I am sure that a similar question has been asked before, but I make my ideal textbook and situation more specific.

I would like a textbook on category theory designed for someone who knows basically nothing about category theory. I would also like it to satisfy (as many as possible) of the following

-Accessible (I am learning from scratch and on my own and do not consider myself a "good" student)

-Exercises WITH SOLUTIONS (I know that in the world of university textbooks this is a big ask, hints to some exercises will suffice)

-Relatively short (Please no 600+ page tomes like MacLane. Ideally less than 200 pages.)

Next semester I am enrolled in a subject which uses category theory and this semester I got a really nasty surprise when my lecturer started using category theory despite this not being in the prerequisites for this subject. I wish to somewhat rectify this over the 6 week break between semesters. Since I will be learning on my own, the solutions to exercises is really important. I don't want/need a comprehensive guide to all of category theory, just a book which gives me a decent, accessible grounding.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ MacLane's book is less than 300 pages long, and for basic usage the first five chapters are more than enough. On the other hand, a short book that starts category theory from scratch and has corrected exercises, I don't have much hope for your request (hopefully for you I'm wrong). $\endgroup$ – Captain Lama May 1 '16 at 13:21

The traditional choice which I'm familiar with has been Awodey's Category Theory. The new edition has some solutions, and it's explicitly designed for students with less background than Maclane assumes. However, this might go deeper into the interests of computer scientists and logicians than you need.

There's a newer book, Leinster's introduction to category theory, which seems to be exactly what you want, except perhaps in the inclusion of solotions to exercises, I haven't read it, but it's been very well received. It's also promised to be available free online in...January 2016. So if you're patient, you might get it for free!

There is also Emily Riehl's free online set of notes entitled Category Theory in Context, which is at a higher level than Leinster but hopefully less intense than Maclane.

Lastly, Lawvere and Schanuel's Conceptual Mathematics is an extremely gentle introduction, at least early on, intended for those with almost no higher math experience, though some ability to read the prose of authors influenced by Hegel may be required instead.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.