A reader writes (a propos this):

I wonder whether you could use your platform to ask professional philosophers of physics for a self-study guide to the literature. Long term I would find it wonderful if students and enthusiastic laymen had something similar at hand as Peter Smith’s “Beginning Mathematical Logic: A Study Guide”. Smith has over the years compiled his various thoughts and reviews on logic textbooks resulting in an extremely helpful booklet that details a path from absolute beginner in logic to that of a very competent reader of technically advanced literature. If you could ask your readers for reading suggestions for both maths and physics textbooks, in sum amounting to a semi-detailed reading list, I am sure lots of people would appreciate it! I ask specifically for the opinion of philosophers (especially for the physics books) as lots of physics books often lack conceptual clarity or flatly misrepresent some finer points relevant to the philosophy. Jenann Ismael’s SEP entry for quantum mechanics includes a very helpful short guide and I would hope we could expand on that and gather something similar for other areas of the philosophy of physics.

I am unfortunately not very tech-savvy, so I hope that one of your readers will eventually take the task upon himself to continue this project and migrate it to his own site but I would be very willing to provide feedback over time from the perspective of the average student and his opinion on the didactical merits of some of the books.

A final list (in the far future) ideally would consist of three areas:

One for the mathematics needed (linear algebra, analysis, differential geometry, topology…), one for the physics needed, and one actually consisting of the philosophical literature (various introductions to the philosophy of physics, loci classici, etc.) with each of them ordered in terms of difficulty.

Let me make the easy start/ provide an example of what I mean:

For the mathematics needed:

In my opinion the best introduction to mathematical reasoning is Daniel Velleman’s “How to Prove It: A Structured Approach”. It assumes no knowledge beyond high school mathematics (even less so) and introduces gently the logical structure of proofs and the various proof strategies an undergraduate in mathematics ought to know. Lots of exercises, some with detailed answers. Various online blogs are out there to compare one’s own solutions to that of others.

For a start in linear algebra:

Serge Lang: Introduction to Linear Algebra

Gentle undergraduate introduction to proof-based linear algebra that assumes no knowledge of analysis. Contains exercises and solutions are easily found online. Treats the usual basics up to determinants and eigenvectors/eigenvalues.

Serge Lang: Linear Algebra

Covers the roughly same ground as the slightly shorter Introduction by Lang at a higher pace, leaves out some topics such as Gauss elimination and also touches upon other topics such as polynomials and symmetric, Hermitian and Unitary Operators. Intended as the next step after Lang’s “Introduction to Linear Algebra”

And so on.

Comments are open for reading suggestions. Please use your full name or at least identify yourself by description (e.g., "graduate student in philosophy of physics"; "mathematician interested in physics" etc.).