How do you review textbooks?

Seriously, how? Is there some generally accepted practice? You can’t really read the entirety of several books and compare them in short order, so what seems a reasonable way to do it?

As an experiment, I will review my undergraduate level differential geometry books by reading only the following parts:

  1. any preface or introduction explaining the outlook and structure of the book
  2. the section/chapter/part that introduces surfaces for the first time.

I choose the second item so that I can have something uniform, but not too long to read carefully. Also, this is a spot where students have a lot of trouble—the idea of a parametrized surface and the basic intrinsic geometry of lengths, angles and areas needs to be explained carefully from several perspectives. 

If you have other another approach, I would love to hear it.

2 thoughts on “How do you review textbooks?

  1. That is exactly what I do, although I am not sure that I am doing it right, either. I suppose that I also look at the table of contents (in case something is missing, or maybe something particularly interesting is included) and the problems. But I suspect that you do this, also.

    Mostly, I go by my previous experience and word-of-mouth. This is a tough job.

  2. I don’t feel like I’ve ever managed to do a good job with this either. The best tactic may be to find a teacher whose perspective you respect who has already found a book they love. Short of that, I’d add trying out the exercises/problems in the section you’re reviewing and in one other section if you can manage it.

    The calculus text we chose (when we wanted to stop asking our students to pay the astronomical price for Stewart) was Briggs. But we all think the exercises are badly designed. They jump too quickly to hard problems. There are other issues that we didn’t notice when we looked it over. We’re going to change again soon. My department isn’t as adventurous as I am, so we need a good standard textbook. I’d like it to be inexpensive. I think I’ll post about that and see what comes up.

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