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Best physics textbook for basic university physics

  1. Apr 17, 2008 #1
    Hello everyone

    I was searching around and am interested in finding the best university physics textbook for a university level beginning physics course. We are using University Physics 12th edition by Young and Freedman but the explanations are somewhat lacking- the problems are more difficult and the examples too straightforward ( a bit of a discrepancy). I read a lot about Resnick Physics textbooks but obviously I have no 1st hand experience on what are good textbooks (probably ones from the 1960s or so?) Any recommendations would be very helpful.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 18, 2008 #2


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    the first and second editions of resknick's Physics
  4. Apr 19, 2008 #3
    Good look finding that.

    Any edition of Resnick and Halliday would do, but earlier are a little bit better because they are more rigorous.
  5. Apr 19, 2008 #4
    What about the third edition- does that one vary greatly when compared with the first or second- the third is what i am able to get my hands on at the moment- I don't think that the explanations would be drastically different jumping from the second to the third edition.
  6. Apr 19, 2008 #5
    The third edition of Physics (not the watered down Fundamentals of Physics) is what I have (in two volumes), and it seems quite rigorous to me, with excellent problem sets.
  7. Apr 19, 2008 #6
    Can you give some examples of where older editions are more rigorous?
  8. Apr 20, 2008 #7
    For those of you who own a copy of the first edition resnick physics books published in 1960-1970s, could you please be kind enough to give me the ISBN numbers of the accompanying volumes please. I hear many great things about the book and am looking forward to purchasing them.
  9. Apr 20, 2008 #8
    'Physics' by Alonso and Finn. I own a copy, from the 70's. Very good, but I don't know how it compares to Resnik
  10. Apr 23, 2008 #9
    Hey everyone,

    Can someone tell me if this is a good First Year Intro Physics textbook?

    "Physics For Scientists And Engineers By Knights (Pearson)"

    I believe that my physics course this year will be using it, but I am unsure. But I just wanted to get your expressions on it, from what I have noticed and sampled it looks like a very good book with very good explanations and problems.
  11. Apr 24, 2008 #10


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    We used Knight at my university. I don't think it is the best of books, but it is also not impossible to use. If you are looking for a calculus based introduction to physics, then you may be disappointed. Even though he says the book is calculus based, that pretty much means that every now and again an integral sign will appear in the chapter. There are very few calculus based problems in the text, especially in the mechanics section. In the E&M section, there are a few integrals to solve, but that is about it for calculus based problems.

    Knight does explain some things well and he offers a good method for solving problems, but he gets way too wordy at times. For instance, he spends about 4 chapters covering Electric Fields and Potentials. This can usually be done in 1 to 2 chapters in other books. His section on waves and optics also leaves much to be desired. He focuses mostly on plug and chug type of problems in the wave section and most of the problems, in my opinion, just don't offer much insight into waves. On the other hand, the ray optics chapter is not too bad.

    In the end, I would definitely take Haliday/Resnik over Knight any day. I'm not saying you won't be able to learn from Knight, but it is not the best book around, though more and more schools seem to be using it. Maybe I am in the minority with my view of Knight...
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2008
  12. Apr 24, 2008 #11
    Feynman lectures on physics.. It'll set you back a bit but there's no better..
  13. Apr 24, 2008 #12
    Yeah I have been reading her on the forums how good those Feynman Lectures are. I am though planning on probably expanding my current Physics knowledge a bit more before I give them a try.
  14. Apr 25, 2008 #13
    Well the Feynman lectures start from the beginning really, they encompass all of physics in a very clear cut manner.
  15. Apr 25, 2008 #14


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    Motion Mountain

    Christoph Schiller's http://www.motionmountain.net/" is an interesting very comprehensive free general physics text. He includes introductions to quantum gravity, string theory and M-theory. Since the book is delivered as a PDF eBook he takes advantage to provide lots of linking between figures, challenge problems and solutions and the occasional multi-media aide.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017 at 12:29 PM
  16. Apr 27, 2008 #15
    best -CALCULUS-BASED- text for university physics?

    I apologize if this question has been addressed in one or another threads, but: given that my basic university physics courses were a very long time ago; and that my elementary, single-variable calculus knowledge seems to have stuck around -- is there a consensus for a "real" caculus-based first- or second-year university physics textbook?

    I am aware of classical mechanics texts such as those by Kleppner, or David Morin of Harvard. But of more general texts for basic mechanics and E&M, are there any which actually -use- calculus rather than, essentially, hint about its use?

    I am aware of Physics by Alonso and Finn; but I don't know how suitable it may be for self-study. Of these books which I know are used at various universities:

    Giancoli, Physics for Scientists and Engineers (version 3 or 4)

    Ohanian and Markert, Physics for Engineers and Scientists (3rd edition)

    Young and Freedman, University Physics with Modern Physics (11th or 12th edition)

    Wolfson, Essentials of University Physics (2007 copyright)

    is there a clear winner given the constraint of calculus-based development of the material, including development -- rather than simple statements -- of line and surface integrals for fields and EM waves?

    Or, is there a "better" text or a preference for a book not listed above?

    Thanks as usual for any suggestions ..

  17. Apr 27, 2008 #16
    Resnick and Halliday uses calculus exclusively.
  18. May 24, 2008 #17


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    I am a math guy, not a physicist. The frustration I found with standard books like resnick and halliday was they were insufficiently precise for someone like me used to careful definitions of terms and rigorous explanations.

    apparently such books should include advice like: "some times the reader will need to add some unstated but reasonable assumptions to what is given, in order to make sense of and/or solve the problems". this creative way of thinking is perhaps second nature to physicists, but not to me.

    for someone like me, the berkeley physics course seemed far more understandable, as did the lectures of feynman.

    still i recommend trying the recommendations of others here who are more into physics, i.e. resnick and halliday, as apparently it is written the way physicists think.

    my suggestions are just for someone for whom, like me, that book is unsuitable.
  19. May 24, 2008 #18
    The thing is that the other books that do field and potentials in one or two chapters, do a poor job of it. It's clear to me that it's one of the most difficult stumbling blocks in introductory physics due to it's abstract nature and deserves much more than the terse ill-motivated offering of the traditional textbook.

    I haven't read Knight's book, but I would have to say bravo if he actually put in the necessary amount of detail into fields and potentials.

    I agree with this completely. And it's not as if only a mathematician would not care for the lack of rigor, it actually has made it difficult for my students to learn from the text and they have made similar complaints. It feels so incomplete that I supplement HRW with worksheets that teach them all of the important material that remains unstated (namely the methods of problem solving). There actually is a precise method to solve physics problems, but the traditional textbook doesn't teach it. I think that is too bad, because to me teaching methods is perhaps the most important thing a textbook should do.

    The honors introductory e&m class that I took used Purcell from the Berkeley series, and it's a good book. Feynman's lectures and his popular books are always deeply insightful, I love them.

    In general the honors introductory class that I took used Moore's Six Ideas That Shaped Physics, and it did a good job of stating all of the assumptions necessary behind the formulae that were presented, related everything back to the core concepts, and it had special worksheets to teach the student how to solve physics problems.
  20. May 25, 2008 #19
    I agree entirely with the two posts immediately above.

    Perhaps I should have expanded my original question concerning calculus-based elementary textbooks. The issue more precisely was how best to refresh the knowledge of basic physics (mechanics, E&M) I had at one time, to prepare to deal with the material I really want to study -- General Relativity.

    On the chance that this information may be of interest to some other students, my plan now is to base this review on Thomas Moore's Six Ideas series, supplemented by extra mechanics study (A.P. French's Newtonian Mechanics, along with David Morin's new Classical Mechanics book). The sole negative to using Six Ideas for self-study is its lack of problem solutions, but at the level of these books I don't anticipate this will become a real difficulty.

    My personal SR "section" will be a combination of Moore, Taylor and Wheeler's Spacetime Physics, and one of the MIT OCW courses 8.020 or 8.033.

    And at that point, it appears that I'll have to find a way to try to attack differential geometry .. somehow.

  21. May 6, 2009 #20
    depending on what bits of physics you're interested in, i would (no matter which topic) get Duffin for electromagnetism, and mechanics, i dunno if its basic mechanics, pretty much anything will do, have a look at each book and see if it seems understandable. that said however, single variable calculus isn't sufficient for EM, do get anything meaning full from it, you HAVE to do some work on vector calculus, which is pretty standard, but forms the basis of classical electromagnetism, for that i recomend something like Boas (math methods for physical sciences)....
    good luck, but QM is way funner
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