Sunday, January 06, 2008

Cut the clutter and leave the tangents to me

I am getting old. No doubt about it. My school district is going through the adoption process for physics textbooks, and I can rattle off several titles I've adopted in years past. For this post, I'll stick to titles adopted for AP Physics.

In 1989 it was Physics by Arthur Beiser. Great book, well written, and it included sample multiple choice items as part of the end-of-chapter questions and problems.

In 1994 it was Physics by Eugene Hecht. The book was huge but stunning. I decided Hecht had to be among the most knowledgeable people to author a textbook. It was rich and colorful. Well beyond complete. When I showed a copy to a few of my AP students during the pre-adoption preview, they wanted to know how to buy a copy for themselves.

In 2001 it was College Physics by Serway and Faughn. The Hecht book was brilliant but too rich. I needed something more direct and to the point. Serway & Faughn fit the bill quite nicely. Compared to much of the competition, it's straight-ahead physics without an agenda: it's not aimed at pre-meds or engineers.

In 2008 my early favorite is Essentials of College Physics by Serway and Vuille. While other titles are tipping the scales at 1000+ pages and problem sets than number in the triple digits, Essentials slims the elephant.

Other titles seem dedicated to squeezing in everybody's favorite application and sidebar topic. And to do so, the type shrinks to well below 10-point, the paper thins, and still the books are big. Essentials bucks these trends. It's only in its first edition, but benefits from being based on Serway and Faughn's excellent College Physics (soon to be in its eighth edition).

Essentials cuts the clutter and leaves the tangents and applications to me. And that's just what I needed.

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