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Out of this list, the books I am familiar with, are great (Hilbert-Courant, Spivak, Korner's books). At the same time, even with extensive mathematical training, I haven't read them from start to finish. I wouldn't even like to say "read". For someone who's not used to mathematical reading, some of these books require careful study. That means generating examples to understand results (theorems), trying your own conjectures, proving things yourself etc. Over time, one becomes familiar with most/all the material in a book but the knowledge might have been acquired through various books (and courses) over time.

Also, mathematics is a massive field. The first question would be what kinds of mathematics would you like to get better at. There are great books in analysis. If you are starting out with a solid calculus knowledge, try Abbott's Understanding Analysis [1] or Duren's Invitation to Classical Analysis [2]. For asymptotic methods in PDEs, try Bender and Orszag [3] which is a wonderful book. But again, this might not be your cup of tea at all and there are more abstract or formal books like Rudin's.

If you want to approach fields without a lot of machinery, graph theory books by Bollobas are great (but difficult). See his Modern Graph Theory book [4] as an example.

For linear algebra, one of my favorites (but it was after I already learned the subject) is Trefethen's Numerical Linear Algebra book [5]. Another beautiful topic is at the intersection of linear algebra and combinatorics. See Babai and Frankl's lectures freely available online.

Then there are wonderful topics in geometry. A massive mountain to climb would be algebraic geometry. For one starting point, see [6]. Differential geometry (Spivak's multi-volume work or Needham's differential forms book) is another wonderful area. I would recommend Crane's discrete differential geometry course at Carnegie Mellon [7] if you want a concrete introduction.

You might want to demystify a topic you have heard about. E.g. Galois theory and the unsolvability of quintic equations. You could look at [8] which guides your way through wonderful problems.

We haven't even touched huge swathes of mathematics including anything topological or number theory. Even within the topics mentioned above, once you start, your journey will take a life of its own and you'll encounter multiple books and papers opening up new sub-fields.

The only approach that worked well for me in the past was to get completely consumed by what one topic one was studying. This meant not getting distracted by multiple topics. Once one enters the workforce, this is very hard (or at least has been for me). Without knowing someone, it's hard to recommend anything but the advantage with topics like graph theory and combinatorics is that one needs less machinery (as opposed to something like algebraic geometry). These fields lead you to interesting problems very rapidly and one can wrestle with them part-time.









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