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Best Book for Learning Basic Physics?

  1. Feb 27, 2013 #1
    I'm a freshman in High School who is, like most of you, interested in learning about physics. I am, however, fairly new to the topic and have been looking at some books to learn from such as: Physics I for dummies, Basic Physics : A Self-Teaching Guide, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Physics, etc. I want to know what the best book for someone who is new to physics would be. I don't have any knowledge of calculus and little of trigonometry. However, I believe that math is essential to learn physics and I want a guide that has math in it. I thank you for any suggestions.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 27, 2013 #2
    If you want an introduction to physics that features math, any book with "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" in the title will be a treatment of physics based on calculus. Don't let that scare you, physics is naturally explained using the language of calculus, opposed to explaining it's concepts with purely algebra and trigonometry.

    Not having any knowledge of calculus should not deter you from reading about physics, any of the intro books will have a chapter early on that explains the main idea's of the calculus used, namely the derivative and the integral. A few to get you started looking:

    Serway & Jewett - Physics for Scientists and Engineers

    Halliday Resnick Walker - Fundamentals of Physics

    Openstax - College Physics - I don't think this is calculus based, but it is actually free.

    Theres also the textbook forum, you can, at the bottom, filter the books by prefix (topic). In your case, try Intro Physics.

    I'm sure others will offer their opinions as well. Good luck, and learn /all/ the math you can in high school!
  4. Mar 9, 2013 #3
    Are there any good beginners physics books that are under 30 dollars?
  5. Mar 9, 2013 #4
    What exactly are you looking for in a book? Besides it's price.
  6. Mar 9, 2013 #5
    I'm looking for a book that will teach you all the basics about physics mostly just classical physics. I would like it to include math. However, I don't know calculus so that may be a problem.
  7. Mar 9, 2013 #6
    As mentioned above, the openstax book is a free download and Benjamin Crowell has a free pdf book (Conceptual Physics).

    If you're looking for a physical book just grab an old cheap edition of most any college physics book. The math needed is explained throughout the text, and don't worry about getting an older edition for self study, nothing in classical mechanics has changed since these were printed... Also, I suggest staying away from any "dummies" books. If you want an introduction to the subject, grab a text book and dive in, it will give you a real sense of what it's all about.

    Here is Serway & Jewett's Physics for Scientists and Engineers. It will have a bit of Calculus, but like I said, it's well explained when they introduce it.

    If you want a book with a little more rigor, and in my opinion, a better book, here's an older Halliday & Resnick copy. It'll run you about eight bucks... This book will be slightly heavier on the math, but for eight dollars, get a copy, it will give you a great introduction to physics as you work through it!
  8. Mar 9, 2013 #7
    Do you think a freshman in High School who has no background in calculus and little in trigonometry will be able to understand the ideas presented in the Halliday & Resnick copy?
  9. Mar 10, 2013 #8
    You need some calculus to start on Halliday & Resnick. So I'd suggest starting with a book like Calculus Made Easy. Remember that Newton had to invent calculus first, before he could complete his work on mechanics. So in a way, calculus is part of Physics.

    I would also suggest an old edition of Halliday & Resnick, which shouldn't set you back much. Later editions don't add anything essential.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  10. Mar 10, 2013 #9
    Daverz, you say that I should learn calculus I would like to but will I be able to understand and learn calculus without knowledge in Algebra 2 and trigonometry?
  11. Mar 10, 2013 #10
    You might want to concentrate on pre-calculus mathematics, then. A common recommendation here is Serge Lang's Basic Mathematics. This may be pretty challenging.
  12. Mar 13, 2013 #11


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    Staff: Mentor

    There are plenty of college-level intro physics courses and textbooks that don't use calculus. We use https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias=aps&field-keywords=serway+vuille+physics for that course here. But you still need algebra and trig. You don't need a whole lot of trig, just familiarity with basic stuff about sines, cosines and tangents. You do need to be comfortable with algebra, especially rearranging equations that don't have any numbers in them, to "solve for" one of the variables in terms of the others. This is a big problem for many of the students in our course.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  13. Mar 17, 2013 #12
    My physics class uses University Physics by Young & Freedman. Personally, I think it's a great book. It's highly calculus based, but it's not too bad in the mechanics part (the beginning), so you should be able to pick around it and come back to it after you learn what a derivative is. I have the 11th edition (two edition sold), so it was only a few bucks on Amazon.

    If you're going to teach yourself physics, I'd say you should give calculus a shot while you're at it, at least up to solving derivatives. I used Thomas Calculus. Not bad, but I'm sure there's better out there. The first chapter is pretty much a crash course in all the precalculus you need (line/circle/parabola equations, graphing, functions, and trig).
  14. Jul 25, 2015 #13
    Hi ,
    The best learning resource would be Richard Feynman lectures on physics.
    He was a marvelous teacher as he always focused on simplicity ,in his lectures he explains things from day today life ,like a rubber band ,salt crystal etc.

    The lectures are free on internet here - http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu

    The exercises complementing these lectures are here - https://www.amazon.com/Exercises-Fe..._sim_14_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1YY3Q2ES0FJSKQW006XA. (
    Exercises for the Feynman Lectures on Physics Paperback – August 5, 2014
    by Richard P. Feynman & 2 more )

    This book has been featured in discover magazine as
    25 Greatest Science Books of All Time. http://discovermagazine.com/2006/dec/25-greatest-science-books

    Happy enjoying (not learning ,if you read from this book ,you would enjoy physics ) !
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  15. May 28, 2016 #14
    Dr. Feynman is perhaps the greatest physicist of all time, but certainly, the writers of "dummies" books can give him a run for his money when it comes to giving simple explanations.

    It's been more than 3 years since you first posted Tyler133. I hope you've come a long way by now.

    Anybody who wants to learn anything should start at the most basic. The "dummies" can help you with that. We are expected to move on to "heavier books" and graduate from "dummies" after some time.

    We used Sears, Zemansky and Young in college, but learning always depended in large part to the student's interest and the professor's skill in explaining.
  16. Jun 1, 2016 #15
    I guess you are looking for French: "Newtonian Mechanics". Minimal use of calculus and lot of explanations about what physics is.
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