Consider the following type of question.

The last day in the library I saw the nice new arrival on a hot subject. I want to know about people's opinion on this book for so-and-so purposes?

The FAQ welcomes questions about math software. Then why not math books?

There might be problems with allowing book reviews, though. For example one could ask about pros/cons of Hartshorne's book. A question about such a widely used book might invite too many replies. Negative comments about particular sections might lead to some arguments.

On the other hand it will be very helpful to know the expert opinion whether some new book is interesting or not. Then again, if the book turns out to be a hit, there will be too many replies to the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I am not seeing a downside to such questions. Asking about pros and cons of Hartshorne's Algebraic Geometry sounds like a pretty good question to me. Some care should be taken to phrase such questions as requests for information rather than opinions, but that does not seem too hard to do. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2010 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ To add to Pete's comment, people who answer such questions so also exercise restraint. A good review never tells you flat-out whether the object-under-review is good or bad, but rather present all the facts about the object in a concise way for you to form your opinion. Lastly, however, your experts may not have had the time to read the "new book" yet, so don't expect too many answers for very, very new arrivals. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2010 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ Firstly, any such question should be community wiki, shouldn't it? $\endgroup$
    – user1119
    Dec 6, 2010 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ If you are specific about "so-and-so purposes" I don't see a problem with this. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2010 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ Probably not a candidate for wiki. We should try not to conflate the issues of subjectivity with wiki. Book reviews might tend towards the subjective, but that does not make them inherently wiki. Wiki was designed to allow more collaboration; to open up communal editing to a larger segment of the audience. There's nothing inherently wiki about reviewing a book to answer someone's specific question about the book. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2010 at 4:26

1 Answer 1


A book review is somewhat akin to a product recommendation. Rather than asking "What do you think of this book?", the question should be at least somewhat qualified. What are you looking for in this book? Be specific. That way it can be answered at least somewhat objectively… consistent with what you've come to expect on a mathematics site.

Absent that vagueness, it's a pretty good question.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer seems to be inconsistent with Jeff Atwood's answer here. Could you please elaborate. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2010 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ It's a bit apples-and-oranges but, if you're not asking a very, very detailed question about the product, it cannot be answered with any authority... objectively. But if your asking a specific question (e.g. "I need to learn about <X>. Does this book cover the subject?"), users can answer that question within the spirit of the site. Overly general product recommendations (e.g. What do you think of this book?) do not fulfill the criteria of great Q&A. Reviews are certainly useful, but lists of random unqualified opinion are just not what we do here. We answer specific, canonical questions. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2010 at 20:27

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