A compilation of books recommended by sci.physics participants as the "standard" or "classic" texts on a wide variety of topics of general interest to physicists and physics students.
An alternative view of theoretical reasoning in physics for final year undergrads.
Sommerfeld is God for mathematical physics.
Highly recommended texts compiled from the undergraduate lecture course given by Feynman.
There is the entire Landau and Lifshitz series. They have volumes on classical mechanics, classical field theory, E&M, QM, QFT, statistical physics, and more. Very good series that spans the entire graduate level curriculum.
This is one big book and it takes time to look through topics as diverse as general relativity, astrophysics, particle theory, quantum mechanics, chaos and nonlinearity, low-temperature physics and phase transitions. Nevertheless, this is an excellent book of recent (1989) physics articles, written by several physicists/astrophysicists.
In his unique no-nonsense style, Feynman lectures about what physics is all about. Down-to-earth examples keep him from straying into the kind of metaphysics of which he is often critical.
This is a science fiction novel which has more to say about the philosophy of physics than do most philosophers and physicists.
We include this book as an example of a book that contains mostly incorrect physics. Grissom is a philosopher who has managed to publish a book about physics without knowing much physics, and it's a shame that he has taught the content of this book for some (many?) years to philosophy students, who must've gone out into the big world thinking that physicists must be incredibly dumb if they really believe the naïve concepts that Grissom thinks physics is all about. This book gets all the big tenets of the subject wrong: Grissom thinks that special relativity is all about what is seen with the eye, a mistake that only first-year students are expected to make; he thinks that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle concerns the limits of measurement of quantities that are otherwise perfectly well defined; he thinks that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is an actual law that must be obeyed. And apparently he thinks that physicists spend a great deal of their time pondering the philosophy of the Ancient Greeks. All completely wrong.
Intermediate to advanced; excellent bibliography.
The appendices are somewhat more advanced and cover all sorts of nifty topics. Deals with geometrical aspects of classical mechanics
Excellent introduction without much calculus. Lots of problems and review questions.
Undergrad level. A useful intro to classical dynamics. Not as advanced as Goldstein, but with real worked-out examples.
graduate level text, a little less impressive than Goldstein (and sometimes a little less obtuse)
At the level of Goldstein but has many more worked-out problems at the end of each chapter as a good illustration of the material. Very useful for preparations for the PhD Qualifying Examination (I presume this is America only — ed.).
Intermediate to advanced, the definitive graduate(US)/undergraduate(UK) text.
You can't beat this for the intelligent, reasonably sophisticated beginning physics student. He tells you on the very first page about the experimental proof of how charge does not vary with speed.
plus... Chen, Min, Berkeley Physics problems with solutions.
Undergraduate level. Pretty difficult to learn from at first, but good reference, for some calculations involving stacks of thin films and their reflectance and transmission properties, for e.g. It's a good, rigorous text as far as it goes, which is pretty far, but not all the way. For example, they have a great section on optical properties of a single thin film between two dielectric semi-infinite media, but no generalization to stacks of films.
Excellent and extensive collection of EM problems for undergrads.
For the extreme masochists. Some of the most hair-raising EM problems you'll ever see. Definitely not for the weak-of-heart.
Same level as Jackson and with lots of material not in Jackson.
Undergraduate or low-level graduate.
One need no longer be confused by this beautiful theory. Richard Feynman gives an exposition that is once again and by itself a beautiful explanation of the theory of photon-matter interactions. Taken from a popular, non-technical lecture.
Introductory to intermediate.
Elementary level. Makes a few mistakes.
Good as an introduction to the very basic beginnings of quantum field theory, except that it has the unfortunate feature of using "imaginary time" to make Minkowski space look Euclidean.
On the philosophical end. People who want to know about interpretations of quantum mechanics should definitely look at this collection of relevant articles.
Philosophical. Collection of articles.
An exposition which has some gems on thermodynamics and probability. Worth reading for this alone.
(for comments, see under Particle Physics)
Good follow on to Schiff.
note: Schiff, Bjorken and Drell, Fetter and Walecka, and Slater are all volumes in "International Series in pure and Applied Physics" published by McGraw-Hill.
The so-called "revised printing" is a must, as they must've rushed the first printing of the 2nd edition because it's full of inexcusable mistakes.
A non-traditional approach. A good place to get an intuitive feel for QM, if one already knows the traditional approach.
An excellent collection of essays on the philosophical aspects of QM.
A good bet for a strong foundation in QM.
For the more mathematical side of quantum theory, especially for those who are going to be arguing about measurement theory.
A little old. Not much emphasis on airy-fairy things like many worlds or excessive angst over Heisenberg UP. Straight up QM for people who want to do calculations. Introductory graduate level. Mostly Schrodinger eqn. Spin included, but only in an adjunct to Schrodinger. Not much emphasis on things like Dirac eqn, etc.
This is a basic intro. to QM, and it is excellent for undergrads. It is not thorough with the mathematics, but fills in a lot of the intuitive stuff that most textbooks do not present.
A decent undergraduate (senior level) text.
Short entries, arranged alphabetically, emphasis on stuff relevant to quantum chemistry. Concentrates on the intuition and not the mathematics.
Intermediate level, based on lectures given by the author at Princeton. Very lucid exposition of the standard material with outstanding selection of mostly original problems at the end of each chapter.
Best of a bad lot.
The big and little Reif statistical mechanics books. Big Reif is much better than Kittel & Kroemer. He uses clear language but avoids the handwaving that thermodynamics often gives rise to. More classical than QM oriented.
Graduate Level. Good description of non-equilibrium stat. mech. but difficult to read. It is all there, but often you don't realize it until after you have learned it somewhere else. Nice development in early chapters about parallels between classical and quantum statistical mechanics.
Abrikosov, Gorkov, and Dyzaloshinski: Methods of Quantum Field Theory in Statistical Physics
Semi-popular book on the direction of time by a philosopher. It has been controversial because of its criticism of physicists such as Hawking for their "double standards" in dealing with the old problem on the origin of the arrow of time. It is thought provoking and clearly written.
The following 6 books deal with modern topics in (mostly) classical statistical mechanics, namely, the central notions of linear response theory (Forster) and critical phenomena (the rest) at level suitable for beginning graduate students.
intermediate to advanced
This is from before the days of his ISSP; it is a more advanced book. At a similar level. . .
(a great bargain now that it's published by Dover)
Half of the book is on superconductivity.
Still the best introduction out there.
With a heavy bias towards astrophysics and therefore on a more moderate level formally. Quite strong on intuition.
A thorough introductory text. Good discussion of the twin paradox, pole and the barn etc. Plenty of diagrams illustrating Lorentz-transformed coordinates, giving both an algebraic and geometrical insight to SR. (Seems to be out of print)
The best technical biography of the life and work of Albert Einstein.
Special relativity is so well established that its experimental foundation is often ignored. This book fills the gap and will be of relevance to many discussions in sci.physics.relativity
Good on mathematical aspects of gauge theory and topology.
One of the more terse books. The first volume on relativistic quantum mechanics covers the subject in a blinding 300 pages. Very good if you really want to know the subject.
Francis Halzen & Alan D. Martin: Quarks & Leptons,
Beginner to intermediate, this is a standard textbook for graduate level courses. Good knowledge of quantum mechanics and special relativity is assumed. A very good introduction to the concepts of particle physics. Good examples, but not a lot of Feynman diagram calculation. For this, see Bjorken & Drell.
Regarded by many people in the field as the best introductory text at the undergraduate level. Covers basically everything with almost no mathematics.
A popular exposition of the history of particle physics with terrific photography.
A good, historical, largely intuitive introduction to particle physics, seen from the neutrino viewpoint.
Introductory textbook, concise and practically orientated. Used at many graduate departments as a textbook for the first course in QFT and a bare minimum for experimentalists in high energy physics. Chapters on Feynman diagrams and cross-section calculations particularly well written and useful.
I am familiar with first part only (rel. QM) which I warmly recommend in conjunction with Mandl, since Klein-Gordon and Dirac Equation are explained in greater detail than in Mandl. One of my professors likes a lot the rest of the book too, but I haven't spent much time on it and can't comment. Published in 1993.
It's the usual Weinberg stuff: refreshing, illuminating viewpoints on every page. Perhaps most suitable for graduate students who already know some basics of QFT. Unfortunately, this book does not conform to Bjorken-Drell metric.
Although these two volumes do not touch the important new developments in string theories they are still the best texts for the basics. To keep up with this fast developing subject it is necessary to download the papers and reviews as hep-th e-prints.
Just a little more up-to-date than GSW
Through transcripts of interviews with Schwarz, Witten, Green, Gross, Ellis, Salam, Glashow, Feynman and Weinberg we learn about string theory and how different physicists feel about its prospects as a TOE. This also predates the new developments which revolutionised string theory after 1993.
This can be regarded as a companion volume to his biography of Einstein (see special relativity section). It covers the history of particle physics through the twentieth century but is best for the earlier half.
Another history of particle physics in the twentieth century. This one is especially good on the development of the standard model.. Full of personal stories taken from numerous interviews, it is difficult to put down.
This book describes the search for the Higgs Boson at Fermilab. It describes what the Higgs is and gives some background to the subject of particle physics. It also gives an account of some more general physics history.
Usually referred to as MTW. It has two tracks for different levels. A famous work in the subject whose main strength is probably its various asides, historical and otherwise. While it has much interesting reading, it is not a book to learn relativity from: its approach is all over the place, and it pushes gawdy notation which no one actually uses to do anything useful.
A good non-technical introduction, with a nice mix of mathematical rigor and comprehensible physics.
A readable and useful book, to a point. The 1988 edition, at least, unfortunately has a tangled approach to its Lambda index notation that is wrong in places. Schutz goes to great lengths to convince the reader of the usefulness of one-forms, but is clearly unaware that everything he does with them can be done in shorter time using vectors alone. Beware the show-stopping typos in the Riemann components for the Schwarzschild metric on page 315. The discussion about Riemann tensor signs on page 171 is also wrong, and will give you wrong results if you apply it. Indeed, that discussion is indicative of a general naïveté in the book's early mathematics as a whole.
A good book that takes a somewhat different approach to the subject.
(recently back in print)
For someone who actually wants to learn to work problems, ideal for self-teaching, and math is introduced as needed, rather than in a colossal blast.
A more advanced textbook than Wald's earlier book, appropriate for an introductory graduate course in GR. It strikes just the right balance, in my opinion, between mathematical rigor and physical intuition. It has great mathematics appendices for those who care about proving theorems carefully, and a good introduction to the problems behind quantum gravity (although not to their solutions). I think it's MUCH better than either MTW or Weinberg.
Non-technical account of the experimental support for GR, including the "classic three tests", but going well beyond them.
An award-winning popular account of black holes and related objects with many historical anecdotes from the author's personal experiences. The book is famous for the final sections about time travel through wormholes.
Ignore Dirac's small book on lectures in GR, unless you like reading books that have almost no discussion of their mathematical content (and almost no discussion of anything else, either). It's a sure bet that this book was only published because Dirac wrote it.
This book used to be hard to find, but can now be bought at feshbachpublishing.com.
An absolute joy for those who love math, and very informative even for those who don't. [This has been severely disputed!--ed]
Good introduction at graduate level. Not comprehensive in any area, but covers many areas widely. Arfken is to math methods what numerical recipes is to numerical methods — good intro, but not the last word.
Kind of like CRC tables but for ODEs and PDEs. Good reference book when you've got a differential equation and want to find a solution.
HE book of integrals. Huge, but useful when you need an integral.
is a really terrific text for self-study; it is like a baby version of Morse & Feshbach.
This is serious stuff. Also quite expensive even in paper. I think the hard cover is out of print. This is volume I (structure). Volume II (scattering) is also available.
Covers advanced topics in theoretical nuclear physics from a modern perspective and includes results of past 20 years in a field which makes it unique. Not an easy material to read but invaluable for people seeking an updated review of the present status in the field.
Introductory-to-intermediate level textbook in basic nuclear physics for senior undergraduates. Good, clear and relatively comprehensive exposition of "standard" material: nuclear models, alfa, beta, gamma radioactivity, nuclear reactions. . . Last edition issued in 1988.
For people with a solid background in physics and higher math, THE introductory text, IMHO, because it hits the balance between mathematical accuracy (tensor calculus and stuff) and intuitive clarity/geometrical models very well for grad student level. Of course, it has flaws but only noticeable by the Real Experts (TM). . .
The ghost-written book that made Popular Science popular, but an odd mixture of easy physics and very advanced physics.
A very good book. It's pretty old, but most of the information in it is still correct.
More Popular Science, and very readable.
At a more advanced level, a standard reference. As the title implies, K&T cover mostly the strange physics of very early times: it's heavy on the particle physics, and skimps on the astrophysics. There's a primer on large-scale structure, which is the most active area of cosmological research, but it's really not all that good.
Comprehensive, and on the whole it's quite a good book, but it's rather poorly organized. I find myself jumping back and forth through the book whenever I want to find anything.
This is a great, fairly thorough, though non-mathematical description of black holes and spacetime as it relates to cosmology. I was impressed by how few mistakes Kaufmann makes in simplifying, while most such books tend to sacrifice accuracy for simplicity.
This is very well written, and useful as an undergrad text.
Dennis Overbye: Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos The unfinished history of converge on Hubble's constant is presented, from the perspective of competing astrophysics rival teams and institute, along with a lot of background on cosmology (a lot on inflation, for instance). A good insight into the scientific process.
I consider Silk's book an absolute must for those who want a quick run at the current state of big bang cosmology and some of the recent (1988) issues which have given so many of us lots of problems to solve. [of course that's eons out of date now--ed.]
Bubbles, voids, and bumps in time: the new cosmology edited by James Cornell.
This is quite a nice and relatively short read for some of the pressing issues (as of 1987-88) in astrophysical cosmology.
A no-nonsense book for those who want to calculate some problems strictly related to the formation of structure in the universe. The book even comes complete with problems at the end of each chapter. A bad thing about this book is that there isn't any coverage on clusters of galaxies and the one really big thing that annoys the hell outta me is that the bibliography for each chapter is all combined in one big bibliography towards the end of the book which makes for lots of page flipping.
This is a definitive book for anyone who desires an understanding of the mathematics required to develop the theory for models of large scale structure. The essential techniques in the description of how mass is able to cluster under gravity from a smooth early universe are discussed. While I find it dry in some places, there are noteworthy sections (e.g. statistical tests, n-point correlation functions, etc.).
If you are blinded by the dogma of the cosmological principle, this book is a real eye opener. A technical, historical and bibliographical survey of possible inhomogeous universes from solutions of general relativity.
Transcripts of interview with 27 of the most influential cosmologists from the past few decades. This book provides a unique record of how their cosmological theories have been formed.
The very good book covering all of astronomy (also for absolute beginners) AND still going into a lot of detail for special work for people more involved AND presenting excellent graphics and pictures.
Pasachoff: Contemporary Astronomy
Good introductory textbook for the nontechnical reader. It gives a pretty good overview of the important topics, and it has good pictures.
This is a really grand book, which covers a huge sweep of physics in its 600-odd pages. Not only does it describe the field of astronomy in great detail, but it also covers in detail the laws of classical and quantum mechanics, atrophysics and stellar evolution, cosmology, special and general relativity; and last but not least, the biochemical basis of life. In fact the last few chapters would make a great addition to a biochemist's library!
Here is everything you wanted to know (and more!) about astrophysical formulae on a one-line/one-paragraph/one-shot deal. Of course, the formulae come complete with references (a tad old, mind you) but it's a must for everyone who's working in astronomy and astrophysics. You learn something new every time you flip through the pages!
(See Robert Heeter's sci.physics.fusion FAQ for details)
Undergraduate level broad intro.
Excellent overview at grad. level. Emphasis toward solution of elliptic PDEs, but good description of methods to get there including linear algebra, matrix techniques, ODE-solving methods, and interpolation theory. Biggest strength is it provides a coherent framework and structure to attach most commonly used numerical methods. This helps understanding about why to use one method or another. 2 volumes.
Good exposition of particle-in-cell (PIC) method and extensions. Applications to plasmas, astronomy, and solid state are discussed. Emphasis is on description of algorithms. Some results shown.
PIC simulation applied to plasmas. Source codes shown. First part is almost a tutorial on how to do PIC. Second part is like a series of review articles on different PIC methods.
Algorithms described. Emphasis on physics that can be simulated. Applications limited to plasmas, but subject areas very broad, fusion, cosmology, solar astrophysics, magnetospheric physics, plasma turbulence, general astrophysics.
There is a FAQ posted regularly to sci.nonlinear.
Or any other Prigogine book. If you've read one, you read most of of them (A Poincaré recurrence maybe?).
Borderline phys./math. Advanced level. A nuts-and-bolts "how to" textbook. They let the topic provide all the razzmatazz, which is plenty if you pay attention and remember the physics that it applies to.
He is a very clear and interesting, captivating writer, and presents the concepts in a very intuitive way. The level is popular science, but it is still useful for physicists who know little of complexity.
A popular intro to the subject of spontaneous orders, complexity and so on. Covers implications for economics, biology etc and not just physics.
For the more classically minded.
For quantum optics, the most readable but most limited.
If it isn't in this book, it isn't Fourier optics.
(Les Houches Summer School 1963 or 1964, but someone has claimed that Gordon and Breach, NY, are going to republish it in 1995), edited by DeWitt, Blandin, and Cohen- Tannoudji, is noteworthy primarily for Glauber's lectures, that form the basis of quantum optics as it is known today.
A very good introductory optics book.
This is a very clear and detailed book that is an excellent introduction to holography for interested undergraduate physics people, as well as advanced readers, especially those who are interested in the practical details of making holograms and the theory behind them.
Lie Algebra, Topology, Knot Theory, Tensors, etc.
These are books that are sort of talky and fun to read (but still substantial--some harder than others). These include things mathematicians can read about physics as well as vice versa. These books are different than the "bibles" one must have on hand at all times to do mathematical physics.
Something every mathematical physicist should have at his bedside until he knows it inside and out--but some people say it's not especially easy to read.
Gives the big picture in mathematics.
Really a mathematics book in disguise. Emphasis on ODEs and PDEs. Proves existence, etc. Very comprehensive. 2 volumes.
Dewitt is publishing a book on manifolds that should be out soon (maybe already is). Very high level, but supposedly of great importance for anyone needing to set the Feynman path integral in a firm foundation.
A classic, though a little old.
Old but good.
Excellent,fairly advanced, large experimental bent, but good development of background. Good stuff on lasers (gas, dye)
Superconductivity of Metals and Alloys, P. G. DeGennes A classic introduction.
This is considered by many as a "bible" for those working in experimental low-temperature physics.