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Classical Poll on Thermodynamics/Statistical Physics books

  1. An Introduction to Thermal Physics by Schroeder

  2. Statistical Mechanics by Pathria

  3. Statistical Physics of Particles by Kardar

  4. Concepts in Thermal Physics by Blundell

  5. Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics by Greiner

  6. Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics by Reif

  7. Thermal Physics by Kittel/Kroemer

    0 vote(s)
  8. Statistical Physics by Mandl

    0 vote(s)
  9. Other(please specify)

Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Jul 16, 2016 #1
    There are so many Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics books that people suggest, that I don't know which one to use in my upcoming undergraduate course.
    So, which one is your favorite?
    Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 16, 2016 #2


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    I own Pathria ( L 8.25 from when the pound was cheap in 1976 :smile: ) and learned a lot from D. ter Haar: Elements of thermostatistics, 1966 (!)
    But then and here Stat Mech was a postgraduate item -- and it gave me a hard time so had to take it twice in successive years. For undergraduate engineers I would recommend Y Cengel, but for budding cosmologists it's unsuitable. So: what undergraduate course ?
  4. Jul 16, 2016 #3
    It's a third year Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics course for physicists. I want a book intended for theoretical physicists but one that also intuitively explains the concepts.
  5. Jul 16, 2016 #4
    If you are beginning to learn thermodynamics you should go for Schroeder
  6. Jul 16, 2016 #5


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    Third year was postgrad in those days (Netherlands, 1973).
    Both I mentioned are half a century old; in view of current developments like black hole thermodynamics and such I would expect you need something better to prepare your students for their future. I look forward to following this thread and hope Greg will get it back to a place where it gets more attention.
  7. Jul 16, 2016 #6
    Why is that?
  8. Jul 16, 2016 #7


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    Some of the books in that list are pretty advanced and not proper for a first introduction to the subject.
    For a first introduction, my suggestion is "Heat and Thermodynamics" by Dittman and Zemansky. This was my favorite textbook in my undergraduate years. I also chose Blundell's in the list above.
  9. Jul 16, 2016 #8
    What makes Blundell's book better than the others in your opinion?
  10. Jul 16, 2016 #9


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    It covers a wide range of topics. The explanations are concise and clear.
  11. Jul 17, 2016 #10
    I used Kittel and Kroemer in undergrad and was confused by it. It turns out that many that I know, including the professor, agree that the first edition of Thermal Physics by Kittel (alone!) is superior to the rewriting by Kittel and Kroemer. So I bought the first edition (for around $5!) and like it a lot. It does not cover much beyond the basic but IMO teaches the basic really well and in a concise manner. The second edition adds more content and exercises and expands some old content but fails to remain organized and clear.
  12. Jul 17, 2016 #11
    [Not directed at me, but] I really like Blundell's writing style: the text is clear and engaging, and the derivations elegant. The book is divided into many short chapters, each of which covers only a few key concepts, so I never felt overwhelmed. The problems are interesting and helpful for understanding the material. It was my first textbook in thermodynamics and statistical physics; it's a bit harder in difficulty than Schroeder.
  13. Jul 18, 2016 #12
    I have heard a criticism about it: It uses a lot of "hence" and "therefore" which leaves a lot of crucial steps in derivation unfinished. Wasn't this a problem for you?
  14. Jul 18, 2016 #13
    I learned thermodynamics from a combination of Schroeder and Sears & Salinger. Schroeder for intuition and Sears & Salinger for meat. That isn't to say that there isn't some overlap. Each of these two books would be perfectly good for learning from by itself, especially with a good professor and a good learning ethic on the part of the student.
  15. Jul 18, 2016 #14
    It does use a lot of "hence" and "therefore"s, but these are just generic connectors in proofs, and I don't recall any omission of crucial steps. If you have an example I'd be glad to go through it with you.
  16. Jul 18, 2016 #15
    The best Thermodynamics book I've seen (for many reasons) is Foundations to Engineering Thermodynamics by Moran et al. I highly recommend this book. Another book that is very good is Introduction to Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics by Smith and van Ness. For statistical thermo, I like McQuarrie or Hill.
  17. Jul 18, 2016 #16
    Going through some derivations quickly, I found one that confuses me a bit. On page 58 the step before the boxed equation in the upper part of the page. While I understand it, It could be much clearerr
  18. Jul 18, 2016 #17

    George Jones

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    I am looking at my library's e-version of this, and I don't see a boxed equation on page 58. Do you mean page 57, or 59, or ...
  19. Jul 18, 2016 #18
    In my version it's the derivation in section 6.1.2 (chapter on Pressure)
  20. Jul 18, 2016 #19
    For classical thermodynamics I recommend Part I of Herbert Callen's text (Thermodynamics and introduction to thermostatics). His axiomatic approach is very appealing to a physicist.

    Once one finishes Callen's text, statistical mechanics can be studied from McQuarrie's text which is more oriented to chemists/materials scientists. This book is very detailed and is a very good reference if you plan to do research that applies statistical mechanics in chemistry/materials science.

    For a very modern and concise treatment appealing to physicists I would recommend Kardar's text. Kardar's text is used in a first year grad course at MIT which is also attended by many ambitious undergrads. The problem sets in this text are very modern and shows how powerful statical mechanics in treating very diverse problems, also half of them are solved at the end of the text. Taking this class or alternatively watching the lectures online might help a lot in following the text.

    You can watch Kardar's lectures here:

    and also have a look at his freely available lecture notes which are almost the same as the textbook:
  21. Jul 23, 2016 #20
    Do you guys/gals know which book is good for an undergraduate who aims to become a theoretical physicist?
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