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Artin's book is probably one of the better books, more because of the way you have to read it to learn it. Artin's book is extremely nonstandard, in the sense that it isn't so "encyclopedic" as you usually encounter with the whole theorem, corollary, proof, proof, proof, example, example sequence. What I think a lot of readers miss is that Artin's book makes you fill in the details he leaves out by using the hints he mentions in words within the text. For example, I was able to expand the two pages of notes on Ch 2, section 5, in Artin into about 8 pages of original notes and theorems, just by digging for the main points. If you want a sample of my notes, please email me and I'll email you a brief PDF sample for you to compare. That being said, assume that you will have to dig a lot in this book, and should you choose to study from it, I suggest the following:
How to read it:
With a cup of coffee, or tea, and a notepad of paper for you to make comments on. Do not take notes; anyone knows that simply rewriting things doesn't do anything for learning. You should do the proofs in different ways, if you can see how, and try to make some of the aside remarks he makes into theorems or more precise ideas (this is not to say that Artin lacks rigor; this is just talking about the general commentary. When he makes commentary, it always seems to be enough to actually dig out exactly what to do after a little scratching). He also leaves a lot of easier proofs to the reader, so do them.
Is non-standard a less-rigorous approach?
No. Artin is definitely doing his own thing here, but I think it works really well. Getting through that book FORCES you to take responsibility for your math education by making you get your hands dirty while also developing an intuitive understanding of algebra.
What about his personal flavor of algebra?
Well, it's fairly clear to all of us that texts seem to have different flavors (being a function of the author's research area, and what was fashionable during the time the book was authored). Artin's book is algebra with light strong hints of geometry throughout, as he is in algebraic geometry. You will find that unlike most authors, Artin loves structures made of matrices when working with examples, as opposed to permutation groups or the ``symmetries of the square group,'' known also as the ``octic group.'' While these things have their place in his book, he changes the emphasis here. That's why I suggest using a companion book so as to have two sharply contrasting flavors of presentation, and Herstein seems to write in such a way that would do this. Artin covers a lot of material extremely quickly, but focuses on the bigger picture in several key areas. For example, the sections 7 and 8 in chapter 2 deal almost exclusively with how one would go about investigating a particular group structure to learn about it, teaching a student how to dig into something they might barely understand.
Advice to make a wondeful course:
Use another book which IS encyclopedic as a reference, since Artin doesn't label theorems and definitions so explicitly. I suggest Lang's Algebra or Undergraduate Algebra.
This book helps you learn how to fight with algebra problems--in a course that can be taught in a very dry way, M. Artin has been able to supply a text with a large scope, borrowing ideas from topology, analysis, etc. The book has a very broad scope, and the exercises and problems Artin has chosen are great for teaching you to dig into ideas.
* EDIT * This book is based on lecture notes, and so is great to learn from, but not so great as a reference text. Things you might like to look up (i.e., correspondence theorem for subgroups containing a normal subgroup) are left as exercises, so it's tough to track down some things.