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A Course in Combinatorics
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Top Customer Reviews
Combinatorics is a relatively recent development in mathematics, one which is generally easy to explain, but with many difficult open questions. Van Lint and Wilson do an excellent job explaining, but there are a few places where the reader needs to know some background to place the particular problem in the appropriate mathematical context. Understandably, if the authors were to include all the mathematical machinery needed, the book would be huge! Instead, they have chosen to describe as many facets of the field as possible, and therefore have written a broad, well-balanced book which approaches the topic in a non-threatening way.
My one criticism, then, is that there is a lack of depth in several areas of the book, with further discussion of advanced topics or open problems. But even so, I can appreciate the omission for the sake of accessibility.
To fully appreciate the subject, the authors are correct in mentioning that the book is written with the graduate student in mind. But by no means does the reader require such a background to appreciate the remarkable concepts and the exciting questions revealed in this book.
The writing is very clear and there is a lot of explanation. Exercises are mixed in with the text, which I like very much; it makes them seem more natural, and it makes the book well-suited for self-study. I would say the difficulty level of this book is a bit inconsistent--but this is more a function of the material than of the writing style. The authors make everything as clear as possible, but they choose to include some difficult topics which require more thought.
My main criticism of this book is about the order of topics, which is not only unorthodox but can be inconvenient as well. Many concepts which are often presented earlier in combinatorics texts, such as binomial coefficients and stirling numbers, are relegated to later chapters, where their presentation depends on results from earlier chapters. I find it difficult to skip around in this book--if you do not read it from the beginning, in order, it will be hard to follow the arguments in some of the chapters. This sort of dependency is something I can accept in a more advanced text but I think is inappropriate for a text at this level.
I think this is an excellent book to add to your collection, but if you're going to grab only one or two books in combinatorics I would recommend other books. The organization issues I mentioned could make this book hard to use as a standalone text for a course if you did not wish to follow the same course of development chosen by the authors. Cameron's book is written at a similar level and covers a similar amount of material (although it has a very different style of presentation), and it is much easier to skip around in. Stanley's "Enumerative Combinatorics" is a denser, more advanced text that most will find more difficult to follow than this book, but it is still easier to skip around in as well.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book was not in good condition. Previous owner had used pencil all over the book. This was not mentionedPublished on March 9, 2014 by ashwani rao