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Good physics B textbooks?

  1. Jan 5, 2012 #1
    Since I'm a freshman, and my high school doesn't allow freshman to take any physics class, I was wondering if anyone knew of a good Physics B book? I have self studied using online materials up till this point, but now I need a good guideline to progress further.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 5, 2012 #2
    Giancoli 5th ed. is pretty good, we used it in my physics b class... Not too expensive either and the explanations are probably the best for any highschool book I've used, easy and concise.
  4. Jan 5, 2012 #3
    Agreed, my class used it as well.
  5. Jan 5, 2012 #4


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    Giancoli is a typical commercial physics textbook. "Typical" means that it's fine if you just want to learn how to plug numbers into formulas without understanding anything.

    If you want something that will actually allow you to get any deeper understanding, it's going to depend on your math background. Hewitt's Conceptual Physics is quite good, IMO; virtually no mathematical content, but it's actually quite a good book intellectually. You can easily find inexpensive used copies or check it out from the public library. Even if you intend to learn the subject at a more mathematical level, reading Hewitt first could give you a good base to start from. At the high school algebra/trig level, PSSC Physics is about the only decent option I know of, but it's overpriced. (Touger is a college book at a similar level to Giancoli and much better than Giancoli, IMO -- but that ain't saying much, and the price is really exploitative.) If you've had calculus and want a really rigorous, kick-*** intro, then Kleppner and Kolenknow is the classic to start with.

    My own book is free online (google "crowell physics"), but of course I can't give you an unbiased evaluation of its quality.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
  6. Jan 5, 2012 #5
    I agree with Benjamin Crowell that, if you have the means, your first adventures into physics should be magical. This may be difficult to accomplish with commercial textbook.

    I would strongly recommend Matter and Motion by James Clerk Maxwell. Maxwell, as you might know, is one of the greatest theoretical physicists in the history of science. His writing is eloquent and simple. The book is very philosophical and motivated and thus provides a truly amazing foundation for not just physics but for all of natural sciences. Best of all, there is little mathematics involved. However, there is a lot of heavy thinking.

    His writing, despite being written hundreds of years ago, reads like poetry. Here is a quote from the book explaining what we now call the homogeneity of space:

    Beautiful! Do you think Giancoli discusses this, at least with such eloquence? Of course not! Matter and Motion is the only introductory physics book I recommend for students lacking in calculus. Although it is without copyright and, therefore, legally available online, Dover prints copies of it for cheap.

    After Matter and Motion, I would suggest you wait a bit before you pick up your second book of introductory physics. This is because calculus and geometry, which you may have not studied enough of, is the true language of physics.

    NOTE: In most modern printings, the last chapter, "On the Equations of Motion of Connected Systems," was not originally part of Matter and Motion, but was taken from Electricity and Magnetism also by Maxwell. Unfortunately, It contains some Calculus as it deals with Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics. However, since it was not originally included
  7. Jan 5, 2012 #6


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    On a homeschool forum I frequent (which is odd, because I am not a parent, but that's another story :rofl:), some homeschooling parents subscribe to the "Physics First" movement, and for their children, they use Hewitt for Physics in the 9th grade. Some of these students then take a more "meatier" physics course in the 12th grade, with another book.
  8. Jan 5, 2012 #7
    Hmmm...last year, I didn't take health, so my science teacher let me use Hewitt's textbook. I've used it, and it's certainly a good one. However, I haven't been able to get a cheap copy...I've been looking in local bookstores for about 8 months now, and I have yet to find one.
    @bcrowell I'm looking at the Conceptual Physics book on your website, and it looks good! I'm going to go through that, and maybe check out a few of the other books mentioned. Thanks!
  9. Jun 12, 2012 #8
    Hmmm... College Physics by Hugh D. Young seems to be great!
    Have a try on this one!

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