I'm looking for an easy to read undergraduate book on partial differential equations, ideally something that is not much harder than a multivariable calculus/ordinary differential equations book.

I am preparing for a course which is using the text by Walter Strauss, but I found this text a bit difficult to read. Specifically, I found that many of the derivations were missing steps that were not obvious to me or provided little justification for the manipulations. When I searched for introductory books however the Strauss book seems to be recommended.

Google seems to recommend, among others:

  • Partial Differential Equations for Scientists and Engineers by Farlow
  • Introduction to Partial Differential Equations by Peter Olver

I have ruled out:

  • Partial Differential Equations: An Introduction by Walter Strauss
  • An Introduction to Partial Differential Equations by Michael Renardy
  • Partial Differential Equations by Fritz John
  • Partial Differential Equations by Lawrence C Evans

My background is having read A First Course in Differential Equations with Modelling Applications by Dennis Zill. Would I be better off reading the extended version of this book (Differential Equations with Boundary Value Problems)? I was a little bit hesitant because I was not sure how relevant the book is to PDEs. The chapters I have not read are Fourier Series, Boundary Value Problems in Rectangular Coordinates, Boundary Value Problems in Other Coordinate Systems, Integral Transforms and Numerical Solutions of Partial Differential Equations.

EDIT: I ended up finishing about half the book, which is everything covered in my course, Chapters 1 through 7.

  • $\begingroup$ The book by L C Evans was used as a textbook when I took PDE $\endgroup$
    – P. J.
    Feb 16 '21 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ I think you would benefit greatly by reading the chapters in the extended version of Zill. You would get a nice overview of the subject, and everything you learned would be relevant to the course you're going to take. I've never looked at Zill, but I'm sure it's fine. $\endgroup$
    – B. Goddard
    Feb 16 '21 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ I think B. Goddard is right, but also perhaps you should be given some encouragement to stick with Strauss. A book that leaves some steps out trains you to figure those steps out yourself. And it is guaranteed to help with your future class. I'll also mention that there's a solution manual if you look hard enough... $\endgroup$ Feb 16 '21 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ It's Fritz John, not John Fritz. That's a good book, but it's more advanced than Strauss. Generally speaking, you can rule out any book mentioned here: mathoverflow.net/questions/72318/…. But you might get some useful suggestions here instead: math.stackexchange.com/questions/2827/…. $\endgroup$ Feb 16 '21 at 13:47

Personally I am quite fond of Evan's Partial differential equations as an introductory textbook.

I would not expect to find something really "easy to read", though, simply because the subject matter tends not be all that easy.

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    $\begingroup$ Evans is a great book but if OP is having trouble with the Strauss book (Ch 1: "Where PDEs come from", Ch 2: 1D Wave eq, Ch 3: Heat equation on $(0,\infty)$, Ch 4: Introduction of separation of variables...Ch 10: generalisation to 2D) then there's going to be blood sweat and tears on reading Evans $\endgroup$ Feb 16 '21 at 12:31

I agree with the advice to continue with the Zill book, and to fill in steps in math books such as Strauss, but if you want something really easy, I have some lecture notes on differential equations at http://bterrell.net that introduce various topics in ODE and PDE by focusing on some applications.


For undergraduate level, the book "Partial Differential Equations An Introduction" by Walter A. Strauss is decent and is highly recommended


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