Guest post by Vijay Vazirani
Our field has been blessed with some great books: classics such as Knuth's volumes and Garey & Johnson literally got the field going, and the books of Lovász brought much clarity in difficult, important areas. The new millennium brought a plethora of new books by famous TCS researchers including Arora, Barack, Goldreich, Kleinberg, Nisan and Tardos. With an astonishing 33 short titles in theory, Now Publishers has virtually created an assembly line for producing books.
Even so, when faced with the prospect of writing a new book, I am filled with trepidation and self-doubt: Am I up to the effort needed? Do I have a genuinely new point of view to expound? If so, have I figured out the "right'' format and style for expounding it in the simplest and clearest manner?
The issue arose when I decided to co-teach, with my able postdoc Ruta Mehta, the course Equilibrium Computation in Spring. With her characteristic enthusiasm, Ruta has practically forced me into a long-term commitment of writing a book on this topic. However, knowing what it takes, so far I have managed to resist an unequivocal "yes".
Most people would say it is a losing proposition -- the gains are typically minuscule compared to the toils. So why do so many people write books? I can imagine several reasons, but best to leave this discussion to my esteemed colleagues who are probably yearning for something to ponder on in this holiday season ...
That brings me to another question, "Are some of the books written in this millennium eventually going to be regarded as classics in the style of Knuth or Lovász's books?'' One could look at citation counts or average citations per year to get an "objective'' reading of the situation. However, when one is talking about true class, such crude estimators are clearly not the way to go.
Your thoughts are eagerly sought ...