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Beginner Physics Books

  1. Jan 3, 2006 #1

    I am searching for beginner physics books that won't break the bank. I am very interested in astrophysics at the moment. Only problem is, I don't know much calculus.

    Thanks for the help in advance.

    With best wishes,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2006 #2
    I've read many beginning physics books in the past year or so. Most beginning Physics books are unbareably poor from my estimation, and I have still not completed my journey to find the "ultimate physics book" for beginners, but a few labeled with asterisks next to them are great for beginners and come highly recommended. Here is how I can relate my experiences to some of the more recent (or not so recent) publications:

    College Physics 2nd Ed. Giambattista, etc.
    Has incredible pictures that sometimes really help visualize the ideas, but this text suffered horribly from a poor decision to "reconstruct" the order of the first 5 or so topics in a physics course in order to TEACH THEM ALL AT ONCE! Needless to say, most of the students in my class did horribly in the beginning of the class as they were never able to differentiate one idea from another.

    * Physics 2nd Ed. John Walker
    Highly recommended for beginners. The concepts are clear, the organization is tight, the problems are clearly explained (most of the time) and you can tell a real effort was made to explain the ideas as clearly as possible to beginners. Not a rigorous textbook, but for beginners it is almost perfect.

    Conceptual Physics, Paul G. Hewitt
    I have a very old version of this text, but it is great for people who are non physics majors that want to explore the ideas without struggling with any the math. It won't help with classes much (because err...they almost exclusively push the math), but it will help with understanding conceptually in very simple terms what the ideas mean in the real world. It has only been replaced recently in my mind by the Walker text as the ideal "beginner" physics textbook (because it is simple AND it has the math).

    Supplemental Readings:

    The Feynman Lectures
    Extremely comprehensive and filled with insight, but most definitely it is NOT for beginners (even if it covers the same material as the beginning classes typically do).

    * Physics, Jonathan S. Wolf (Barron's College Review Series)
    I cannot emphasize how much this book helped supplement my text when I went through beginning physics. I even credit it with the fact that I was at the head of the class, as I couldn't have done it without this book. I have read it so many times that the pages are brown, bent and the spine is nearly about to fall apart. What makes it so good? Each topic is explained clearly with examples and each topic only lasts a page or two (so you can read them in literally a manner of minutes and understand or review the core idea without sacrificing much detail). The author is very concise and it is a talent to define ideas, introduce the math, and create a conceptualization of the ideas in so small a space. The drawbacks is that some topics did not work well with such compression (meaning that if you don't have a backup physics source to turn to when the author's compressed explanation for a topic doesn't work, then you are SOL), but believe me that is MORE than outweighed by the parts that go right. Naturally, as being one of the few useful books for Beginning Physics that I have ever read it is also probably the only one I am mentioning on here that is out of print :grumpy:

    Physics: The Easy Way, 3rd Ed. Lehrman
    Distinctly average in all respects. Definitely not as easy as other texts I have mentioned above, and he doesn't put the concepts together for you in the way that Wolf and Walker's books do. I used it mainly for sample problems, of which there are a few per chapter to work through. Be warned though, it is a thick book and most topics are not really explained all that well.

    Physics: For the Utterly Confused
    Terrible. An attempt at creating a "for Dummies book" gone horribly wrong. Basically just a list of problems with advice and shortcuts to solve them. The problem is it is EXTREMELY light on actually explaining what the physics means, so unless you are learning from another book anyways it is useless (and when you consider that other books have these same kind of math examples in them, this book becomes totally useless). The worst thing about this book is the title is just a gimmick. All this is is a problem solving book, it is not a book to simplify or teach the subject to beginners in a way that will alleviate their confusion.

    Also, on that note the "Dummies" book for Physics has just been released, I purchased it over Christmas and while I haven't had a chance to read it yet usually the books in this series carry a certain quality with them, so it might be worth checking out. There is also a book forum here on PF somewhere (it's hidden, but might be a good place to look at for more detailed suggestions than this).
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2006
  4. Oct 15, 2008 #3
    How about "GCSE O-Level Physics" for Beginners from www.beginnerphysics.net. It should be simple but useful for the O-Level students.
  5. Oct 15, 2008 #4

    Andy Resnick

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    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    A precalculus-based introductory textbook on Astrophysics is going to be hard to find. "The New Physics", edited by Paul Davies, has an excellent chapter by Longair. And, you could probably find a used copy fairly easily and inexpensively. Maybe find it in the local library.
  6. Oct 6, 2009 #5
    I cannot find the John Walker book on Amazon.

    There is one by a James Walker.

    Is this the book?
  7. Oct 12, 2009 #6
    @mejoc, sorry to bump in your thread, but I am also looking for a non (pre?) calculus, conceptual physics textbook for my younger brother.

    Here is what I want the book to have(at least)
    1 Mechanics - kinematics, kinetics, gravitation, energy, work etc
    2 Vibration & waves - Vibrations, sound, light, reflection, refraction.
    3 Electricity & Magnetism - Electricity, electric fields, electric circuits, magnetism, electric devices(motors, generators etc).

    I have come down to following 4 books(strictly non calculus), in order of preference, from reviews on internet mostly.
    1. Physics: Principles & Problems - Paul Zitzewitz
    2. Holt Physics - Serway & Faughn
    3. Physics: Principles with applications - DC Giancoli
    4. Conceptual Physics - Paul Hewitt

    I ll be putting the order tomorrow. Kindly share your thoughts on these books or maybe suggest some other good ones.

  8. Oct 12, 2009 #7
    duh! now i see the posting date of OP. uh! nevermind.
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