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I've been meaning to raise this issue for a while, but I'm not really a fan of our book recommendation threads, as the rules currently govern them. I'm troubled that many of the answers to these questions are usually quick one-liners, with maybe a link or two, that give no explanation as to why one might want to choose X book over Y book. As a result, they become a compendium of lists, and the answers become unable to be voted on, and thus not very helpful to the reader, except maybe when Rudin's PMA shoots to the top. This quality comes part and parcel with troubling shopping recommendation type-question; that's why they are strongly discouraged all over the network. IMO, many of these questions as they stand right now should be closed as "too localized".

However, I don't think that's there's no place for book recommendations on our site. I find what occurs here a distinct contrast to the book reference threads on MathOverflow, which were extremely helpful at least to me in helping me select the books I'm working through self-study today, because responders took care to mention why such and such a book would be good for X, and not Y. Even somebody who doesn't have the exact same requirements the OP was looking for in a text can benefit from reading through those threads. I know that MathOverflow is not Math.SE, but I think if we imparted some of that long-form, discursive quality by requiring a thorough explanation in the question and the answers under the threat of being closed as "too localized", we could really improve these questions.

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While it is a good idea and we should definitely encourage it, I don't think we should require it.

From the voting perspective, it is very likely that only people who have read the book will be able to vote up/down the recommendation (inspite of the accompanying text) and for them the text will probably not help in changing their minds.

It will definitely help the people who have not read it. I agree it will also help some of them who did read it, but that would be rare, IMO.

Besides, how do we enforce such a rule?

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I find what occurs here a distinct contrast to the book reference threads on MathOverflow, which were extremely helpful at least to me in helping me select the books I'm working through self-study today, because responders took care to mention why such and such a book would be good for X, and not Y. Even somebody who doesn't have the exact same requirements the OP was looking for in a text can benefit from reading through those threads. I know that MathOverflow is not Math.SE, but I think if we imparted some of that long-form, discursive quality by requiring a thorough explanation in the question and the answers under the threat of being closed as "too localized", we could really improve these questions.

A book recommendation is a subjective question so it would be subject to the six guidelines for great subjective questions.

Specifically guidelines #1 and #2 seem relevant here.

1. Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”. The best subjective questions invite explanation. If you’re asking for a product recommendation of some kind, you want answers to contain detailed information about the features and how they can be used, and why you might want to choose one over the other. “How?” and “Why?” has more lasting value than a bunch of product-feature bullet points or a giant enumerated list, no matter how extensive. In contrast, the bad subjective questions let answerers get away with hit-and-run answers that maybe provide a name and a link — but fail to provide any sort of adequate explanation, context, or background.

2. Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers. The best subjective questions inspire your peers to share their actual experiences, not just post a mindless one-liner or cartoon in hopes of being rewarded with upvotes for being merely “first.” Sharing an experience takes at least one paragraph; ideally several paragraphs. If I’m asking about how to bake cookies, don’t give me a list of grocery items: milk. butter. vanilla. eggs. There is virtually nothing I can learn from a short, static list of grocery items that make up a recipe. Instead, tell me what happened the last time you made cookies from that recipe! Share your detailed experiences, so that we all might learn from them.

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