User Review - Flag as inappropriateOh boy. I don't even know where to start.

I guess the short of it would be, to quote a forum post I found when looking for other linear algebra books to study with (and that I was looking for other books alone should be warning enough), "not a very difficult subject and with some effort you'll do fine... Unless your class uses a book by a guy called Strang. If so, then God have mercy on your soul."

Let us begin with the cover. Agonizingly typical, the picture not only has nothing to do with linear algebra, or its applications, (although you could say that being a *strange* picture, it is kind of related to the author, "Strang", and possibly your reaction to this pun, "strangle") but it is also apparently a bit of pretentious abstract art. The title proclaims our focus shall be on "LINEAR ALGEBRA", but also, "and applications". As if to say, "Here are real world problems you can actually encounter in the real world, and here's why and how linear algebra can actually be used to solve them in an efficient, sensible, sane manner!". Ha, ha, ha. Here's how it goes: First our book talks about vectors and matrices and god knows what else (you can never tell). Then it asks you to solve variations of find the matrix problems. No reason is given why you would want to find given matrix, or why you should care. Then you get to write a few programs to solve find the matrix. Applications? That *was* the application.

The material was easy enough to understand, with these nice and neat little diagrams which you can thoughtfully look at and nod appreciatively. Easy, that is, so long as you already know what that section is meant to teach (like the obligatory let's do some grade school equation solving in this second year undergrad math class! chapter at the start). But then you get to the new stuff, and the real fun begins. And by fun, I mean that you decide to just screw it and simply take a bunch of solved problems, and attempt to ape them in the desperate hope that you'll get good enough at pretending to know how to solve them to survive the exams.

Though, to be fair, that worked pretty well for me. Turns out it's a good way to understand the topic as well.

But if Strang's book did anything at all to help me acquire that understanding, it's by destroying every sliver of hope I ever had of ever comprehending the tiniest bit of this "linear algebra". Or its applications. I don't know, maybe that's how it's supposed to work.

Then there's the problems. The wonderful, wonderful problems. Using the time-honored textbook tradition of only telling you the answers to some of the questions (why spoil the fun, right?), but taking it a step further, they pick the answered questions at random. Not only are half of the questions completely pointless (without solutions, how do you know you didn't pull the answer out of your ass?), or more like two thirds in this case, but you also have to go and see which answers are given, then go back and mark those questions. Of course, you inevitably end up remembering some solutions, which gets really annoying with true/false or sketching problems.

Despite all this, however, you will notice I've given it 2 stars. The book does have its pluses (cue horrid addition jokes). It makes a decent reference book, firstly. Or rather, it's convenient for when you can't recall details of a theorem and need to copy it from a neatly formatted source. Then, there's a glossary at the end, which has nice and simple definitions of confusing terms, and there are lots of confusing terms. Finally, there's the occasional gem such as "the proof of this theorem is too boring for words".

I would say don't buy this book, but if you are considering it you probably took a LinAlg course and the professor told you to buy it. In that case, buy it or no, try to find another resource. I hear good things about Anton's book.