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Best undergrad Electricity & Magnetism (E&M) Text Book?

  1. Dec 5, 2009 #1

    Im struggling with a pretty horrendous lecturer for this 2nd year course, so am trying to learn a lot of it myself with a decent text book. Im getting pretty scared for the exam in summer. We have been reccomended Jewett & Serway, but its kinda just a general physics, and doesnt seem to go into much depth with the E&M stuff.

    Ive been searching these forums for ages, and i think ive narrowed it down to:

    Electricity and Magnetism - Purcell (ISBN: 0070049084)
    Electromagnetic Fields - Wangsness (ISBN: 0471811866
    Introduction to Electrodynamics - Griffiths (ISBN: 0138053260)
    Physics, Volume 2 - Halliday (ISBN: 0471401943)

    Im worried Purcell & Griffiths are too much for me to handle (this is the first we have met of E&M and im worried these are too advanced). Wangsness looks good for content but Halliday looks perfect, yet i cant seem to find it for less than £100. What would you reccomend?


    PS, added the lecture titles so you can see what sort of stuff we are "covering":

    Lecture 1. Electromagnetic Phenomena
    Lecture 2. Electromagnetism is a Field Theory
    Lecture 3. Electric and Magnetic Fields
    Lecture 4. Gauss' Theorem
    Lecture 5. Electrostatics
    Lecture 6. Field Lines and Equipotential Surfaces
    Lecture 7. Electrostatics in Simple Geometries
    Lecture 8. Conductors
    Lecture 9. Images in Conductors
    Lecture 10. Capacitors
    Lecture 11. Electric Dipoles
    Lecture 12. Dielectrics
    Lecture 13. Electrostatic Energy
    Lecture 14. Electrostatic Field Energy
    Lecture 15. Magnetostatics
    Lecture 16. Ampere's Law
    Lecture 17. The Lorentz Force
    Lecture 18. Magnetic Forces
    Lecture 19. Induced Currents
    Lecture 20. The Laws of Induction
    Lecture 21. The Maxwell Equations
    Lecture 22. AC Circuits
    Lecture 23. Inductance
    Lecture 24. Generators
    Lecture 25. Resistance
    Lecture 26. LCR Circuits
    Lecture 27. Energy in LCR Circuits
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2009 #2
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  4. Dec 6, 2009 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Halliday is more or less the same level as Serway, i.e. what we call a "freshman" (first year) course in the USA. Griffiths and Purcell are used for third/fourth year courses in the USA. I haven't seen Wangsness but I suspect it's closer to Griffiths or Purcell than to Halliday or Serway.
  5. Dec 7, 2009 #4
    Thanks for the replies.

    Ill see if i can get a hold of a copy of Halliday & Resnick as, from looking at the contents on amazon, i think it seems most suited to this course.

    Im pretty sure this was a first year course last year, but moved to second year for timetabling, so i think it should be the right level. 3rd/4th year level kinda scares me (espcially with the complete lack of knowledge in this topic that i currently have!)

  6. Dec 7, 2009 #5
    I personally like Serway and Jewett above "Physics" by Halliday and Resnick.

    I dunno..."Physics" (as opposed to "Fundamentals of..." by the same authors) seems to be overly concerned with being a "hard" textbook. Unfortunately, thier version of "Hard" means "Lets explain alot less." Most of the exercises of "Physics" are the same or similar to "Fundamentals of..." but fundamentals explains things alot better, and it just looks better (yes, I know, pretty color pictures shouldnt mean much, but psychologically speaking, it makes the text easier to read...for me it does anyway).

    Now between "Fundamentals of..." by Halliday et al, "Physics for Scientist and Engineers" by Serway et al and "University Physics" by Sears et al., I personally like Serway the best. If you are trying to teach yourself, you might want to go on Half.com and pick up a copy of all three (choose an edition thats one or two editions old and you could end up buying each one for less than 10 bucks).

    Reason I say this is because some people "jive" better with some authors than others. Like I said, Im particular to Serway, but obviously Halliday and Resnick are Halliday and Resnick for a reason. Sears and Zamansky arent slouches either.

    Also, go online and download the "The Mechanical Universe" series. Its an old 80s PBS series that covers calc based physics from mechanics through modern. The professor doing the lectures is funny, the stories about the scientist that have developed the subject is interesting and thier development of the subject material is extremely clear.

    Especially with E and M which can be somewhat abstract at time, I found watching an episode after a lecture and read through a chapter in the book, really helped me cement what Ive been learning. Try it.

    P.S. The Griffiths text is definitely junior/senior level E and M. So unless youve gone through multi-var calc (vector calc) and an Intro E and M course...it would probably be a bit much. Im about to take an upper div E and M class and have already bought the Griffiths book and have started to go through it...good book, btw.
  7. Dec 26, 2009 #6
    The mechanical Universe covers E&M as well?

    My college uses Serway but I don't like it too much.

    Which one is better Fundamentals of Physics (Is Physics by Halliday and Resnick really better than Fundamentals? What's wrong with Fundamentals?) or University Physics?
  8. Dec 30, 2009 #7
    I dont think Physics is better than Fundamentals. I just think people think "Physics" is better (rigorous) because its not as flashy. But if you compare problems, Fundamentals has some of the same problems in it that Physics has. Both books are geared towards first year calc based physics for science and engineering. and yes, mechanical universe covers E&M
  9. Dec 30, 2009 #8
    I just read chapter 16 of Serway yesterday and I was confused as to where he got a lambda for his equation. Then I referenced University Physics and he didn't use lambda, he used something else and it made sense to me. I like University Physics better, it's more practical and it gives you good examples. I like, however, how Serway sort of narrates the text but they're very similar indeed.

    Off to watch Mechanical Universe :D
  10. Dec 30, 2009 #9
    EM really divid into physics side and electronic engineering side. They cover different aspect of EM. I have Griffith and it is really for 3rd and 4th year.

    If you are interested in engineering side, take a look at Ulabi "Electromagnetics for Engineers ". I study from cover to cover. It is relative easy but it is a good introduction book. I found it too easy and I am finishing up the "Field and Wave Electromagnetics" by David Cheng. I have a lot of EM books and I found these two are the best.

    Go to Amazon and look inside the book, see whether it is still too difficult. THis is used in SJSU as their 3rd year electromagnetics for EE. I think that is a cop out!!! Get a used book for cheap if you like it.
  11. Jan 12, 2010 #10
    If you have the cash, I still would recommend griffiths, he is so **** insightful sometimes. Read some of the freshman stuff and if it isn't jiving, see if griffiths can help. The only problem is the math, he uses calc 3 style math and if you don't know it you are screwed.

    Edit: And I can't leave out Walter Lewin on ocw.mit.edu, his lectures are amazing. He is a true professional.
  12. Jan 13, 2010 #11

    Griffiths only uses calculus III? I've taken it already, so it should be okay. I'm just afraid it'll be too advanced physics wise? What's different about his book that the other books don't have?

    I Love Lewin!! Definitely checking it out :D
  13. Jan 13, 2010 #12
    The beauty of griffiths is that the hard stuff is relatively easy because he actually explains it. If you don't know what a charge is, and don't know coulomb's law or haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, then griffiths will be too hard. But if you are familiar with the 'basic' basics and know calc 3, griffiths is amazing.

    Edit: To put it into perspective, the e&m feynman lectures are much harder to grasp compared to griffiths (mostly because the math feynman uses is crazy for a beginner, and he doesn't explain the math, griffiths has a whole chapter dedicated to the math).
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