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mental debate

Here is the text of a letter I am debating sending to the authors and publishers of one of my textbooks:

Dear Mr. Hoel, Mr. Port, and Mr. Stone,

     As a student at the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana in Math 361, Introduction to Probability Theory, I use your book “Introduction to Probability Theory”. I have a few comments that may help you in future editions or on future works any of you choose to create.

     First and foremost, “Introduction to Probability Theory” is the worst book ever written. I do not exaggerate. One can only assume that at some point you used a monkey to assist in writing the details because the nonsense inscribed in this book could only have been written by someone with simian intellect.

     Perhaps I should be a little more helpful and tell you why your book should be used to punish malfeasants. When one is learning a subject that one does not have knowledge in, especially with math, useful examples are an excellent way to learn. I noticed you attempted to include many insightful examples. I especially like that anything – absolutely any detail, formula, or just small modicum of information – that could be considered helpful, important, or useful in solving the problem is either left out conspicuously or “is left for the reader to determine” or “left for the reader to validate.” It’s an excellent approach and I assume makes for easy book writing if, instead of including the mathematical details behind solving an example problem, you just leave it out. Sadly, this can lead to some confusion on the end of the reader, but seeing as the 250 page book cost just shy of $100 I think it absurd that one should expect full details or, at minimum, helpful details.

     I also noticed this book was written in 1971. This makes me extremely happy because it is very likely that all three of you have died. If not, live knowing that I pray for your slow and agonizing death every night.

Jim Reardon

Published inTrue Stories

One Comment

  1. Dan Dan

    That is great. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a similar situation. You articulated the problem nicely, and i think you should send it out not just for yourself, but for all of us who have ever had to pay through the wazzoo for a book that wasn’t helpful in the least.(you should see my c++ book. it’s a good thing that i know most of the fundamentals.)

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