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The MAA's Basic Library List is a list of books recommended by the Association for purchase by college and university libraries. Books that are part of the BLL have that fact indicated in search results and on their "book details" page.

How to Search the BLL

The browse page allows you to search for books restricting your search by topic and BLL status.  This is the easiest way to find recommended books on a particular topic.  We also provide an Excel spreadsheet (updated on November 4, 2022)  containing all of the BLL recommendations.     

How to Use the BLL

We hope mathematics faculty and librarians can use the BLL in various ways. In particular, it can be used to assess your library’s mathematics collection. You might start by looking at the full list of BLL*** books and checking how many of those are currently in your library, then proceed to examine the books with lower ratings. Keep in mind that books that are listed with no stars are books that the committee  “suggests that libraries consider.” In other words, they are good books that libraries might want to have if other factors (local research interests, for example) make them desirable. The actual recommendations start at the BLL* level.

The History and Future of the BLL

The original version of the BLL consisted of two small lists of books that the Association recommended for libraries in two-year and four-year colleges. This evolved, after much work by a large number of people, into a book: Library Recommendations for Undergraduate Mathematics, edited by Lynn Steen and published in 1991 as an MAA Report.

The list was organized into fields and included ratings: books could just be listed or could receive from one to three stars. Books listed without stars were books that libraries should consider for acquisition. Titles with three stars were considered essential books that should be in every mathematics library.

Of course, in the nearly three decades since the creation of that list, many new books have appeared. Fields have changed, and topics that appeared central then now seem peripheral — and vice-versa. In some areas (notably Computer Science) it no longer seems appropriate for the MAA to be recommending books. So revision was needed. In fact, if possible we should continually revise the list as new books are published and old ones disappear. 

The MAA Reviews editors are actively reviewing the list, adding books, changing star ratings. We are also striving to add reviews for books that are on the BLL but do not yet have a review in MAA Reviews. 

Please contact Brian Borchers, the editor of MAA Reviews to volunteer or if you have any questions about the BLL.

Basic Library List Ratings

The Basic Library List Committee rates books according to the strength of its recommendation. You will find the ratings listed below the book's publishing information at the top of the page for that book.

Using the Browse function, you can see all books with a given rating and can restrict your view by topic as well.

The ratings currently in use are listed below.

  • BLL — The Basic Library List Committee suggests that undergraduate mathematics libraries consider this book for acquisition.
  • BLL* — The Basic Library List Committee recommends this book for acquisition by undergraduate mathematics libraries.
  • BLL** — The Basic Library List Committee strongly recommends this book for acquisition by undergraduate mathematics libraries.
  • BLL*** — The Basic Library List Committee considers this book essential for undergraduate mathematics libraries.