For my  graduate courses I am using what  are  considered the some  of the  “classic”  graduate textbooks for each subject (or so I’m told).  For  classical mechanics, I am using Goldstein, Poole, and Safko. For  quantum I  am using Sakurai. When I  take E&M, it  will invariably be Jackson which I use. These books are well known, and some of  them have  a reputation for being the standard for  graduate textbooks in physics.

Professors have confessed to  disliking the textbooks used in their courses several times. They concede that the books are riddled with  mistakes or that they aren’t especially clear. They even suggest other books  which would be better for a specific topic. But each year, the particular textbooks are used by  the professors who also criticize  them…The reason: tradition.

I’ll admit that I’m not in a particular position to critique these textbooks as a student, partly because I haven’t had exposure to many others, and partly because I am still learning the material.  However,  I  am curious  about the extent and origin of the tradition of using specific books. I’ll be the last person to criticize tradition, I think that tradition in general is a very good thing,  one form of transmitting wisdom from one generation to the next and also of establishing cultural connections. So perhaps the use of these books is part of the culture of physics education and perhaps they also include  a degree of wisdom (or at least knowledge of physics). But  I wonder what  is lost at the expense of adhering to a status quo in textbook use.

Anyone else come across this?

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