This article is 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. As a guide to finding the right book for you, many of the comments from the contributors have been retained.
All entries here are incomplete, and many good books are not yet listed. We would add more books to this list. Please feel free to contribute to this project by contacting us.
All entries here are incomplete, and many good books are not yet listed. We would add more books to this list. Please feel free to contribute to this project by contacting us.
General Physics (so even mathematicians can understand it!)
- M.S. Longair: Theoretical concepts in physics, 1986.
An alternative view of theoretical reasoning in physics for final year undergrads. - Arnold Sommerfeld: Lectures on Theoretical Physics
Sommerfeld is God for mathematical physics. - Richard Feynman: The Feynman lectures on Physics (3 vols)
Highly recommended texts compiled from the undergraduate lecture course given by Feynman. - Jearle Walker: The Flying Circus of Physics
- 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
Classical Mechanics
- Herbert Goldstein: Classical Mechanics, 2nd ed, 1980.
Intermediate to advanced; excellent bibliography. - Introductory: The Feynman Lectures, vol 1.
- Keith Symon: Mechanics, 3rd ed., 1971 undergrad. level
- H. Corbin and P. Stehle: Classical Mechanics, 2nd ed., 1960
- V.I. Arnold: Mathematical methods of classical mechanics, translated by K. Vogtmann and A. Weinstein, 2nd ed., 1989.
Classical Electromagnetism
- Jackson: Classical Electrodynamics, 2nd ed., 1975
Intermediate to advanced, the definitive graduate(US)/undergraduate(UK) text. - Purcell: Berkeley Physics Series Vol 2.
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. - Reitz, Milford and Christy: Foundations of Electromagnetic Theory 4th ed., 1992
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. - Feynman: The Feynman Lectures, Vol. 2
- Lorrain & Corson: Electromagnetism, Principles and Applications, 1979
Quantum Mechanics
- QED: The strange theory of light and matter Richard Feynman.
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. - Cohen-Tannoudji: Quantum Mechanics I & II&, 1977.
Introductory to intermediate. - Liboff: Introductory Quantum Mechanics, 2nd ed., 1992
Elementary level. Makes a few mistakes. - Sakurai: Modern Quantum Mechanics, 1985
- Sakurai: Advanced Quantum Mechanics 1967
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.Statistical Mechanics and Entropy
- David Chandler: Introduction to Modern Statistical Mechanics, 1987
- R. Tolman: Prinicples of Statistical Mechanics. Dover
- Kittel & Kroemer: Statistical Thermodynamics
Best of a bad lot. - Reif: Principles of statistical and thermal physics.
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. - Felix Bloch: Fundamentals of Statistical Mechanics.
- Radu Balescu: Statistical Physics.
Special Relativity
- Taylor and Wheeler: Spacetime PhysicsStill the best introduction out there.
- Relativity: Einstein's popular exposition.
- Wolfgang Rindler: Essential Relativity. Springer 1977
With a heavy bias towards astrophysics and therefore on a more moderate level formally. Quite strong on intuition. - A.P. French: Special Relativity
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) - Abraham Pais: Subtle is the Lord: The Science and Life of Albert Einstein
The best technical biography of the life and work of Albert Einstein. Particle Physics
- Kerson Huang: Quarks, leptons & gauge fields, World Scientific, 1982.
Good on mathematical aspects of gauge theory and topology. - L. B. Okun: Leptons and quarks, translated from Russian by V. I. Kisin, North-Holland, 1982.
- T. D. Lee: Particle physics and introduction to field theory.
- Itzykson: Particle Physics
- Bjorken & Drell: Relativistic Quantum Mechanics
General Relativity
- Meisner, Thorne and Wheeler: Gravitation W. H. Freeman & Co., San Francisco 1973
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. - Robert M. Wald: Space, Time, and Gravity:the Theory of the Big Bang and Black Holes.
A good non-technical introduction, with a nice mix of mathematical rigor and comprehensible physics. - Schutz: A First Course in General Relativity.
- Weinberg: Gravitation and Cosmology
A good book that takes a somewhat different approach to the subject. - Hans Ohanian: Gravitation & Spacetime
Mathematical Methods
- Morse and Feshbach: Methods of Theoretical Physics. This book used to be hard to find, but can now be bought at feshbachpublishing.com.
- Mathews and Walker: Mathematical Methods of Physics. An absolute joy for those who love math, and very informative even for those who don't. [This has been severely disputed!--ed]
- Arfken: Mathematical Methods for Physicists Academic Press
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. - Zwillinger: Handbook of Differential Equations. Academic Press
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. - Gradshteyn and Ryzhik: Table of Integrals, Series, and Products Academic
THE book of integrals. Huge, but useful when you need an integral. - F.W. Byron and R. Fuller: Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics (2 vols)
is a really terrific text for self-study; it is like a baby version of Morse & Feshbach.
Nuclear Physics
- Preston and Bhaduri: Structure of the Nucleus
- Blatt and Weisskopf: Theoretical Nuclear Physics
- DeShalit and Feshbach: Theoretical Nuclear Physics
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. - Satchler: Direct Nuclear Reactions
- Walecka: Theoretical Nuclear and Subnuclear Physics (1995)
Plasma Physics
- (See Robert Heeter's sci.physics.fusion FAQ for details)
- Kerson Huang: Quarks, leptons & gauge fields, World Scientific, 1982.
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