching generations of students helps, but not much, and it won't help at all with tacit knowledge communicated face-to-face, but not via text.

Incidentally, that's probably why textbooks are so full of mistakes: not only do they contain arcane symbols which cause typos, but, being boring, nobody reads them anyway and the errors remain uncorrected.

The solution I think is to make two texts: one main text, which can be edited online to fix errors, and accompanying notes written by readers, with links to better material wherever possible.

Comment author: lukeprog 26 January 2011 05:40:49AM 3 points [-]

If textbooks don't work for you very often, what does work for you?

Comment author: fbs42 23 January 2011 02:43:15PM 0 points [-]

What a wondrous idea! And, the contributions to date are outstanding. Thank you!

Comment author: lukeprog 20 January 2011 09:59:09PM 3 points [-]

In the wake of publishing Scientific Self-Help: The State of Our Knowledge, I realized there is another subject on which I have read at least three textbooks: self-help!

Subject: Self-Help

Recommendation: Psychology Applied to Modern Life by Weiten, Dunn, and Hammer

Reason: Tucker-Ladd's Psychological Self-Help is a 2,000 page behemoth of references from a passionate, life-long researcher in self-help. It was a work-in-progress for 20 years, and never mass-published. It's an excellent research resource, though it's now out-of-date. John Santrock's Human Adjustment is a genuine university textbook on self-help, but it is not as mature, well-organized, or well-written as Weiten, Dunn, and Hammer's Psychology Applied to Modern Life.

Comment author: lukeprog 19 January 2011 08:26:31PM *  1 point [-]

I would like to request a book recommendation on probability theory.

Following the rules if possible.

Comment author: Vlad 29 April 2011 12:18:52PM 1 point [-]

The best introductory book I've read is Chance in Biology: Using Probability to Explore Nature by Mark Denny and Steven Gaines. While most introductory books have mainly examples from games of chance, this book uses examples from physics, chemistry and biology. It's very accessible and it takes you very fast from the basic rules of probability theory to useful examples.

I would also recommend Jaynes' lectures. They're more informal than the book (and also free :D). These I think are the best for quickly understanding the "subjectivist" approach to probability theory.

Comment author: [deleted] 27 January 2011 07:30:47PM *  6 points [-]

Feller comes in two volumes, and goes from extremely introductory to measure theory in the second volume. It's a classic and Feller is famous for his writing style, and so this is probably the best book. I remember finding it confusing once upon a time, but that was probably because I was too young and not because of the book.

Ross is elementary, and isn't a measure-theoretic approach, and has lots of applications (e.g. to queuing theory and operations). It's handy as a "gimme the facts" kind of book -- if you want to look up common distributions and formulae you'll find them in Ross faster than anywhere else -- but it doesn't have all the mathematical foundations you might want.

Koralov and Sinai is a measure-theory based probability course. The second half of the book has stochastic processes, martingales, etc. If you don't know any probability at all (let's say... haven't seen the Bernoulli distribution derived) or if you haven't seen measure theory, it's probably not intuitive enough to be your first textbook. I had no complaints with the presentation; it was all straightforward enough.

Basically, I'd split the difference between elementary and advanced by using Feller; he includes EVERYTHING so you can safely skip what you know and read what you don't.

Comment author: lukeprog 27 January 2011 10:05:52PM 0 points [-]

Awesome, thanks!

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 27 January 2011 09:21:42PM 1 point [-]

Feller is very good, though I haven't even finished vol1. I also like Tijms for real beginners - easy and fun, good examples. http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Probability-Chance-Rules-Everyday/dp/0521701724/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296163232&sr=8-1

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 21 January 2011 02:29:07PM *  1 point [-]

I was just about to ask the same question, specifically for a measure theoretic treatment of probability theory. I've only read/still am reading Measure Theory and Probability Theory by Athreya and Lahiri for the second of a two course sequence and am not too impressed. For one, there are many typos that decrease the readability unless you're already familiar with measure theory and functional analysis (I was not). I haven't read any other texts of this nature, so I can't make any comparisons.

Comment author: bgaesop 19 January 2011 08:31:22AM 2 points [-]

I would like to request a book on Game Theory. I went to my school's library and grabbed every book I could find, and so I have Introduction to Game Theory by Peter Morris, Game Theory 2nd Edition by Guillermo Owen, Game Theory and Strategy by Philip Straffin, Game Theory and Politics by Steven Brams, Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications edited by Aumann and Hart, Game Theory and Economic Modeling by David Kreps, and Gaming the Vote by William Poundstone because I also like voting theory.

My brief glances make Game Theory and Strategy look like a fun, low level read that I'll probably start with to whet my appetite for the subject. Introduction to Game Theory looks like a good, well written intro textbook, but it was written in 1940 and was only updated once in 1994, and I would hope something new would have happened in that time. Game Theory 2nd Edition looks like a good, moderately modern (1982) and incredibly boring book. The others look worse.

I'll read at least portions of all of them and at least two or three completely unless somebody suggests anything. If no one does before I read them I'll post an update.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 18 January 2011 06:03:08PM *  0 points [-]

(This title already mentioned, but not as a top-level comment) For general Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence a Modern Approach by Russell and Norvig. It's very broad but still deep enough to get a feel for a lot of areas, with some advantages of scale due to certain exmples and consistent notation being used across many areas. It's also a much easier read than Bishop's ML book already mentioned for Machine Learning stuff, though Bishop's book is much more specialized.

To get an idea of the difference in scope AIMA covers planning algorithms, NLP, decision theory and even FAI (though pretty much by mention only).

Comment author: lukeprog 18 January 2011 07:06:27PM 0 points [-]

But, have you ready any other books on AI, to which you can compare it?

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 18 January 2011 07:26:48PM 0 points [-]

Not this general kind of AI coverage, but I've read a number of books in data mining and some specialized aspects of AI such as Bayes nets and NLP. It compares very favorably in terms of presentation quality; I am not aware of another book this broad which was potentially worth reading based on my "information olfactory sense" (I'd like to hear of one if anyone has a suggestion) .

Comment author: lukeprog 19 January 2011 10:46:42PM *  1 point [-]

Russell and Norvig do seem to have the only general A.I. textbook out there that I can find...

Comment author: realitygrill 28 March 2012 07:57:52AM 1 point [-]

There's artint.info, which I found helpful during ai-class

Comment author: lukeprog 28 March 2012 04:11:03PM 0 points [-]

Yeah, I've found a couple others since I made the above comment in January 2011, too.

Comment author: lukeprog 18 January 2011 05:53:35PM 0 points [-]

Added the recommendations by Davidmanheim and Alex_Altair.

I'd personally appreciate a rule-following recommendation on A.I.

Comment author: Davidmanheim 18 January 2011 03:30:42PM 2 points [-]

On systems theory, I'll recommend "Thinking in Systems: A Primer" is a great general audiences book, with a great nontechnical approach.If you are looking for something more mathematical, you'll need to ask someone else; I'm just not well read enough. (Despite being a math major back in school.)

"The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization" is a great book, but not as useful for systems theory in general, it's a more domain specific book. (I would recommend it, but not as the best book on the subject generally)

"Introduction to Systems Thinking" by Kim is just not as good; it's a fine book, but small and not at all comprehensive.

There are some great, slightly more technical books on the subject, like An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Weinberg, as well, I am sure, as others. I haven't read enough of them to say that that specifically stands out among technical books on the subject. (If anyone has recommendations on the technical side, I'd love to hear them, as I would like to see more.)

Comment author: PeterisP 18 January 2011 11:19:30PM 0 points [-]

I haven't read the books you mention, but it seems that Sterman's 'Business Dynamics: Systems thinking and modeling for a complex world' covers mostly the same topics, and it felt really well written, I'd recommend that one as an option as well.

Comment author: Davidmanheim 19 January 2011 02:57:10PM 0 points [-]

I have not read it, but the title and the reviews on amazon seem to imply that the book isn't about systems theory, it's about applications of systems theory to business and economics, two great applications, but not the subject itself. Physics books may be great, and they may need to explain math, but they are not math books. If this is indeed a business book, I'd hesitate to recommend it as a book on systems theory.

Comment author: PeterisP 19 January 2011 09:06:01PM *  0 points [-]

It goes on from the reasons of systems thinking through the theoretical foundation, the maths used, and the practical applications and pretty much all common types of issues seen in real world.

It's about 5 times larger volume (~1000 A4 pages) than the Meadows' "Thinking in Systems", so not exactly textbook format, but covers the same stuff quite well and more. Though, it does spend much of the second half of the book focusing almost exclusively on practical development of system dynamics models.

Comment author: Alex_Altair 18 January 2011 04:30:36AM 4 points [-]

Subject: Electromagnetism, Electrodynamics

Recommendation: Introduction to Electrodynamics by David J. Griffiths

I first received this textbook for a sophomore-level class in electrodynamics. It was reused for a few more classes. I admit that I don't have much to compare it with, though I have looked at Feynman's lectures, a couple giant silly freshman physics tomes, and J. D. Jackson's Electrodynamics, and I know what textbooks are like in general.

I was repeated floored by the quality of this book. I felt personally lead through the theory of electrodynamics. In general, he does go from the simple and specific to the complex and general, as any mind requires. But at every stage, he knows exactly where there is risk of conceptual confusion, and he knows exactly how to correct it. He brings every clarification and result back to the the fundamentals of the subject, and he keeps you radiantly aware of the context. After this kind of developed enlightenment, you walk away with a rationalist's mastery, at least in this specific subject. He does all this, from vector calculus review to special relativity, in 2 centimeters thick.

Comment author: golwengaud 25 January 2011 09:46:40PM 4 points [-]

I found that Griffiths is an excellent undergraduate textbook. It does, as you say, provide an astoundingly good conceptual understanding of electrodynamics.

I was very disappointed, however, at the level of detail and rigour. Jackson, (in my limited experience), while it may not provide the same amount of explanation at an intuitive level, shows exactly what happens and why, mathematically, and in many more cases.

This speaks to an important distinction between undergraduate and graduate textbooks. Graduate textbooks provide more detail, more rigour, and more material, while undergraduate textbooks provide insight.

There is something of a similar situation in quantum mechanics: Townsend's /A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics/ is very much an undergrad textbook, and indeed something of a dumbed-down version of (the first half of) Sakurai's /Modern Quantum Mechanics/. At this point I strongly prefer Sakurai, but I don't think I would be able to understand it without all the time I spent studying Townsend's more elementary presentation of the same approach.

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 25 January 2011 10:57:19PM 3 points [-]

To give yet another example, I've been slowly trying to teach myself GR, and while I love the approach and the rigor of Wald's General Relativity, it was too hard for me to follow on its own terms. I found that Schutz's A First Course in General Relativity provides both the insight and better grounding in some of the necessary math (tensor analysis, getting used to Einstein's summation convention, using the metric to flip indices around) through gentler approach and richer examples. Having studied Schutz for some time, I feel (almost) ready to come back to Wald now.

Comment author: lukeprog 18 January 2011 12:26:29AM 2 points [-]

Added the recommendations by joshkaufman, realitygrill, and alexflint.

Thanks, gang! Keep 'em coming.

Comment author: alexflint 17 January 2011 11:12:14PM 4 points [-]

Machine learning: Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning by Chris Bishop

Good Bayesian basis, clear exposition (though sometimes quite terse), very good coverage of the most modern techniques. Also thorough and precise, while covering a huge amount of material. Compared to AI: A modern approach it is much more clearly based in Bayesian statistics, and compared to Probabilistic robotics it's much more modern.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 23 January 2011 08:18:32PM 8 points [-]

Bishop, vs Russell & Norvig, are not in the same category. There's only two chapters in R&N that overlap with Bishop.

Within the category of planning, symbolic AI, and agent-based AI, I recommend Russell & Norvig, "Artificial Ingelligence: A Modern Approach", or Luger & Stubblefield, "Artificial Intelligence". They are aware of non-symbolic approaches and some of the tradeoffs involved. I do not recommend Charniak & McDermott, "An intro to artificial intelligence", or Nilsson, "Principles of artificial intelligence", or Winston, "Artificial Intelligence", as they go into too much detail about symbolic techniques that you'll probably never use, like alpha-beta pruning, and say nothing about non-symbolic techniques. A more complete treatement of symbolic AI is Barr & Feigenbaum, "The Handbook of Artificial Intelligence", but that's a reference work, and I'm recommending textbooks. I do recommend a symbolic AI reference work, Shapiro, "Encyclopedia of Artificial Intelligence", because the essays are reasonably short and easy to read.

Within machine learning, data mining, and pattern recognition, I haven't read Bishop's work. Mannila & Smyth, "Principles of Data Mining", are often used; but maybe just because they're from MIT. Larose, "Data mining methods and models", is okay, as is its companion volumne whose name I forget. My favorite is Data Mining: Practical Machine Learning Tools and Techniques (Second Edition), by Ian H. Witten and Eibe Frank. It is brief, to the point, and gives coding examples using Weka.

The best advice I can give related to statistical modeling is to look up your technique in the SAGE series, and buy the SAGE books on it. They cost about $16 apiece, less used on amazon, and are short yet detailed. Now, I don't mean the books SAGE tries to sell you on their website. I mean the series of about 200 small light-green-cover paperbacks that they for some reason don't tell you about on their website.

But if you're reading this level of detail, it means you're going to be a specialist trying to implement or improve algorithms, and you're going to need to read entire books on each subject.

Comment author: realitygrill 17 January 2011 10:10:06PM 5 points [-]

Subject: Economics

Recommendation: Introduction to Economic Analysis (www.introecon.com)

This is a very readable (and free) microecon book, and I recommend it for clarity and concision, analyzing interesting issues, and generally taking a more sophisticated approach - you know, when someone further ahead of you treats you as an intelligent but uninformed equal. It could easily carry someone through 75% of a typical bachelor's in economics. I've also read Case & Fair and Mankiw, which were fine but stolid, uninspiring texts.

I'd also recommend Wilkinson's An Introduction to Behavioral Economics as being quite lucid. Unfortunately it is the only textbook out on behavioral econ as of last year, so I can't say it's better than others.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 25 February 2017 01:50:10AM *  0 points [-]

Luke's post, based on this recommendation, reads as follows:

On economics, realitygrill recommends McAfee's Introduction to Economic Analysis over Mankiw's Macroeconomics and Case & Fair's Principles of Macroeconomics

I believe the books realitygrill is referring to are instead Mankiw's Principles of Microeconomics and Case & Fair's Principles of Microeconomics, since McAfee's is a microeconomics (not a macroeconomics) textbook.

Comment author: lukeprog 25 February 2017 09:44:11PM 0 points [-]

Fixed, thanks.

Comment author: joshkaufman 17 January 2011 08:37:17PM 17 points [-]

Business: The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman.

I'm the author, so feel free to discount appropriately. However, the entire reason I wrote this book is because I spent years searching for a comprehensive introductory primer on business practice, and I couldn't find one - so I created it.

Business is a critically important subject for rationalists to learn, but most business books are either overly-narrow, shallow in useful content, or overly self-promotional. I've read thousands of them over the past six years, including textbooks.

Business schools typically fragment the topic into several disciplines, with little attempt to integrate them, so textbooks are usually worse than mainstream business books. It's possible to read business books for years (or graduate from business school) without ever forming a clear understanding of what businesses fundamentally are, or how they actually work.

If you're familiar with Charlie Munger's "mental model" approach to learning, you'll recognize the approach of The Personal MBA - identify and master the set of business-related mental models that will actually help you operate a real business successfully.

Because making good decisions requires rationality, and businesses are created by people, the book spend just as much time on evolutionary psychology, decision-making in the face of uncertainty, and anti-akrasia as it does on traditional business topics like marketing, sales, finance, etc.

Peter Bevelin's Seeking Wisdom is comparable, but extremely dry and overly focused on investment vs. actually running a business. The Munger biography Poor Charlie's Almanack contains some helpful details about Munger's philosophy and approach, but is not comprehensive.

If anyone has read another solid, comprehensive primer on general business practice, I'd love to know.

Comment author: lukeprog 06 November 2011 12:13:14AM 5 points [-]

My summary of chapter 9, for anyone who cares:

Fear kills work. Inspire coworkers by showing them appreciation, courtesy, and respect. Show them they're important. Get them to work in their comparative advantage, and where they are intrinsically motivated. Explain the reasons why you ask for things. Someone must be responsible and accountable for each task. Avoid clanning; get staff to work together on shared projects and enjoy relaxation time together. Measure things, to see what works. Avoid unrealistic expectations. Shield workers from non-essential bureaucracy.

Comment author: Duke 21 July 2011 03:17:46AM 3 points [-]

This book, or, to be accurate, the 20 or so pages I read, are terrible. For someone who prefers dense and thorough examinations of topics, The Personal MBA is cotton candy. It is viscerally pleasing, but it offers little to no sustenance. My advice: don't get an MBA or read this book.

The mistake I made was considering the author's appearance in this thread as strong evidence that his book would offer value to a rationalist. In fact, the author is a really good marketer whose book has little value to offer. Congratulations to him, however, since he got me to buy a brand-new copy of a book, something I rarely do.

Comment author: joshkaufman 27 July 2011 05:08:43AM 9 points [-]

Wow, Duke - that's a bit harsh.

It's true that the book is not densely written or overly technical - it was created for readers who are relatively new to business, and want to understand what's important as quickly as possible.

Not everyone wants what you want, and not everyone values what you value. For most readers, this is the first book they've ever read about how businesses actually operate. The worst thing I could possibly do is write in a way that sounds and feels like a textbook or academic journal.

I don't know you personally, but from the tone of your comment, it sounds like you're trying to signal that you're too sophisticated for the material. That may be true. Even so, categorical and unqualified statements like "terrible" / "cotton candy" / and "little value to offer" do a disservice to people who are in a better position to learn from this material than you are.

That said, I'll repeat my earlier comment: if you've read another solid, comprehensive primer on general business practice, I'd love to hear about it.

Comment author: Duke 08 August 2011 03:52:45AM 5 points [-]

For the sake of clarity, my criticism of Josh's book was developed within the context of Josh promoting his book in a LW thread titled "The Best Textbooks on Every Subject."

Comment author: joshkaufman 10 August 2011 09:23:01PM 6 points [-]

Useful clarification. In that case, you should know that the book is currently being used by several undergraduate and graduate business programs as an introductory business textbook.

The book is designed to be a business primer ("an elementary textbook that serves as an introduction to a subject of study"), and business is a very important area of study that rewards rationality. At the time of my original post, no one had recommended a general business text. That's why I mentioned the book in this thread.

I appreciate your distaste for perceived self-promotion: as a long-time LW lurker, my intent was to contribute a resource LW readers might find valuable, nothing more.

If you're interested in the general topic and want a more academic treatment, you may enjoy Bevelin's Seeking Wisdom. I found it a bit disorganized and overly investment-focused, but you may find it's more to your liking.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 July 2011 03:19:09AM 3 points [-]

I upvote you solely for the chutzpah of your self-promotion.

Which, in hindsight, is mostly what you're selling.

Comment author: Duke 28 July 2011 03:16:05AM 3 points [-]

I think the title--and especially the subtitle, " Mastering the Art of Business,"--signals that the book will be a thorough examination of business principles. As well, I think that hocking your book in a thread called "The Best Textbooks on Every Subject" signals that the book will be, at least, textbook-like in range, complexity and information containment. You now call your book "not densely written or overly technical." I call it cotton candy.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 23 January 2011 10:16:23PM 3 points [-]

I like the book so far, it seems to pretty much a solid implementation of Munger's approach.

Spends a bit too much energy dissuading me from business school, including some arguments I found rhetorical (e.g. biz. schools started from people measuring how many seconds a railway worker does something or other. by this logic we should outlaw chemistry), but it might be useful to someone (though there are quite a few people in line to take their places).

Comment author: MichaelGR 18 January 2011 05:11:42PM *  2 points [-]

I've added it to my list. I'm currently reading Poor Charlie's Almanack and liking it a lot so far.

The best business book I've read is probably The Essays of Warren Buffett (second ed.), but it's certainly not exhaustive in what it covers.

Update: I've got my copy from Amazon.ca (really fast shipping - 2 days). Will probably have a chance to read it in February.

Comment author: Cyan 18 January 2011 02:42:33AM 2 points [-]

I'm reading it now. I fully endorse this recommendation, but I haven't read any other business books, so take that for what it's worth.