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Solid State Kittel Textbook

  1. Jun 17, 2016 #1
    I wasn't sure if I should post this in general discussion or in solid state section, but am I the only one who finds the Kittel textbook horrible? It seems full of semi-empirical, basic math, and boring, surface level observations written as dryly as possible. I really like solid state physics and think the math can be beautiful and the theories and complexity interesting, but for me at least, my intro to solid state during my bachelors used this book and it basically turned me off of the subject until I re-engaged during my master. All my colleagues seem to swear by it but I would rather sit on nails than read more than a page. Is there some alternative book that can be used to teach undergrads? Or am I alone in hating this book?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 17, 2016 #2
    Couldn't agree more! The worst textbook I have ever read. As one amazon reviewer put it: "The prose is both laconic and imprecise - a combination that spells very poor readability." I think Ashcroft and Mermin is great. It has lots of good explanations and actually tries to give you some intuition for the subject.
  4. Jun 17, 2016 #3
    I also took a course 'introduction to solid-state physics', based on this book as literature along with printed slides by my lecturer. I didn't really have a problem with Kittel's approach back than, I had the impression it explained all concepts in a rather decent way when first encountering them.

    Recently, I took a more advanced course second-quantized solid-state physics, so in retrospect it is possible I may found inaccuraties if I would read it again.

    But I think in many branches of physics it is common to learn the phenomenology first, before studying the subject with a more in-depth theoretical analysis. You usually learn about newton's equations before learning the lagrangian approach. And I agree that the phenomenology of solids may not seem super interesting, compared to let's say elementary particles phenomenology. I mean, you could start studying physics because of morgan freeman speaking about the (Brout-Englert-)Higgs boson, but I haven't encountered someone going into physics because he has a 'passion for polaritons'. When you learn more of the math, particle physics and solid-state physics get closer together, and both can be very interesting. But you have to learn the basic concepts first before you can appreciate the beauty.
  5. Jun 17, 2016 #4
    But for instance Blundell's "Magnetism in Condensed Matter" manages to do a great job of explaining things without much math to give a cool, intuitive intro to the topic. Maybe if Morgan freeman taught the Kittel book to me it would be more interesting. Also Annett's book on Superconductivity is great. My point wasn't that the Kittel book is incorrect, just that the information is laid out in a dry and boring format. If I mentioned I hate the Kittel book around my work though I think I would be tried for heresy.
  6. Jun 17, 2016 #5
    Don't worry - you're not alone in bashing Kittel's textbook on solid state physics. He incorporates so much handwaving into the explanation and mathematics that sometimes they seem dubious or unnecessarily vague and confusing. More often than not, myself and my classmates had to turn to other sources to properly understand what was going on. It was truly painful to read - and as one of my friends once put forth, rather harshly, that he had serious doubts about Kittel's competency after reading the book. Some of the mathematical treatments in the book are indeed way too sloppy and ad hoc at times.

    It is quite unfortunate though that there is a dearth of solid state physics textbooks at the introductory level that are not only pitched at the appropriate level but also cover a broad range of topics, which is probably why the Kittel book continues to be the assigned text for most undergraduate level courses.
  7. Jun 17, 2016 #6
    It's comforting to know I'm not the only one out there :D Maybe I should start a support group. In Kittel's defense though, he did do a book called Quantum Theory of Solids that is really good and has a good mathematical/theoretical foundation in it. He was a theoretical physicist so I'm sure he knows his stuff, I just don't think his layout for teaching it to the "noobs" was good. Maybe if I did an anonymous survey at my work I would get people's true opinion on it...
  8. Jun 19, 2016 #7
    Count me in. I have the sixth edition and I always wondered why people kept referring to Kittel's book as "wonderful" and "amazing". Sometimes I think certain people says that about badly explained textbooks to make other people feel dumb. Or maybe it is just me being dumb.

    Or perhaps it depends on the edition?
    The people I know who were praising Kittel were more likely to have read the first or second edition of this book. Could it be that it has radically changed since then? It happens. Next time someone says Kittel's is the best solid state textbook, ask them what edition they are referring to.
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