As an undergraduate in the field of biology/Chemistry, I've seen plenty of professors recommending at least two textbooks for a mere credit hour of two, each of which comprised of more than 1000 pages. I'm somehow confused by this huge amount of text and it came to my mind to only rely on my class notes instead of the books from now on. Plus some of these books, despite being said to target undergrads' needs, are so hard, complicated, and extensive that even many master's candidates wouldn't take a look at according to my conversations with other people in the field. How should an undergraduate focus on the subjects with this bombardment of information, specifically how should an undergrad prioritize among textbooks, class notes, papers to be read(if any)? and roughly how many textbooks should one read for the whole four years to obtain proficiency in the field? (Is it a good idea to count them in the first place?)
I went to college more than half a century ago. I accumulated and still have all (I think) of the books in math. But I never actually read any of those books front to back. They were used as a resource to make it possible to gain insight and to solve problems. Some of them were more useful on the insight part, of course.
But, to answer the question, one way to use the books is to let the lecture notes be your guide as to where you should focus within them. Use keywords from the lecture, along with the table of contents and the index to find the things you need to focus on.
Textbooks aren't novels. They provide the outline of a field and, hopefully, plenty of useful (hard) exercises to build skill. With enough hard work, insight may come.
Read textbooks in "snippets", stopping frequently to think about what you have read and find associated exercises to solidify the ideas.
This is especially true for the later chapters. It may be necessary to do more, such as re-reading, for the early parts, since you probably start out with very little skill. But the exercises may be more important than the text itself.
Ignore the textbooks and concentrate on the lecture notes. If the lectures say "read pages X to Y of [textbook]" then do that, but otherwise look only at what the lecturer provides. After all, that material is what will actually show up in the exams.
Use the textbooks if:
- There's something you don't understand well from the lecture notes (or you can ask the lecturer/TA about it).
- You want to understand [topic] in more detail than in the lecture notes. Usually this will be out of interest or desire to truly master the material, not from the need to pass the exams.
- To find exercises and examples.