92

I’m a graduate student in mathematics. One day, there was a discussion between graduate students about how many books a working mathematician has. Then each student would talk about their personal math library and then they would name their preferred book in each area of math.

All the students had a relatively small library. When it was my turn, I simply said the truth that I have around 1,000 ebooks and 100 physical books and that I have bought all of them and have not downloaded any of them illegally. I also explained that I like to learn a lot of math and I’m passionate and enthusiastic about math. I also explained that I have not studied all of these books thoroughly.

Then suddenly a professor stated (when others were also present) that I have more books than the university library. He then said that I should immediately seek professional help.

I was very offended by what this professor said but I never discussed it with him because I thought that I was in an emotional state and I did not want to speak to him when I was not calm. After a while, I thought that it was my own mistake and I should not be so honest about my math library.

So I have now two questions:

  1. Is the number of my books unreasonable compared to how many books a graduate student or working mathematician own?
  2. If I need professional help because I buy math books regularly?
10
  • 106
    You are in good company: “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” - Erasmus – John Coleman Oct 4 '20 at 16:32
  • 174
    Maybe he meant professional help from a librarian. – Tobias Kildetoft Oct 4 '20 at 16:56
  • 99
    Is there any chance that the professor was simply joking? Some mathematicians have deadpan humor. – Taladris Oct 5 '20 at 9:45
  • 5
    Why do you care what the professor things about your book collection? – copper.hat Oct 5 '20 at 16:51
  • 54
    Do you have autism per coincidence? This is not meant as an insult, but is a genuine question. Because it sounds like your professor was simply making a joke. But jokes of this kind are often missed by autistics. Als your extreme passion about math (which is not a bad thing!) sounds like a hint? – Opifex Oct 5 '20 at 19:36

14 Answers 14

200

Personally, it seems to me that he was just making a joke. Awkwardly, perhaps, but still, just a joke. Your personal library seemed to him (and me) to be so "over the top" that it was hard to fathom. Had he said something like "Wow, are you ever intense?" it would have had about the same meaning.

It is possible that he had a negative feeling about it, but I really doubt it.

Or maybe a meaning like "Wow, you need to learn to relax a bit."

But if you are so intense that you are ending up hurting your health, then professional help is actually advisable.

17
  • 8
    Thanks for your answer. I think my main issue is that I’m a very sensitive person. My mind was occupied by what this professor said and I could not concentrate for one whole week. – Alexandria Oct 4 '20 at 15:51
  • 61
    @Alexandria In contrast to Buffy I don't think this was an awkward joke. I was laughing out loud when reading the answer of your professor, because that's exactly what I would tell you when hearing that you have 1000 books. I think you just had a hard time to understand the joke. So not the joke of your professor, but the reaction from your side, e.g. asking this question, would be considered as socially awkward by a lot of people. – user117200 Oct 4 '20 at 23:33
  • 118
    @Alexandria in all seriousness, it might be worth talking to a therapist about how you can better handle comments like that so they don't preoccupy you for an entire week. That sounds really tough to deal with and a therapist might give you some techniques to deal more easily. That's not to say something is wrong with you because you're sensitive (there isn't!), just that you might be a happier person with some more tools in your toolbox. A lot of schools offer free counseling to students so might be something to take advantage of while you're in school – Kat Oct 5 '20 at 1:35
  • 22
    Agree that it's likely a joke, but disagree that it's awkward. Obviously the textual description is missing all the social cues that would help determine the situation, but I've seen or been part of exactly this kind of conversation multiple times -- the general format is Person A describes doing/having something in excess, Person B laughs and jokingly says "Man, you need to get [professional] help!", Person A (understanding that it's a joke) laughs back and says "yeah, I know..." – Herohtar Oct 5 '20 at 3:52
  • 26
    Evidence that it's a joke includes the fact that you definitely do not have more books than the university library (unless you go to an utterly terrible university). I have far more than 100 physical books, and know plenty of people with 1000. They don't need 'professional help' (at least not for that). – DJClayworth Oct 5 '20 at 13:11
83

I own at least 4,000 physical books... True, some of my faculty colleagues own nearly none, and some treated me as a lending library. :)

Prior to the existence of any sort of electronic books, at active math departments it was essentially necessary to have one's own copy of a high-demand book, otherwise the endless cycles of recall requests would prevent useful access. In those days, in the Princeton Univ math library, most of the most significant books were eternally checked out.

Nowadays, yes, many things are available on-line without violation of rules. Still, not everything.

Also, the process of access with physical books adds a random element that is occasionally very lucky, in the sense of accidentally finding something you didn't know you wanted to find... in the course of looking for what you thought you wanted. In contrast, with a too-controlled search (especially if one is missing some keywords) one rarely finds anything one wasn't already aware of to some degree.

It's true that technical books are expensive. I did pay for all my books myself, rationalizing that what I saved on clothes was spent on books...? :)

It is also true that some people pretend that they "know enough" to do whatever their research is. Maybe so, but my own approach seems to require that I learn more and more things. Surely a matter of taste.

7
  • 17
    Thanks for your answer. I truly envy you for your math library. – Alexandria Oct 4 '20 at 16:02
  • 4
    I know it's tangential, but I completely agree about the wonders of wandering through shelves of physical books, finding random, fascinating things one wouldn't have thought to look for. I haven't been able to do this for six months now, at either the campus or public libraries, which is sad. – Raghu Parthasarathy Oct 4 '20 at 22:50
  • 3
    I just did a rough estimate/count and came up with about 1500 physical math books here, and probably that many or more others (physics, chemistry, biology, other science, semi-popular science, science fiction, philosophy, and all sorts of others that have caught my attention over the years -- for instance, I'm currently reading this book for the 2nd time). For me, I'm always looking up something in my math books, whether for my own interests, answering someone's email request, or (as I'm sure you know) my many online essays and reference citations. – Dave L Renfro Oct 5 '20 at 7:30
  • 3
    (returning to this about half a day later) I strongly suspect the OP's professor is joking, as surely he/she knows virtually any university library (in a developed country, in which a math Ph.D. program exists) is going to have at least two or three thousand math books. In fact, the University of Illinois library has about 10,000 books (this excludes bound journal volumes), although to be fair, it's one of the largest in the U.S. Also, I have over digital 1000 math books, these being 1800s books freely available. – Dave L Renfro Oct 5 '20 at 19:30
  • @Alexandria : Hmm. His book collection is 4x bigger than yours. Yours is anywhere from 150 to 500 times bigger than mine, depending on whether you count only "pure" mathematics books or whether books from heavily mathematical applied fields (e.g. have 2 volumes of Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming ) can also count. Sounds to me like you're unjustifiedly hating yourself by ignoring those who have justifiable hatreds. – The_Sympathizer Oct 7 '20 at 18:29
28
  1. you probably have bought many more books than most mathematics grad students because 1100 books is prohibitively expensive. I didn't have an extra $1100 lying around when I was a grad student. All the physics grad students I know with substantial collections did download the PDFs illegally, and used their collection more for reference and particular sections of books rather than reading all of them.

  2. you definitely don't need professional help just because you own a lot of books.

If you are looking for advice on your mental or emotional state, I think your reaction is a little off. The professor was either wrong or joking, but very likely you shouldn't take his advice so seriously. The fact that you took it to heart enough to write in about it might show that you're a little insecure about your habits (or you're fixated on other people agreeing you're correct or proving the professor wrong or something). If you lived with less of that stress you might be happier. Being stressed about these things is well within the range of normal behavior (though you may see more success if you watch out for overreacting in professional situations). Just something to think about.

15
  • 11
    @Alexandria Which suggests it was a joke (maybe in poor taste) and not a serious appeal to you to get help. – Azor Ahai -him- Oct 4 '20 at 17:23
  • 16
    " I also think your analysis about my reaction is not accurate." I disagree and find Well's analysis very accurate. – user117200 Oct 4 '20 at 23:39
  • 6
    @Alexandria Sensitive is just a euphemism for that Well's analysis of your reaction was. They both mean the same thing. – DKNguyen Oct 5 '20 at 1:26
  • 6
    @Alexandria you might be happier if you worked on being less sensitive. And the fact that this reaction can be interpreted as a strong need to be proven right or to prove someone else wrong is a flag that it might hurt you professionally. People could misread your sensitivity as always needing to be right, a common flaw in academia and a very bad trait in a collaborator or teacher. It could be a professional liability, depending on the frequency or intensity. – Well... Oct 5 '20 at 5:53
  • 5
    In short, don't let your sensitivity issues make you paranoid about my comments, but have the maturity to self-analyze yourself honestly, and don't be afraid to consult a mental health professional just in case. There's no shame in going to a doctor for stomach pains and there shouldn't be any shame in going to a doctor for brain problems either. The brain is just another hunk of flesh that sometimes needs help and attention just like any other body part. You'll either leave the experience more confident that you're "normal", or with a plan to make yourself "better". – Daniel Oct 6 '20 at 3:37
26

tl;dr I think your professor was rude (and your library is underfunded).

I probably accumulated that many serious physical books over a long career, most of which I gave away when I retired. I have a friend with many more.

I still maintain a substantial collection of recreational mathematics, and some classics.

I don't collect ebooks.

I suspect that nowadays you're at the high end of the distribution for the number of physical math books mathematicians own. But that's no reason to need or seek therapy. Some people just like books.

3
  • Thanks for your answer. I mainly prefer ebooks because I have a very limited space for physical books so I try to buy the ebook of a title whenever possible. I’m a very sensitive person. My mind was occupied by what this professor said and I could not concentrate for one whole week. – Alexandria Oct 4 '20 at 15:40
  • 32
    I see no reason to conclude that the professor was rude, rather than making a joke or light conversation. I suppose a lot depends on the tone, which isn't known to the rest of us. The rest of the answer is good, though. – Raghu Parthasarathy Oct 4 '20 at 16:59
  • 9
    @RaghuParthasarathy Fair point. Perhaps "rude" should be "thoughtless". I think professors should be particularly careful attempting jokes like this with students. – Ethan Bolker Oct 5 '20 at 13:35
22

I disagree with the prevailing sentiment. You could probably benefit from speaking to a professional.

  1. "I spent most of my income on buying books." This is not a smart thing to do with your money. Unless you have a fully funded retirement, you are frittering away your money on something with extremely limited value. Books have almost no resale value, as I discovered when I sold my own academic collection.
  2. "My mind was occupied by what this professor said and I could not concentrate for one whole week." This is not a healthy reaction to any kind of social interaction. Learning some coping strategies to escape these obsessive thoughts would certainly help you.
  3. A thousand books is not necessary or useful. There are very many working mathematicians who do not accrue this number of books. What would you even do with them? Did you index them so that you can quickly search for information? What fraction of them have you read? Are these really useful tools to you or just tokens to accrue and hoard?

I am not a professional psychologist, but based on your unhealthy response to an offhand remark about what appears to be an obsessive (and certainly financially unsound) habit, I think you could probably benefit from talking to a professional. That's what they exist for: to help people. Think about it.

8
  • 16
    "I spent most of my income on buying books." This is not a smart thing to do with your money., wow, and some people would say the opposite. Who said what is smart to do with your time and money? After 100 years you will be dead. Smart is to spend money on what makes you happy, not what others think you should do. On the other hand point 2 is very valid. Most people will definitely benefit from some psychological education. – akostadinov Oct 5 '20 at 17:50
  • 6
    @akostadinov I'd be one thing if the OP actually read all the books, but they haven't. Furthermore, the OP is buying ebooks, or just licenses to read certain material. It's hard to argue that buying hundreds of license to read things, and then not actually reading those things is healthy behavior. It's certainly not financially healthy, and it could genuinely be indicative of a mental disorder, for example compulsive buying disorder—just as an example, I'm not a psychiatrist. Also note that spending related to a mental disorder rarely leads to happiness. Treatment is more effective for that. – Vaelus Oct 6 '20 at 17:13
  • 1
    @Vaelus, with science books it doesn't mean you buy to immediately read. But you can also check things in them when you need.btw going that line all people making collections of whatever are for psychiatrist. – akostadinov Oct 6 '20 at 20:41
  • 5
    @akostadinov: People who say the opposite are probably not really thinking about the implications. A love of books is one thing, but spending most of your income on books is objectively not a smart thing to do and not conductive to your happiness in the long run (except in exceptional cases like children whose income consists of pocket money and summer jobs, and very affluent collectors of rare books). The only way for a normal person to do that is by living in squalor and neglecting retirement savings. – Michael Borgwardt Oct 7 '20 at 9:41
  • 2
    @MichaelBorgwardt, if you ask a yogi, he will tell you that retirement savings, buying a house or having a family are "objectively not a smart thing to do". The only objective way to measure what is smart is whether you feel happy with your life or not. Which ironically is very subjective. This often requires trying different things and being open minded about advise, even professional help :) – akostadinov Oct 7 '20 at 12:32
19

One thing that you might want to pay attention to is that this interaction touched on the topic of money, which is a sensitive subject for a lot of people and can trigger a wide range of emotions. The fact that you could afford to buy over 1000 math books, in a place where your library may be underfunded and maybe your professor also cannot afford to buy as many books as he would like to, might have aroused negative emotions of jealousy, resentment based on economic or social status, and similar things. The professor’s remark might have been driven by such emotions. When people are upset they are more inclined to say hurtful things that reflect their own personal frustrations.

Moreover, it’s not just that you owned up to having (relatively speaking) a lot of money, but you are making a use of that money that the professor might consider frivolous or inefficient. The truth is, as much as all of us mathematicians love reading math books, it’s not realistically possible for someone to read that many books at a level of depth and over a time duration that makes it sensible to buy them when you are in graduate school. So one may get the feeling that you may be a person who likes owning books just for the sake of owning them even beyond the point where it might actually help you learn more mathematics (disclosure: I also went through a period where I also bought more math books than I’m able to read; eventually I realized there wasn’t any point to it so I stopped doing it). The professor’s negative reaction might reflect such a sentiment.

  1. Is the number of my books unreasonable compared to how many books a graduate student or working mathematician own?

This question doesn’t make any sense to me. Different people have different preferences, and one should not decide what or how many books to buy by comparing oneself to other people.

  1. If I need professional help because I buy math books regularly?

First of all, “professional help” is a very silly euphemism. If I were a psychologist I’d take offense that people refuse to name the service I offer but instead resort to such coded language. But if you mean to ask if you need therapy, I’d say you don’t need it any more than the professor you told us about, or any other random, healthy person.

11
  • 8
    The money part seems very far fetched. Maybe he just finds it as hilarious as I do. – user117200 Oct 4 '20 at 23:45
  • 7
    As one of my colleagues likes to say: the point of buying a book is so that you don't need to read it---you always have it for when you need it. – Kimball Oct 5 '20 at 3:21
  • 4
    Thank you for pointing out the weirdness of "professional help" language both in the original joke and in how OP posed the question. – Well... Oct 5 '20 at 5:59
  • 3
    @DanRomik That comment is mostly tongue-in-cheek, as an excuse for not having read most of the books on your bookshelf, but it does have a hint of truth. I personally have a large number of math books mostly for the purpose of occasional/potential future reference rather than careful study. However, I also didn't buy most of them with personal funds (grants, hand-me-downs, e-access through libraries, ...), which I agree is probably not a practical approach for 1000 books unless you are rather well off. – Kimball Oct 5 '20 at 13:15
  • 4
    @TheoreticalMinimum Considering that these are university level books, at a conservative estimate of $50 a book, a thousand books is as much money as a decent car or a down payment on a house. – nick012000 Oct 6 '20 at 7:28
15

When I was a grad student (that was a very long time ago - we had no e-books), I loved to buy (mostly graduate-level) math paper books. There used to be more book store in NYC than there are now - we used to raid Book Scientific, Mir books at Viktor Kamkin, Warren Books, the math section at the Strand (still open), barnes & Nobles on 18th st, McGraw Hill, and the Dover books section in the Coliseum. I definitely had over 100 math books when I was a student, and I have even more of them now, as well as file cabinets full of copies of journal articles. I don't think this number of math books is unreasonable, especially if you're working on something obscure.

I further suspect that these days an average math graduate student has even more ebooks and articles than you because they download them for free from sites I don't want to mention. (Your insistence on paying for your ebooks may be a little unusual.)

Unless this causes you problems (like, you spend all your money on books and can't afford food, or you have no place to keep your paper books, or you feel obligated to read all the books that you have and have no time for anything else, etc) - I don't think you need to seek professional help or change anything, except:

Two pieces of advice that I want to give - avoid ostentatious displays of wealth in U.S. academia (it may be OK in other contexts) and avoid judging other people.

I have bought all of them and have not downloaded any of them illegally.

I'm sure some of the people who heard you, resented that you have the money to buy all these books, while others don't; and also resented your unprovoked dig at people who download books.

A better answer would have been to say that you have hundreds of books (without elaborating how you got them) and which ones are you favorites.

3
  • 12
    +1 for not mentioning Sci-Hub. – lighthouse keeper Oct 5 '20 at 6:55
  • 8
    @lighthousekeeper Indeed. It's also important not to mention the Library Genesis (libgen) in answers. – wizzwizz4 Oct 6 '20 at 5:52
  • 1
    Resented that I did NOT have the money, yes. Resented them for having it, no. I usually go and attack myself, not other people. – The_Sympathizer Oct 7 '20 at 18:43
7

Movers!

The most probable professional help you are going to need is when you are moving. 100 physical books look manageable and fit even in a small car along with other items. Well, you probably have other (non-math) books as well.

I have a first-hand experience of moving ~4000 books family library and a ~1000 books personal one, both of them few times. Man, these things are HEAVY ! The last time I just called movers - money well spent, including the tip, I am sure.

Your professor probably did some medicore joke, related to how less-educated people traditionally see the owning any ammount of books.

5
  • 5
    A piece of advice for the OP. Stop buying physical books until you are settled (when you have a permanent residence.) When I moved from US to Taiwan, the moving company did an estimate. They said the charge would be about USD$10,000.00 I asked her why so expensive, she said the estimate is based on weight and I had too many books. I got rid of a lot books that I didn't really want to throw away. But, you know, for money's sake. The final bill was USD$8,000.00. I saved 2k. What a pity! Those were the books took me years to collect. Yes, I do know what kind of headache it is. – scaaahu Oct 5 '20 at 12:50
  • 5
    And use small boxes for books! Ones about the size of a carton of printer paper (10 reams) are perfect. Any larger and it's just awful moving them around. (I helped a friend move last year, and his son had put all of the books in the largest box he had ... I had to repack it all into 4 or 5 smaller boxes to manage it) – Joe Oct 5 '20 at 16:45
  • Personal libraries and books in general are less important than they once were. Before moving across country, I filled an entire pickup truck with boxes of books from my personal library, and sold them at the second-hand book store to help pay for gas. I hated letting the books go, but most were rendered redundant by the digital age. My collection of math and science books are particularly cherished, so I held on to those. I went from six stuffed bookcases down to one. This is MUCH easier to manage. But digital content will never replace the physical book experience, with a good cup of coffee. – user10637953 Oct 7 '20 at 17:35
  • 1000 of 1100 books are electronic. Only 100 physical books. On my shelf right now I have maybe 30 books of various types, far from them all being math though many of them are at least in math-heavy fields if not pure math. So that's 3.3 times more books. They may also be lighter/thinner. Could pack it into a few boxes. Compared to the amount of junk we as a family had that is not hard to move. Just don't carry junk around with you. – The_Sympathizer Oct 7 '20 at 18:45
  • 30+ years ago I injured one of my knees lugging boxes and boxes of books up stairs during a move, and I'm still affected today. Hiring movers is a great idea! – jrw32982 Nov 5 '20 at 17:23
3

One possible interpretation is that the professor felt uncomfortable because he has far fewer books than you do, despite him having had years more to accumulate them. That implies he's less dedicated to the subject than you, which threatens his status. The only other way he can frame the situation is that you have too many books, and he has the 'normal' number.

2
  • 8
    This is a stupid interpretation, I'm sorry. Sounds like kindergarden or two teenagers arguing who has the bigger one. Your conclusion, that the prof is less dedicated is plain wrong. The amount of mathematical knowledge does not correlate with having a flat filled with books. – user117200 Oct 5 '20 at 15:13
  • 1
    People get insecure for all sorts of (mostly immature) reasons, no matter how educated or old they are. This answer isn't saying he's less dedicated but that he might have felt uncomfortable because he felt like him owning less books about the subject matter might imply it. I know people who might act like that for that reason and whether or not the professor in this case was one of them, I don't see how this possible interpretation would be stupid. You might get away with calling the professor feeling that way stupid, but even then, insecurities have very little to do with intelligence. – Mark Oct 6 '20 at 12:09
1

When I was early in my studies (physics) I had a real hard time with computing integrals. I simply would not "see" how to go from that weird integral to the nice ones and solve the equation.

Our teacher (a prof that was doing both the lecture and the practical exercises) told us that we need to do at least 50 integrals to "get the vibe" (or something like that).

I did I think 2000 (well no, 2000 is probably the effect of my memory and the trauma, let's say a shitload, which will be probably hundreds) of them (all the books I could find, it was in the very early 90's so no internet) and when the exam came and I was struggling with an integral, he told me in a disappointed tone that he warned us about the 50 to do. I took off my bag the pages and pages of integrals I was training on and he said without smiling

yes, some people should seek medical help to understand when to stop

I think this is close to what was told to you.

I got a great mark, it was his weird way to acknowledge the huge effort I made to try to solve integrals.

You did not mention the country, such wording would not be surprising in a country like France (where what we call "second degree" (in terms of meaning) is part of the interactions between people).

So just relax - he was probably complimenting you.

1
  • 1
    In my friend circle personal jokes are very common. But I can't see any way the comment above was done in a good faith. There are some people who are truly impolite or have personal dislikes for whatever traumas they personally have. But it is nice that you didn't take it personally. When acting as dickheads, they usually talk to themselves. Probably he himself needed medical help to understand that he needed to stop teaching, not you. – akostadinov Oct 5 '20 at 17:59
1

Do you need professional help because I buy math books regularly?

As long as you think your habit of buying math books is useful to you, given what your goals in life are, you don't need to seek professional help. Even if many other people besides your professor say that your habit is out of line, and even if they can motivate why that's the case, that is not necessarily a good reason why you should change your habit or seek professional help in doing so.

This is true in general, whether it's about you buying lots of books or something else. You should take serious any arguments presented and then see if that would impact your assessment on whether or not your habit is useful to you. Changing a habit simply to fit in better with how other people are going about their business, is never a good idea.

Just think about what would have happened had “Paul Erdős sought professional help to become a more "normal" person:

Paul Erdős was one of the most brilliant and prolific mathematicians of the twentieth century. He was also, as Paul Hoffman documents in his book The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, a true eccentric—a ‘mathematical monk’ who lived out of a pair of suitcases, dressed in tattered suits, and gave away almost all the money he earned, keeping just enough to sustain his meager lifestyle; a hopeless bachelor who was extremely (perhaps abnormally) devoted to his mother and never learned to cook or even boil his own water for tea; and a fanatic workaholic who routinely put in nineteen-hour days, sleeping only a few hours a night.

3
  • 7
    Erdős would have lived a healthier lifestyle, and been more self-reliant. He would have been more mentally healthy. People absolutely should have offered him counsel to seek some therapy, everyone can benefit from it (when they find the right therapist). This is not a good example to model ones life by. – Benjamin R Oct 6 '20 at 3:10
  • 2
    @BenjaminR Maybe, or maybe no therapist would have gotten through to him and the attempt would just have broken his creativity. I'd agree it's not a good idea to model one's life after somebody like Erdős, but then, the answer didn't suggest that either. – leftaroundabout Oct 8 '20 at 9:36
  • 3
    I don't know if Erdős is an especially good role model... – Morgan Rodgers Oct 8 '20 at 14:02
1

I read that the famous computer scienist and mathematician Donald E. Knuth owns a large personal library. He is notorisouly known for a series of books with the aim of covering a large portion of computer science and having a very detailed bibligraphy.

In my studies I once visited a professor of statistics from the psychology department. As I entered his flat, books where laying, open, on the corridor. He had a personal library, spanning across multiple rooms, guess way more than 300 books. He was a great person!

I, for myself, also collect books. But I limit myself to hard-to-get and out-of-print ones. I have a collection of some old books from my field that are hard to find otherwise, bought over time at ebay and other online-shops. Furthermore, I would also suppose I have an "above-average" math book collection. In terms of physical books maybe not that much as you own, but I also own a big ebook collection.

Beside from that, I also have, permanently, a collection of 40-50 books loaned from the library. That even caused me some trouble recently in the corona crisis, as libraries shut down and I am not that much around the university anymore. So, I totally understand your passion for books.

If you would tell me about your book collection I would see it very positively, and maybe you can be of great help to your colleagues if they search for literature or need access to a particular book.

2
  • If it was spread across multiple rooms, there's a good chance that it was well over 300. If you have a moderate size bookcase (6 shelves, 3' wide (~91cm)), and books are 1 to 1.5" wide (2.5 to 3.75cm), that's 140 to 210 books per bookcase. Even a small bookcase (4 shelves, 2' (~61cm) wide) would hold about 48 thick (2" / 5cm wide) books. Although in practice it's a good idea to not pack an individual shelf too tightly – Joe Oct 5 '20 at 16:53
  • Probably, I just gave a conservative guess without doing the actual math. But the point is, he had lots of books ;) – StefanH Oct 5 '20 at 17:28
-2

In my opinion you do not need to seek help. It is normal for some to have high amount of interest in their work. Just remember that other things in life are good too. I myself forgot about many things because I was so focused on academics which for me was also math.

It seems to me that two things are important here. Firstly, graduate math and science fields seem to be an extremely cruel, cut throat, rat race today. These fields are highly sought after today and correlated often with power. It is because of this that a wide range of people enter them. And this brings me to my second point. S.T.E.M. today is highly populated with mediocrity at best and more probably what should be called complete incompetence. Often the race for power is more about social dynamics of regular people that otherwise would not have anything to do with the field if it were not for the hope of power and influence. All to often you will hear about relationships and other things, which is an example of how unrelated these things are to competence in S.T.E.M.

So while I don't think you are crazy, the out look is not always good.

On other hand professors have to sometimes deal with witty energetic students, to appear to be outsmarted is often taken poorly, though such behavior on both parties is extremely childish in my opinion and lacking of perspective. The professor is a working person perhaps short on patience, and couldn't entertain such things any longer. So no big deal then.

Also in my opinion the number of books is pointless metric. Only good texts are of value, and any amount of them is always in short supply.

3
  • Also too I find you kind of have to throw away money on bad texts to finally come across a good one. But for someone who actually cares and takes deep interest in or still does, it is worth it to learn topics. – marshal craft Oct 5 '20 at 9:49
  • Also I site Gregory Pearlman himself as well as his words and comments on higher levels math academics, to support my views and opinions on S.T.E.M. which otherwise might be attacked for being prejudice, condescending or derogatory. – marshal craft Oct 5 '20 at 9:55
  • I am bothered by the comments on 'incompetence' and 'mediocrity', because this attitude can smother passion and participation in those fields. Learning mathematics is a lot like learning a language or a musical instrument. Not all are gifted, but many find fluency with time and effort. Even those who never transcend mediocrity find enrichment from the study, whatever their reasons for entering the field. Condemn not the art lover who can't paint, nor the music lover who fails Mozart. Time and perseverance brings their own rewards to those of passion, even for those lacking native talent. – user10637953 Oct 7 '20 at 18:24
-2

Simple answer. Anyone who loves a discipline is likely to want to own a part of it. Whether its owning a piece of a '58 Ford, a 2 million year old fossil, or a piece of the coliseum, tangible objects brings us closer to our fascinations.

Your fascination with owning mathematics books, whether or not you've even read them, is just proof that you are a lover of math.

This is something to be proud of. So go buy more, add to your collection, and tell everyone else to go read comics.

1
  • No. Not anyone who loves a discipline wants to own part of it. If you think so, please provide a reference. Also, what does it have to do with comics? And is it really a recommendation to tell a professor (who is higher up in the university hierarchy than OP) to go read comics, and to what goal? – user111388 Oct 8 '20 at 6:13

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.