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Physics Textbooks

  1. Jun 25, 2005 #1
    Since ZapperZ's thread is too large I would like concise listing of your input on the "good books" in detail. ( U or G - Name - Author, comments aren't necessary )

    From what I have seen so far there are

    Introductory Calculus-Based:
    U - Fundamentals of Physics 7e - Resnick, Halliday, Walker

    U - Introduction to Electrodynamics - David Griffith
    G - Classical Electrodynamics - J. D. Jackson

    I'm not sure about the others...

    Quantum Mechanics:


    Classical Mechanics:

    Mathematical Physics:

    U - Mathematical Methods for Physicists - Arfken
    U - Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences - Boas

    Modern Physics:
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2005
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  3. Jun 25, 2005 #2


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    Mechanics: I consider Symon's 'mechanics' the best physics book I've read.

    other ppl recommand Goldstein.
  4. Jun 25, 2005 #3


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    First, a suggestion:

    I wonder if this could somehow be made into a sticky of some kind and have textbooks listed with user-reviews and ratings (like Amazon) and a poll count on how many are using the text in school.

    In particular, I'd be interested to see those for introductory textbooks as well.
    For instance, among intro texts, how do folks like the "standards" (like Halliday/Resnick, Serway, etc...) and I wonder how the new texts (like Cummings/Laws/Redish/Cooney and Moore) are doing.... at least among the PF community.

    It might make a nice resource
    for those instructors who are looking to choose a textbook,
    for students looking for a supplementary textbook, and
    for budding authors who are looking to improve upon the current textbooks.

    Now, back to the question:

    Feynman lectures are a great resource.
    I hear the Greiner series may be useful... however, be wary of typos.

    I didn't like Symon's text. I liked Marion's text better. Kleppner and Kolenkow is a great but possibly too advanced introductory textbook. Of course, there's Goldstein and Landau/Lifshitz. Fetter/Walecka looked interesting. Then, there's the advanced texts: Arnold and Abraham/Marsden. (Is there an intermediate text that develops the symplectic-geometric formulation?)

    In addition to what you listed, Purcell is good. Lorrain and Corson was a helpful resource. Landau/Lifshitz is also good.

    Mathematical Physics:
    For introductory MathPhy, Boas is great. Lea is good.
    Kreyszig and Arfken are okay. Some folks like Mathews/Walker.
    An interesting text is Bamberg/Sternberg... but maybe not as a first course.
    Schutz is a useful introduction to differential geometry.

    You might find this list helpful:
  5. Jun 26, 2005 #4


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    Out of curiosity, may I ask what you do not like about Symon's 'mechanics' ?
  6. Jun 26, 2005 #5
    Electromagnetism, Grant and Phillips.
  7. Jun 27, 2005 #6
    Can someone move this thread to Science Book Reviews in the PF lounge.

    I didn't know it existed.....
  8. Jun 27, 2005 #7
    I second the idea of a textbook poll, of some sort, if anyone is nice enough to write one. It could be more useful than all the hundreds of individual reviews floating around on the internet.
  9. Jun 27, 2005 #8
    I found Boas invaluable throughout my course.
  10. Jun 27, 2005 #9
    I'd take it off but I can't edit the thread!
  11. Jun 27, 2005 #10
    well, for gravity, i have Gravitation by thorn, misner, and somebody else. for QM, i have Quantum Mechanics. i don't remember the author of that one, but it is from Dover books.
  12. Jun 27, 2005 #11
    Perhaps a better alternative (I have both), would be University Physics 11th edn (Young & Freedman). This is the text I am using for introductory physics at the University of Sydney. The content is very similar to Halliday, but Y&F has a more modern teaching style.
  13. Jun 27, 2005 #12
    jdstokes: Can you explain what you mean by "modern teaching style"? I am considering purchasing one of the two for a reference on basic physics concepts (and to solidify some of the concepts I'm a little shaky on before I head off to college). As I have already read most of the material before, I don't want a book that "leans back"--I want one that uses calculus liberally and one that isn't afraid to offer a challege.
  14. Jun 28, 2005 #13
    I strongly recommend you get Fundamentals of Physics 7e Halliday, Resnick, Walker because University Physics Y&F doesn't emphasize as much calculus.

    I had to use University Physics Y&F and I didn't list it for several reasons.

    -It lacked emphasis on the use of differential and integral calculus in several topics for classical mechanics problems. (This I find to be the biggest problem)
    -The book is outragously thick and heavy.
    -There is so much garbage on each page that it is unbearable to read and that you are more likely to read chapters 37-43 instead of what your supposed to be studying. (The caution notes are okay but they are clouded with the "ISEE: Identify, Setup, Execute, & Evaluate" This is redundant, FBD's and formalus are enough but the evaluating part is essential to.)
    -There are too many errors.

    However there are alot of problems to work with!

    I suspect what he meant by modern teaching style is that it makes good use of physics and computers. The "Mastering Physics" is good but you need your professor to give you an MP instruction key in order to use it. The "Active Physics OnLine" demos are good tools as well but they are not required in demonstrating most concepts.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2005
  15. Jun 28, 2005 #14


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    i liked clerk maxwells book, vol 1.
  16. Jun 28, 2005 #15
    Thanks, Nusc--I was leaning towards Halliday. Because of your handy list, I might even explore some of the other areas now. :smile:
  17. Jun 28, 2005 #16
    Some of my favorites...

    Design notes log, G.O.D. by Robert Compton
    I found this a fantastically delightful book to supplement my first year of physics at the university level--I wish I'd seen it earlier. It addresses things at an ultra-fundamental level (classical) and is a very accessible example of how to tie together the ideas of a freshman physics course into a "physical sense." Again, it's only really useful from a classical perspective--but the point is that it forces one to consolidate the ideas they learn in freshman physics.

    I'm also slightly more inclined towards Tipler as a first year text versus Halliday and Resnik--the text is a little more readable and addresses some of the mathematics that H&R ignore (I feel that H&R just gives the solution to a diff. eq. without showing how to derive it.).

    I guess Reif is the "standard" text--though I've often heard people joke that it's David Griffith's responsibility to the physics community to develop a book on stat-mech. Reif is a little wordy, though I think it's better to be verbose rather than terse in a first course. He goes through the core material twice, once without the partition function formalism and once with--this makes it a little irritating unless you buy into the flow of the book.

    I don't think you can go wrong with Griffiths for a first course, though many complain that it is too elementary. Perhaps one should supplement it with a more advanced text--I'm particularly enamoured of Shankar's text, which is very self-contained and pedagogical. I think I prefer Shankar to Sakurai's Modern QM, if only because I feel it has the same insight but presented in a slightly more accessible way.

    I'm not sure if this is the conventional wisdom, but I think Griffith's Introduction to Elementary Particles should be read immediately after his QM book (perhaps concurrently with advanced QM books). After which, one can tackle Peskin and Schroder's QFT (with some background on complex analysis). I've been debating whether Tony Zee's "QFT in a Nutshell" is a good book before or after a P&S level treatment... but wherever it happens to fit, I strongly recommend it as a supplement. Zee's chapters are short, sweet, and surprisingly packed with insight and very funny anecdotes.

    Particle Physics
    After some QFT (or concurrently with the last third of Peskin and Schroeder), I think Georgi's "Weak Interactions and Modern Particle Theory" is a very good text. It's short and to the point, though it does presuppose a familiarity with calculations at slightly above the Griffith's Elementary Particles level. The Greiner texts (new editions, most of the errors are corrected) seem nice, as well--but they tend to be terribly incompatible with current standards in QFT and Elementary Particles because they approach the subject with slightly different formalism.
  18. Jun 29, 2005 #17

    I have reason to doubt that this is true but most of first year honours classes use this textbook. But does Resnick, Halliday, Walker's text emphasize more use of calculus in their problems for classical mechanics?

    University Physics Y&F has a very small section on graphical analysis with an asterisk.
  19. Jun 29, 2005 #18
    since you cannot do physics without mathematics, a short list of essentials in that area would also be uselful. I suggest adding "James Stewart - Calculus" for a start. That book is a godsend!!
  20. Jun 29, 2005 #19
    how do you guys like the Serway Physics for Sci and Engi text?
  21. Jun 29, 2005 #20
    I'd assume you mean James Stewart - Single Variable Calculus Early Trancsendentals 5e but the name of the thread is called "Physics Textbooks" and I specifically asked for a brief listing of the advanced physics textbooks, good books rather. As for Serway, my guess would be that it's probably at the level of University Physics by YF.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2005
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