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Best upper division undergrad physics books for self-study?

  1. Aug 4, 2012 #1
    I'm currently working on Mary L Boas "Mathematical methods for the physical sciences", which I've been told cover almost all of the mathematics needed to follow undergrad physics books.

    I'm about halfway done, and I'd like to start looking for physics books. The only reason why I started working on Mary L Boas' book was to eventually be able to work through physics books.

    I'm looking for books that would be the most complete for a self-learner without a teacher/class. The book should respect the following criterias: Have good example, have good exercises, explains the material in an intuitive way. It would also be nice to have books with easily found solution manuals, or at least some solutions found in the book.

    I plan to start with a classical mechanics books, then move on to E&M. Currently, my two choices are:

    Classical Mechanics by Taylor
    Griffith's introduction to electromagnetism.

    Are these good choices? I was also wondering what the next logical step would be after these 2 books. I think a book on quantum mechanics would be the best choice. Would it be best to work through another "course" first? If so, which one(s)?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2012 #2
    I would recommend Hills Statistical Thermodynamics. You will need a background in vector calculus, probability, and modern physics. It is a great book I have used for a self taught course; the subject is absolutely fasinating. Its a dover book though, which means no solution manual.
     
  4. Aug 4, 2012 #3
    most books I've encountered provide a mathematical pre-face to get you up to speed on what's contained in the book. They usually assume that you have already taken multivariable calculus and linear algebra. But other than that they will teach you what you need. Taylor's book is a very good intro to Lagrangian\Hamiltonian mechanics, i found it very followable and an easy read. Griffith's electrodynamics is also a good book for beggining. The next step would be a book on special relativity (rindler's is good) and then QM (zettili's is probably the best out there). Once you finish those 2 you can chose to do statistical thermodynamics(I personally skipped it) or move on to General Relativity (Schutz or RWT - RWT is pretty expensive and it's over 1200 pages, though it's the most complete out there). Finally afterward you would move into quantum field theory and Wald's book on GR(wald is probably the toughest and most modern GR book, so it's best saved for last). and finally a book on cosmology or quantum gravitation\string theory
     
  5. Aug 4, 2012 #4

    bcrowell

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    For special relativity, the best book at this level is Spacetime Physics by Taylor and Wheeler. For general relativity, Hartle's Gravity is considered to be a trailblazer in bringing the subject to the upper-division level with innovative pedagogy, but my own book has the advantage over Hartle of being free: http://www.lightandmatter.com/genrel/ Purcell's Electricity and Magnetism is supposed to be a lower-division book, but if you understand everything in it, you won't learn anything from an upper-division book; there is a new edition coming out soon: https://www.amazon.com/Electricity-Magnetism-Edward-M-Purcell/dp/1107014026/ref=sr_1_1 A standard upper-division mechanics book is Goldstein; dunno about its pros and cons relative to Taylor.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Aug 4, 2012 #5

    bcrowell

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    Wald is a graduate-level text. The OP asked for undergrad books. I would not even recommend Wald as a first book on GR for grad students. It's very crisp and well presented, but IMO it works best as a reference, after you learn the basic physical ideas somewhere else. Wald is also out of date and lacks contact with experiment. Carroll is a good substitute for Wald. It's modern, and there is a version that is free online: http://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/level5/March01/Carroll3/Carroll_contents.html Another GR book that is very worthwhile, although limited in scope, is Taylor and Wheeler, Exploring Black Holes.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2012
  7. Aug 4, 2012 #6

    WannabeNewton

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    I wish they would release it already! I hope they add solutions for some of the less calculation oriented problems (especially the ones in the chapter on fields of moving charges).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  8. Aug 20, 2012 #7
    Griffiths, E&M and Taylor mechanics are two great choices.

    I've become a full believer in Zetilli Quantum Mechanics so I completely recommend that. I think it's much better than Shankar or Griffiths.

    Schroeder Thermal Physics is very good too.
     
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