This seems like a vague question, but please bear with me before voting to close it:

Often times, when searching for a good textbook on a particular subject (mostly mathematics or physics), I see users who confidently suggest multiple textbooks on this same subject. (Here is a good example.) My guess is that these users have not actually read through each of these textbooks page by page.

I'm currently going through a few textbooks to learn and/or brush up on different subjects. I am reading them carefully, doing the exercises, taking notes on things I don't understand, etc. A chatper, at best, takes me a couple of weeks (and I spend the majority of my free time studying).

This being said, how does a person read these text-books in-depth enough to have a founded opinion on their contents? Is it done after already knowing the material?

(I know this is a strange, perhaps difficult to answer question, and I'd be glad to take any suggestions or criticisms to better it).

  • 3
    I think this is going to be awfully general. You'd approach a math textbook very differently from a history textbook, for instance. May 14, 2017 at 15:32
  • 5
    Also, I think "learn from" and "assess" are sufficiently different that they should maybe be separate questions. May 14, 2017 at 15:33
  • @NateEldredge Would it be better to say something like "How do the processes of learning from and assessing a textbook differ?" May 14, 2017 at 15:35
  • You have to read the answers and the individual items to figure that out. I glanced at the answer at the top, and this information was provided. In short, it is a mix. // If you are interested in someone's answer, and s/he didn't specify how intimately acquainted s/he is with the listed resources, it is certainly fair to ask. May 16, 2017 at 2:14

2 Answers 2


Personally, outside of the elementary level I find there are very few (single) textbooks that I can read and understand the subject. I find it very useful (although cumbersome, and oft expensive) to acquire multiple books on the same subject, so I can read sections from each side by side. A given author may be better most of the time, but there are enough places when self-studying that I get lost that I need to seek additional explanations or examples.

The opinion of the use of the other books I think comes from answering whether it was it useful for me when learning the subject area.


Read what you need of that book. Many books are organized to be separated in topics by chapters. Don't waste time to read all of a 1000 paged book, for example, instead look for your current needs.

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