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How Many Books to Bring to Grad School?


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Basically anything that I thought would be directly or tangentially related to my courses and my subfield/research. So, I have my old Calc books, diff eq and linear algebra (for p-chem), my old p-chem txt, 3 inorg., 2 organic, 1 biochem and 2 "gold standard" inorg reference bks. Oh, and a couple of lab reference books and my undergrad research thesis/materials.

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How many to bring? As many as you can fit.

What to cut? Inevitably, the ones you leave behind, sell, and give away will turn out to be exactly the books you want. More practically, and as someone in a field very similar to you: I find it most useful to have my own copies of primary sources in translation, so I can make my own notes in them. (Original language is of course most excellent, but I mean, a single volume of the Corpus Christianorum is like $350). As far as academic books go, I rely very very heavily on the library and scanned chapters, but find it useful to have a personal copy of many of the most popular works that I use. They are the ones most likely to be checked out from the library or placed on 2-hr reserve by a professor, so if I need quick access, that's the way to go.

I am also a fan of reference handbooks like the Cambridge Companion series, when I need background or bibliography on a topic but don't need to go seriously in-depth. However, many schools (including mine, which is on your list) subscribe to the Cambridge Online database so you have PDF access to the whole shebang.

Humanities grad school is the process of learning how many books you are in fact totally dying to read--while being faced with a mountain range of books that you, in fact, are required to read. (Some of which will wind up being worth it.) :)

A couple other pieces of book advice, for the other end of things:

Don't buy anything from the bookstore. Amazon Marketplace, Abebooks, half.com. Don't buy books for your classes unless they relate pretty directly to your field or are foundational for your discipline as a whole; library, scan, swap with someone else in your class, or ILL if necessary. This is a good way to help combat book glut. (You probably knew all this already, but it's still worth pointing out.)

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I brought a large library consisting of books on general physics, calculus, multivariable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, 2 books on physical chemistry, 1 on semiconductor devices, electricity and magnetism, classical mechanics, mathematical physics + solutions, 2 books on quantum mechanics, 2 statistical physics books, 2 dover paperbacks on chemical thermodynamics, 3 books on solid state physics (2 on electromagnetic properties, 1 as a unified thermodynamic view of all materials), 2 books on structural mechanics and a practical guide to operating scanning probe microscopes.

Just in case, you know?

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OP, I don't mean to hijack your thread, but I just wanted to add something in case science folks read this. I built the bulk of my "library" during/right after my 1st semester. As I progressed through some of my courses, I saw where my weaknesses/ additional interests were and purchased supplemental txts. Always online...for the best deals. The Dover books are gems (and cheap). I had never heard of them until grad school. I have ~7 of those. Also, some txts can be dowloaded online for free...not just on scribd, but at specific school's/prof's websites. I got a stat mech book (Oberlin) that way.

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I moved house to house, so I didn't cut anything in the move.

That said, I replaced/added hugely to my collection my first semester, including a quasi-permanent section of the university library that stays in my office. We get check outs by 6 mo periods with unlimited renewals, so I've had some books since my first year.

I found I updated and replaced a lot of books really quickly, and most of my undergrad books I've either kept for sentimental reasons, or because I might like to teach out of them in the future at some undisclosed time.

Out of 3 shelves in my office, only half of one of them has anything I've carried over at this point.

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