"For one thing there isn't a lot of set-theoretic language in Courant/John"
If you meant by this that for example Courant writes "if x is a real number" instead of "if [tex]x \epsilon R[/tex], then yes, this is true. To give the basics of set theory, one can always read the beginning of Apostol's book. I love Courant-John and I've also read Apostol, so it just seems weird to me that one would call it obsolete.
I guess it's silly to bicker over which one of the three is the best as they're all excellent books.
Which one would you agree upon that gives the broader spectrum of knowledge? It's my main focus, I don't want to miss out on important ideas/topics by reading a particular book. I really had heard that Spivak's Calculus on Manifolds was amazing too.
I've scanned through the tables of contents, and I've noticed that Apostol seems rather "dull", it's a long list and the way it's presented makes it look longer. I have also noticed that Courant has applications of calculus, and that Apostol has a bit more than just calculus itself. Spivak on the other hand has a VERY short table of contents. The contents of all three books were more or less the same, and Courant seemed to have more cover on power series and infinite sums. I am still supporting the idea of buying two of these three, right now Spivak and Courant seem like good choices.
To reply to Unknot's post, my aim is really to get as much as I can. Obviously I won't be reading 5 different calculus books in hope to get all I can get from calculus, so I'm really trying to find one or two books that can cover the necessary, and more.
Did you find Apostol to be dull or never-ending? The way something is presented usually greatly helps out, and Apostol's book did not seem very "inviting".
I was also wondering, what about multivariate calculus? All three books don't seem to cover it really. Is Spivak's "Calculus on Manifolds" as good as his "Calculus"? (No, I'm not obsessed with Spivak, I just hear a lot of good about him)
I find Apostol's motivation of the integral the best from a pure mathematician point of view, and Courant's from an applied mathematician point of view. You shouldn't worry about multivariate calculus for now, and it's difficult to learn it properly without any linear algebra under your belt. I recommend either Hoffman or Friedberg, but maybe you should start with Lang (because the other two are more advanced and deal with abstract vector spaces and vector spaces in F^n where F is arbitrary, whereas Lang only does R^n). To learn multivariate calculus, there is no better learning source than Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis.
Thanks a lot for the info guys. I had looked into Hoffman, seems very good, and has excellent ratings. I am convinced in Spivak, but I'm weighing out Apostol and Courant. Tell me, if you know, which one between Courant and Apostol provides the most practice/practice questions/topic assessment?
I read Courant/John and thought it was very good, very well motivated and explained. I do not think it is obsolete, people still read textbooks from 50 years ago, just think of Herstein. Also, Courant/John has nice applications, and remember, when you get to university, you will probably do a physics course too, where Courant and John will be handy.
I'm not sure if the differences in rigour between the books is as big a deal as people make it out to be. I mean, after all, you will study Rudin's PMA or some equivalent book later, right? And that's uber-rigorous.
Oh, as for the problems in Courant and John, there are plenty. None are plug-and-chug. Many challenge you to think harder. But, I have not read either Apostol or Spivak, so I can't compare.