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Awesome textbooks

  1. Aug 17, 2014 #1
    We had a thread about awful textbooks recently, but what about the converse? Which textbooks do you consider to be incredibly well-written, clear and (almost) flawless. Which books do you consider to be closer to a work of art than a science book.

    It doesn't matter what topic it is or how advanced it is.
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  3. Aug 17, 2014 #2


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  4. Aug 17, 2014 #3


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    Altland and Simons Condensed Matter Field Theory
    Stone and Goldbart Mathematics for Physics
    Landau's Classical Mechanics (Honorable Mention for his text on Statistical Physics as well)
    French Vibrations and Waves
    Zangwill Electrodynamics
  5. Aug 17, 2014 #4


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    Landau Lifshitz QM and stat mech
    Reif stat mech
    Wald GR
    Kleppner and Kolenkow
    Gourgoulhon SR
    Griffiths electrodynamics
  6. Aug 17, 2014 #5
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Aug 17, 2014 #6


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    Ugh. Reif is a decent book, but work of art it is not.
  8. Aug 17, 2014 #7


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    MTW definitely doesn't belong on a list of books that are "closer to a work of art than a science book".

    MTW is a work of art. :smile:
  9. Aug 17, 2014 #8


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    Then we have to agree to disagree. Reif is one of the best physics books I've ever read. It's as close as I've ever gotten to getting pure joy from reading a textbook.
  10. Aug 17, 2014 #9


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    Haha no arguments there, it is definitely something to worship.
  11. Aug 18, 2014 #10
    Bender & Orszag is the best math methods book in my eyes.

    Pugh Real Analysis, Carothers Real Analysis, Simon & Reed FA Vol 1, Lee Topological manifolds and Janich Topology are all exceptional math texts.

    Tuckerman Stat Mech
    Kleppner CM
    Zettili Quantum Mechanics
    Sakurai Quantum Mechanics

    The two best textbooks I've ever used are actually organic chemistry texts - they are perfect:
    Clayden, Greeves, Warren, Wothers- Organic Chemistry
    Kurti, Czako - Strategic Applications of Named Reactions in Organic Synthesis
  12. Aug 18, 2014 #11
    Definitely one of my favorite books.

    The sequels are on much more esoteric topics, but really are as good. I love the various examples and counterexamples in the text.

    All of Lee's books deserve to be up there in my opinion. Some say they are too slow, and perhaps they're right, but I really like them.

    Other choices: Steen & Seebach's Counterexamples in Topology (not really a textbook though). Conway's book on operator algebra's is also exceptionally nice. The functional analysis text by Brezis also deserves to be up here. Finally, it's not really an official textbook, but these notes deserve mention: http://math.stanford.edu/~vakil/216blog/
  13. Aug 18, 2014 #12


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    Solid state physics
    Grosso and Parravichini

    Quantum Mechanics:An introduction

    Principles of optics
    Born and Wolf
  14. Aug 18, 2014 #13
    Considering the books of elementary mathematics, I do think that the series by Gelfand et al. are extraordinary, especially Algebra, Trigonometry, The Method of Coordinates and Functions and Graphs. Moreover, one of the first well-structured books is a classic by Euclid,The Elements, even though the original list of axioms is not exhaustive and there are some downsides in defining the primitive terms.

    My favourites are listed there.
  15. Aug 18, 2014 #14

    George Jones

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    I couldn't think of any books to include in your "Which textbook not to read?" thread, i.e., you convinced me that I am not critical enough.

    Now I am having difficulty thinking of books for this "Awesome texts thread", i.e., you have now convinced me that I am too critical! Maybe I am just too MOR.

    Scanning my shelves, I will say the broad and shallow pure maths book "Mathematical Physics" by Robert Geroch, and "Lectures on Quantum Theory: Mathematical and Structural Foundations" by Chris Isham. Despite its title, the latter is definitely not a pure maths book.

    Should I list a Weinberg book just to annoy someone? :wink::biggrin:
  16. Aug 18, 2014 #15


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    Annoy? They are in the same league as Landau and Lifshitz, aren't they?
  17. Aug 18, 2014 #16


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    There's a book that's awesome but I don't remember the title or the author. I've been trying to find out what this lost book for a long time. Anyway, the reason I remember it is that it had this story:

    The legislators of some planet decided that gravity was causing too much trouble, making things heavy to carry about. So they decided to repeal the law of gravity. Unfortunately, they forgot to also repeal the law of angular momentum conservation, so when the law was passed, everything went whizzing off the planet immediately.
  18. Aug 18, 2014 #17


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    Depends which Weinberg you mean. These are pretty good (though the specific examples are obviously dated now): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Weinberg
  19. Aug 18, 2014 #18


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    Don't you dare George! :smile:
  20. Aug 18, 2014 #19

    Ben Niehoff

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    Bleh, I can't stand MTW. Books I like:

    M. Nakahara, Geometry, Topology, and Physics
    Serge Lang, Fundamentals of Differential Geometry
    V. I. Arnold, Mathematical Methods of Classical Mechanics
  21. Aug 18, 2014 #20
    For an introductory Calculus text I recommend Anton's book. The craftsmanship lies in its pedagogical nature.

    On a similar note, I wholeheartedly agree with those who listed James Stewart on the 'other' thread :)
  22. Aug 18, 2014 #21


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    I'm not really a (professional or formal student) in Math or Physics, just a keen amateur. But I found Mary L Boas' "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences" to be an absolutely wonderful book. I bought it second hand from an engineering officer to read recreationally during my conscripted military stint prior to entering Medical School. Very concise, simply written, doesn't get bogged down with too much minutiae and "rigour" and has a very easy-flowing prose style, which is uncommon in a technical text. That was my first introduction to the Calculus of Variations and Lagrangians.
  23. Aug 19, 2014 #22
    That certainly could be the case, I have just never looked at them in any detail.

    I don't know if you've heard, but Barry Simon has a whole slew of books on analysis coming out in early 2015 that may be added to this list.
  24. Aug 19, 2014 #23


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    I'll restrict my attention to analysis and algebra. (I've never met a topology book I liked much.)

    I think analysis is inherently grungier than algebra, and I've never found a flawless book. Either we get a clean, abstract approach, where the author doesn't provide much motivation and the exposition is somewhat detached from anything classical/concrete (Rudin), or we get a grungy, let's-get-our-hands-dirty treatment where the proofs are trick-free but also tedious and you start wishing for a bit of that abstraction to clean up the arguments (say, Spivak, but at least his exposition is very insightful). Sometimes, we get abstraction without the beauty (Folland) or grunge without much insight (most analysis books).

    A short list of analysis books that I think are well written, insightful, and strike a decent balance between the abstract and the concrete:

    * Stein and Shakarchi's four volumes
    * Bruckner/Thomson, both the undergrad and grad books
    * Carothers
    * Bartle, Elements of Real Analysis and his little Lebesgue book
    * Berberian, Fundamentals of Real Analysis

    For algebra, it's certainly possible to write unclearly or unpleasantly (Lang, Hungerford, anything with more commutative diagrams than text), but the subject seems inherently cleaner and less in need of being tied to anything "concrete". Or maybe that's just a matter of taste on my part. I don't particularly care if there is any non-mathematical application whatsoever of group theory, I love it for its own sake.

    The three best-written books I've encountered on algebraic subjects:

    * Rotman, Advanced Modern Algebra
    * Roman [not Rotman], Advanced Linear Algebra
    * Isaacs, Finite Group Theory
  25. Aug 19, 2014 #24
    I like the detail and various problems throughout the text a lot.

    I do not like the style they use for chapter-section-subsection markup.(Is this the style used in all of the "Graduate Texts in Mathematics" series)
    The sections just continue regardless of chapter.
    I'd like it even more if it was like Part I, Chapter 1: Experimental Facts, Section 1.2: The galilean group etc.
    Then in Part II, Chapter 8: Symplectic Manifolds, Section 8.3: The Lie algebra of vector fields.

    Now it is Part II, Chapter 8, Section 39

    I don't know why this bothers me, but it kinda does.
  26. Aug 19, 2014 #25
    The Theory of the Riemann Zeta-function by E. C. Titchmarsh.
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