My physics professor's course is BASED on a book, so he recommends buying one particular book. The book is good, but there are many other, better books.

Would it be a good idea to buy books other than what the professor recommended?

Note: I can't buy both, because those books are expensive!

  • You need to ask your professor where the homework problems will be assigned from. If he assigns them from the textbook on his list, it'll be a pain to borrow from a classmate's book to copy the questions. Otherwise, so long as your professor is teaching a standard course, find another book with similar topics as your professor's. Also, emailing your professor to be sure your textbook is adequate is a good idea as well before buying it. – coreyman317 Sep 9 '18 at 4:28
  • This translates to, "my prof is equivalent to a book set. Shoul I buy those books or just let him suprise me?" – Nick Sep 9 '18 at 5:05
  • Buy whatever book you choose, BUT be prepared to have to search for things and not have the same examples to work on. Annoying when trying to find your own errors. – Solar Mike Sep 9 '18 at 5:28
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    Borrow both books from the library, if available. Check for yourself, which book is more useful for you. Usually the notes from the lectures should give you the most of what you need to know for the exam. If the lecture is based on a book, I would prefer this book, since then I wouldn't need to search much which takes most of the time. – S. M. Roch Sep 9 '18 at 8:36
  • @M. Roch that's a good answer, why not post it as such? – henning -- reinstate Monica Sep 9 '18 at 12:47

You would probably just be making additional work for yourself by using a different book, even if it is superior. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't do one thing or another, just be prepared for the extra work that might be implied. This might be especially true for exam preparation.

Some professors will ask students to read a section of the text before a lecture so that they are prepared for what will be said. Usually this would be by chapter/section rather than by named topic.

But, if you have the option to speak to the professor you could ask him this question, mentioning the other proposed book(s) and getting his advice. Perhaps he will tell you why it is ok or not ok. Perhaps there is some feature of the suggest book that he will be especially dependent on for the course.


Are you sure the book you have in mind is better than the professor's recommendation? If so, you can show the book to her and see if you can change her opinion.

The downside of not using the course book is that you may have it harder finding what the professor is teaching in the book. This is especially troublesome if she is assigning homework problems directly from the book. Occasionally there might even be a difference in what the two books say, and the professor might default to the course book.

Something else you might be able to do is buy the course book, then borrow the new book from your university's library. You probably can't do it the other way, because course books are usually in high demand and the library won't be able to lend the book to you long-term.


Course book's importance is very variable among different lecturers. I'll give you two marginal examples:

One lecturer in organic chemistry in my university keeps using a certain book, in which course topics, problems and even the words he uses comes from that book, don't go to the course but read the book and you will still learn everything he lectured on that time.

Another one, formally, has a book in course syllabus but never recommend it, when everyone begs him to suggest a coursebook, he says a couple of books but actually totally irrelevant. He has used many of his exam questions from a 3 specific and very old books for more than 20 years and actually everything is on the notes he has on his hand while lecturing, again a combination of quite old books, have them and you get 100/100 from exams.

You may guess, that it is really up to your lecturer about what coursebook you need to buy or borrow from library. But I will make another suggestion, again from one of the professor's back then: "If you want to learn the subject, try to ask questions and give answers by yourself, and then criticize your answers again. You will never have opportunity to go check the corrections of your answers in real life. "

I, too, sincerely suggest you this last idea, continuously criticizing and considering about what you learn will really help you comprehend the idea, unlike clinging to one or two books. Still, for the sake of grades, borrow course book two days before the exams and work on its questions/problems, as well.

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