It’s going to be a very busy day, in ways that will keep me away from the Internet for most of the day, so you’ll need to entertain yourselves. Here’s a question for the science-minded:
What’s your least favorite science textbook of all time?
It could be a book that you loathed when you were a student, or it could be a dreadful book that you were forced to teach out of, but if you’ve got a least favorite textbook, leave the name in the comments. Obviously, my expertise in dealing with textbooks is mostly in physics, but I’ll throw this open to all sciences, so go ahead and nominate that horrible biology book from your sophomore year.
What’s my answer?
This is also a tough question, but for a different reason than the favorite textbook question: bad textbooks are a dime a dozen. Well, no, actually, they’re a hundred bucks apiece, which just makes them all the more annoying.
The obvious physics answers would be the giant comprehensive books that are the Standard Texts for the field– things like Jackson’s Classical Electrodynamics or Ashcroft and Mermin’s book on solid state physics. Those are both huge, extremely formal, and used by every grad program in the country, which makes them widely hated.
On a more personal level, I really disliked Shankar’s book on quantum mechanics when I took that class, but I think that had more to do with the person teaching the class than the book itself. There’s also the fact that quantum mechanics is damnably difficult to write a text for– there are only something like six problems you can solve analytically, which doesn’t give you a lot of material for worked examples…
The book I’ve been most consistently annoyed at over the years, though, would have to be Arfken’s book on mathematical methods. This is partly because I really don’t like formal mathematics all that much, but mostly because it’s completely useless outside the context of a class. Everything you might hope to learn from a math book is left as an exercise for the reader, which is fine if you’re taking a class and somebody is doing examples in lecture, and grading your homework, but no help at all if you’d like a quick refresher on how to do something. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a hundred-dollar paperweight, and I’m not entirely sure why I still have the damn thing.
So, what’s your least favorite textbook?