A few days ago, I went to Amazon’s books page, and was greeted with Serre’s A Course in Arithmetic. Which kind of surprised me – I’m pretty sure that, in the past, I’d rated math books, but it had been a while since I’d seen any show up in their book recommendation list. (Do they weight your ratings lower over time?)

So I dutifully rated it, at which point no end of familiar math books appeared in my recommendations. Local Fields; sigh. Lots of new textbooks that have popped up in fields that I used to follow over the last few years; I’m sure some of them are good, but there seems to be a bit of a glut. (How many GTMs on a given subject does the world need? I guess Springer would know…)

I wonder: if I had more spare time, would I use some of it to read math books? I tentatively think that the answer is yes, but I’m not completely sure. (Another possibility would be to, say, wait a few more decades and then catch up with the state of the art somewhat.) If I were to read math books (or papers or …), what would I read? Textbooks don’t really strike my fancy, unless they’re really good. I don’t think I’d want to read cutting-edge papers, either. Probably the best (see the Serre examples above) would be well-written expository monographs by good mathematicians; unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of examples of that around. Or I could just read through Serre’s complete works, or volumes of SGA.

Other random notes on the topic:

  • I was amused to see, in my recommendations list, Amazon list Problems in Algebraic Number Theory as being “by Jody Esmonde, et al.”
  • Nice reviews.

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