Beginners Physics Books: Suggestions for College Students

In summary: I like it, but you might not like it if you already know calculus.In summary, when looking for a good book for an introduction to physics, there are a few options to consider. Giancoli is a widely-used intro physics book for those whose mathematical preparation only goes up through trigonometry. Halliday, Resnick and Walker is the standard text for those who have taken calculus. Runners-up include Tipler and Serway. It is recommended to avoid Knight's book. Other options for getting started with physics include "Basic Physics: A Self-Teaching Guide" by Karl F. Kuhn and "Physics Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide" by Stan Gibilisco. Another
  • #1
Perceptor
4
0
Okay so I haven't done physics in high school, but am considering doing it in college. has anyone got any suggestions for good books for an introduction to physics?
 
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  • #2
If your mathematical preparation only goes up through trigonometry, then Giancoli is a widely-used intro physics book for you. If you've taken calculus, then Halliday, Resnick and Walker is the standard text at your level. Runners-up are Tipler and Serway. Avoid Knight at all costs.
 
  • #3
Two pretty good books to "get you started" are
"Basic Physics: A Self-Teaching Guide" by Karl F. Kuhn
This book is a good introduction to physics with "easy" math. Overall, it's a good book to get you familar with the concepts.
"Physics Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide" by Stan Gibilisco
This is another decent book. It contains almost 600 pages & goes a bit deeper with the math. This book will prepare you much better for college, however I found the first book "Basic Physics" to be an easy read & a really good introduction to the basic concepts.
Hope this helped.
 
  • #4
I second the Giancoli books. Thats what I used. Its very good.
 
  • #5
Tom Mattson said:
If your mathematical preparation only goes up through trigonometry, then Giancoli is a widely-used intro physics book for you. If you've taken calculus, then Halliday, Resnick and Walker is the standard text at your level. Runners-up are Tipler and Serway. Avoid Knight at all costs.

I had Knight as my professor. I'm surprised you even mentioned his book. I'm curious why you say to avoid it? I can't say that I liked it, but it didn't seem that bad. On the other hand, I have never looked at Halliday, though I probably should.
 
  • #6
Serway, i think is a Canadian standard. I still use it as a reference
 
  • #7
franznietzsche said:
I had Knight as my professor. I'm surprised you even mentioned his book. I'm curious why you say to avoid it? I can't say that I liked it, but it didn't seem that bad.

I can't recall specifics, but a couple of years ago I was tutoring some students who were taking Physics I from Knight's book. It seemed to confuse more than illuminate, and I often found myself telling the students to put that book down and read the equivalent sections in Halliday, Resnick, and Walker. I heard nothing but complaints about the book from students taking the subsequent courses.
 
  • #8
Something like "In Search of Shrodingers Cat" or "The Art of the Infinite" are good
 
  • #9
The first physics course I ever took used the 'pre-edition' of Knight's book. The text was free but it was AWFUL!

The next semester I was required to buy the 1st ed. of the Knight book. The stupid thing was still chock full of typos and unclear language.

And worse than typos; in the modern physics section, the author actually makes incorrect statements about quantum mechanics.

I got a copy of the Serway book to suplement the Knight book. I was quite satisfied with the Serway book and I still use it as a reference.
 
  • #10
Tom Mattson said:
I can't recall specifics, but a couple of years ago I was tutoring some students who were taking Physics I from Knight's book. It seemed to confuse more than illuminate, and I often found myself telling the students to put that book down and read the equivalent sections in Halliday, Resnick, and Walker. I heard nothing but complaints about the book from students taking the subsequent courses.

I do remember that the way it started with vectors and kinematics annoyed me no end, it seemed thoroughly retarded.

*melinda* said:
The first physics course I ever took used the 'pre-edition' of Knight's book. The text was free but it was AWFUL!

The next semester I was required to buy the 1st ed. of the Knight book. The stupid thing was still chock full of typos and unclear language.

And worse than typos; in the modern physics section, the author actually makes incorrect statements about quantum mechanics.

I got a copy of the Serway book to suplement the Knight book. I was quite satisfied with the Serway book and I still use it as a reference.

Ok, I just pulled out my roommate's copy of the book (i lost mine at some point last year). The Brief table of contents lists 6 chapters on modern atomic/nuclear/quantum physics that are not even in the book, and are not listed in the Detailed table of contents.

Now that I start actually looking at it again for the first time in a while, I remember more things I disliked about it. Bleh. Definitely wouldn't recommend it for someone wanting to do independent study.
 
  • #11
*melinda* said:
I got a copy of the Serway book to suplement the Knight book. I was quite satisfied with the Serway book and I still use it as a reference.
If you mean Serway's College Physics, I found that to be one of the most confusing physics books ever. (Can't judge Physics for Scientists and Engineers..)
A good physics book we used last year for college-prep physics was Physics: Principles and Problems by Paul W. Zitzewitz... covers everything well at the level of an algebra/trigonometry-based physics course.
Also, "Physics Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide" by Stan Gibilisco is pretty good too, although it focuses more on concepts rather than the math behind everything.
 
  • #12
Pseudo Statistic said:
If you mean Serway's College Physics, I found that to be one of the most confusing physics books ever.

Serway is calculus based, so if you were taking an algebra/trigonometry-based physics course, I could see how Serway would be confusing.
 
  • #13
Before Knight publishes his book, doesn't it have to be reviewed or something by other people in that field? Its hard to believe that a book could go on the market (and be used a textbook) with such incorrect contents. Dont the professors even take a look at the book? Cant anything be done to prevent books like this from hitting the market?
 
  • #14
I learned my intro physics using Halliday-Resnick [classic, green cover with yellow waves], then TA-ed using Halliday-Resnick-Walker and calc-based-Serway, and taught with Cutnell-Johnson, Wilson-Buffa, and calc-based-Serway. These were essentially pre-selected by my instructors or department-heads and their previous instructors. To me, H-R was my favorite and the others (to me) seemed like variations on its theme and layout. [Historians of physics textbooks: what was before H-R?]

Does anyone have opinions (as a student, as a TA, or as an instructor) about the newer entries into this genre,
such as

Giambattista, Richardson, and Richardson - College Physics (which I was considering adopting in 06-07)
http://catalogs.mhhe.com/mhhe/viewProductDetails.do?isbn=0072875593
and
Cummings, Laws, Redish, and Cooney - Understanding Physics (which builds upon H-R)
http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471370991.html
and
McDermott - Tutorials in Introductory Physics
http://www.phys.washington.edu/groups/peg/tut.html
and
Moore - Six Ideas that Shaped Physics
http://www.physics.pomona.edu/sixideas/
and
Chabay and Sherwood - Matter & Interactions
http://www4.ncsu.edu/~rwchabay/mi/

which have been influenced by the Physics Education Research community.
http://www.physics.umd.edu/perg/homepages.htm
http://www.phys.washington.edu/groups/peg/
 
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  • #15
kuahji said:
"Physics Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide" by Stan Gibilisco
This is another decent book. It contains almost 600 pages & goes a bit deeper with the math. This book will prepare you much better for college, however I found the first book "Basic Physics" to be an easy read & a really good introduction to the basic concepts.

I found this book to be very poorly written/reasoned in sections, especially when dealing with the conceptual aspects behind the physics being discussed. It's possible that my first impression was incorrect, as I didn't give the book a thorough study, but it certainly didn't leave me with a good first impression when I skimmed through a copy a friend had on his bookshelf.
 
  • #16
*melinda* said:
Serway is calculus based, so if you were taking an algebra/trigonometry-based physics course, I could see how Serway would be confusing.
Are we talking about the same book? :\
I know enough calculus to get by.. but the Serway book that we have is limited to algebra and trigonometry... "College Physics" is the name.
Maybe you're talking about Physics for Scientists and Engineers?
 
  • #17
The Physics for Scientists and Engineers is definitely a calc. based book, that's the one I used when I was an undergrad.
 
  • #18
ranger said:
Before Knight publishes his book, doesn't it have to be reviewed or something by other people in that field? Its hard to believe that a book could go on the market (and be used a textbook) with such incorrect contents. Dont the professors even take a look at the book? Cant anything be done to prevent books like this from hitting the market?


You know, I would think so, and I found it very odd when I saw that. I have no idea why it was like that. That said, the guy is a bit too much in love with hhis book as well. In his lectures, if someone asks a question, about 50% of the time his answer will be along the lines of "I would explain it, but its already in the book."
 
  • #19
franznietzsche said:
You know, I would think so, and I found it very odd when I saw that. I have no idea why it was like that. That said, the guy is a bit too much in love with hhis book as well. In his lectures, if someone asks a question, about 50% of the time his answer will be along the lines of "I would explain it, but its already in the book."
In my opinion (as a student),
I can sympathize with your sentiment.

In my opinion (as an instructor)...
it may very well be that his response for this particular question is the same as that he carefully wrote in the textbook... so, rather than spend the class time repeating what is in the book, it's suggested to read the book outside of class. It may also be suggesting that, for this question, the answer was right there in the textbook if only the student had read it before coming to class.

A new trend in physics education is to lecture less and not repeat what is already in the textbook (which they should be reading outside of class)... and instead spend the time helping the student to be less passive [i.e. just being given the answer to a question] and more interactive with other students in learning the important concepts through a guided activity.
 
  • #20
robphy said:
In my opinion (as a student),
I can sympathize with your sentiment.

In my opinion (as an instructor)...
it may very well be that his response for this particular question is the same as that he carefully wrote in the textbook... so, rather than spend the class time repeating what is in the book, it's suggested to read the book outside of class. It may also be suggesting that, for this question, the answer was right there in the textbook if only the student had read it before coming to class.

Actually this is exactly why. The problem though, is when what was in the book just left the student confused, that response from him doesn't help. I've had a number of classmates, mostly engineering majors, who read the book, but still did not understand it. So when the professor responds like that, it kinda leaves them up a creek without a paddle, and keeps my room filled with people looking for homework help until midnight or later most nights.

A new trend in physics education is to lecture less and not repeat what is already in the textbook (which they should be reading outside of class)... and instead spend the time helping the student to be less passive [i.e. just being given the answer to a question] and more interactive with other students in learning the important concepts through a guided activity.

I like this trend, and it is the way Knight teaches. But my above criticism still stands.
 
  • #21
franznietzsche said:
Actually this is exactly why. The problem though, is when what was in the book just left the student confused, that response from him doesn't help. I've had a number of classmates, mostly engineering majors, who read the book, but still did not understand it. So when the professor responds like that, it kinda leaves them up a creek without a paddle, and keeps my room filled with people looking for homework help until midnight or later most nights.
For what it's worth [now], in my experience, it's this kind of struggle (however unpleasant) that leads to an eventual understanding of material. (I say eventual because it may take longer than a day when starting on the night before an exam.)

Admittedly, as an instructor, in formulating the neatly packaged statement that is intended to be (and may well be) "the best way" to teach something, one sometimes forgets how one struggled as a student. Often it's best to learn from your peers who are also struggling... and use the professor and a textbook as merely a guide.
 

Related to Beginners Physics Books: Suggestions for College Students

1. What is the purpose of a beginner's physics book for college students?

A beginner's physics book for college students is designed to introduce the fundamental concepts and principles of physics in a clear and accessible manner. It serves as a foundation for further studies in the field and provides a solid understanding of the basics for students who may not have a strong background in physics.

2. What topics should a beginner's physics book cover?

A beginner's physics book should cover topics such as mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, optics, and modern physics. It should also include real-world examples and applications to help students understand the relevance of physics in their daily lives.

3. Are there any recommended beginner's physics books for college students?

Yes, there are many recommended beginner's physics books for college students. Some popular options include "Fundamentals of Physics" by Halliday and Resnick, "University Physics" by Young and Freedman, and "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" by Knight. It is important to choose a book that aligns with your course curriculum and learning style.

4. How can a beginner's physics book help me succeed in my college physics course?

A beginner's physics book can help you succeed in your college physics course by providing a solid understanding of the basic concepts and principles. It can also help you develop problem-solving skills and provide practice problems and exercises to reinforce your learning. Additionally, many beginner's physics books include online resources and interactive tools to further enhance your understanding.

5. Should I supplement my beginner's physics book with other resources?

It is always beneficial to supplement your studies with additional resources, such as online tutorials, practice problems, and study guides. These resources can provide different perspectives and explanations, and can also help reinforce your understanding of difficult concepts. However, a well-written beginner's physics book should be sufficient as the main resource for your studies.

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