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Books to read for high school physics?

  1. Dec 22, 2014 #1
    I basically started learning physics 4 months ago. I want to cover the whole physics school curriculum in the next 9 months, as well as the important chemistry and maths. I want to be prepared to start a physics degree in 9 months. I have around 4 hours a day(approx) to devote to it. I want to know all the good resources to learn these topics. I want to know the good books, websites and anything else. My focus is on understanding the theory and solving problems. Books that have lots of theory and/or lots of worked problems are what I love to read. I love examples and diagrams.

    My background...
    My maths is around pre-calculus/beginner calculus level. I found maths easy until this level but it. Though it isn't always easy anymore, it has become more fun and useful. The difficulty of some problems is balanced by the fun.

    Despite being somewhat good at maths I have struggled a lot to understand basics physics concepts and still don't understand them enough. Actually I have seen some classmates chug along thinking I'm stupid, while I sat there wondering what energy even is.

    So far the best physics books I have read have been:

    Basic Physics - Karl F Kuhn
    This book was a very good way to learn but isn't comprehensive enough.

    Introduction to Advanced Physics - David Brodie
    This book had good theory but not enough problems and answers

    So here are my mental handicaps:
    I struggle to memorize anything without context
    I struggle to apply anything without knowing the theory behind it
    I struggle to understand from words alone sometimes. Whereas you can just point to a diagram, then say this has x properties, that has y properties, and I'll understand instantly.

    So summary books like CGP don't work well for me. I basically need to cover the whole A level physics as well as the important chemistry and maths topics needed for physics, for 16 -18/19 year olds in the UK. I can handle maths myself but am looking for help to find good physics and chemistry resources which I can study that will prepare me for the first year of a physics undergraduate course.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 22, 2014 #2


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    Education Advisor

    Honestly the best preparation is to get as much math completed as you possibly can. A college physics major will generally start from the ground up, and assumes no prior knowledge of physics. I don't know how possible it would be to cover it all in 9 months, but you can certainly get a good start on it. Kleppner and Kolenkow's "An Introduction to Mechanics" is a good source for learning the material contained in Physics I (classical mechanics), and following that up with Purcell's "Electricity and Magnetism" is a good coverage of the material contained in Physics II. You'll want to browse through some of the page previews on Amazon or something like that though. You may or may not find their structure to be to your liking.
  4. Dec 24, 2014 #3
    I would recommend taking a look at David Cohen book called, "Precalculus a Problem Solving Approaching. I used the book for a pre cal class in community college and really enjoyed it. The author explains the material thoroughly without the sacrifice of rigor. Some of the end of sections problems can be extremely difficult.

    After getting better at trig/algebra buy a calculus book. Stewart is a good introduction to calculus (I prefer thomas calculus with analytic geometry 3ed however). Soak up as much as you can. Remember is better to an understanding of fewer things than knowing how to plug and chug many things. Do not rush to learn everything. But ask yourself while doing problems. Do I understand why? If I don't understand why what do I understand? Etc. Think while u learn, just don't go at math speed trying to finish every book.
  5. Dec 24, 2014 #4
    Thomas calculus 3rd edition is amazing but some of the language used in this edition or even the derivations for certain properties are not standard from what you see in today's book.

    Maybe buy an old copy of stewart and a copy of thomas calculus with analytic geometry? Should not be more than 20 dollars.

    Avoid physics book by Randall Knight, they suck.
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