[Physics FAQ] -
Various small updates over the years.
Updated 1994–1997 by SIC, PEG.
Original by Vijay Fafat.
A Physics Book List: Recommendations from the Net
This article is a compilation of books recommended by sci.physics participants as the
"standard" or "classic" texts on a wide variety of topics of general interest to
physicists and physics students. As a guide to finding the right book for you, many
of the comments from the contributors have been retained.
All entries here are incomplete, and many good books are not yet listed. Please
feel free to contribute to this project by contacting us . When you submit a book, please try to keep
your note short like the entries already on this page so that I can easily cut and paste
Details such as publisher, date and ISBN numbers below are far and few between.
This is partly because we are too lazy to type them in, but also because these things can
change with new editions and different countries (slightly better excuse). If you
want to know more, do a search at one of the internet book shops; a comparison of several
sites can be had at booksprice.com.
If you are looking for a book that is out of print, try:
General Physics (so even mathematicians can understand it!)
- M.S. Longair: Theoretical concepts in physics, 1986.
An alternative view of theoretical reasoning in physics for final year undergrads.
- Arnold Sommerfeld: Lectures on Theoretical Physics
Sommerfeld is God for mathematical physics.
- Richard Feynman: The Feynman lectures on Physics (3 vols)
Highly recommended texts compiled from the undergraduate lecture course given by Feynman.
- Jearle Walker: The Flying Circus of Physics
- There is the entire Landau and Lifshitz series. They have volumes on classical
mechanics, classical field theory, E&M, QM, QFT, statistical physics, and more.
Very good series that spans the entire graduate level curriculum.
- The New Physics edited by Paul Davies.
This is one big book and
it takes time to look through topics as diverse as general relativity, astrophysics,
particle theory, quantum mechanics, chaos and nonlinearity, low-temperature physics and
phase transitions. Nevertheless, this is an excellent book of recent (1989) physics
articles, written by several physicists/astrophysicists.
- Richard Feynman: The Character of Physical Law
In his unique no-nonsense style, Feynman lectures about what physics is all about.
Down-to-earth examples keep him from straying into the kind of metaphysics of which he is
- David Mermin: Boojums all the way through: Communicating science in prosaic
- Frank Wilczek and Betsy Devine: Longing for the Harmonies: Themes and variations
from modern physics
- Greg Egan: Permutation City
This is a science fiction novel which has
more to say about the philosophy of physics than do most philosophers and physicists.
- Don't read: The Physicist's World, by Thomas Grissom. We
include this book as an example of a book that contains mostly incorrect physics.
Grissom is a philosopher who has managed to publish a book about physics without knowing
much physics, and it's a shame that he has taught the content of this book for some
(many?) years to philosophy students, who must've gone out into the big world thinking
that physicists must be incredibly dumb if they really believe the naïve concepts that
Grissom thinks physics is all about. This book gets all the big tenets of the
subject wrong: Grissom thinks that special relativity is all about what is seen with the
eye, a mistake that only first-year students are expected to make; he thinks that the
Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle concerns the limits of measurement of quantities that are
otherwise perfectly well defined; he thinks that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is an
actual law that must be obeyed. And apparently he thinks that physicists
spend a great deal of their time pondering the philosophy of the Ancient Greeks. All
- Herbert Goldstein: Classical Mechanics, 2nd ed, 1980.
Intermediate to advanced; excellent bibliography.
- Introductory: The Feynman Lectures, vol 1.
- Keith Symon: Mechanics, 3rd ed., 1971 undergrad. level
- H. Corbin and P. Stehle: Classical Mechanics, 2nd ed., 1960
- V.I. Arnold: Mathematical methods of classical mechanics, translated by
K. Vogtmann and A. Weinstein, 2nd ed., 1989.
The appendices are somewhat more advanced and cover all sorts of nifty topics. Deals
with geometrical aspects of classical mechanics
- R. Resnick and D. Halliday: Physics, vol 1, 4th Ed., 1993
Excellent introduction without much calculus. Lots of problems and review questions.
- Marion & Thornton: Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems, 2nd ed.,
Undergrad level. A useful intro to classical dynamics. Not as
advanced as Goldstein, but with real worked-out examples.
- A. Fetter and J. Walecka: Theoretical mechanics of particles and continua
graduate level text, a little less impressive than Goldstein (and sometimes a little less
- Kiran Gupta: Classical Mechanics of Particles and Rigid Bodies (1988)
the level of Goldstein but has many more worked-out problems at the end of each chapter as
a good illustration of the material. Very useful for preparations for the PhD
Qualifying Examination (I presume this is America only — ed.).
- Jackson: Classical Electrodynamics, 2nd ed., 1975
Intermediate to advanced, the definitive graduate(US)/undergraduate(UK) text.
- Purcell: Berkeley Physics Series Vol 2.
You can't beat this for the intelligent, reasonably sophisticated beginning physics
student. He tells you on the very first page about the experimental proof of how
charge does not vary with speed.
plus... Chen, Min, Berkeley Physics problems with
- Reitz, Milford and Christy: Foundations of Electromagnetic Theory 4th ed.,
Undergraduate level. Pretty difficult to learn from at first, but good reference,
for some calculations involving stacks of thin films and their reflectance and
transmission properties, for e.g. It's a good, rigorous text as far as it goes, which is
pretty far, but not all the way. For example, they have a great section on optical
properties of a single thin film between two dielectric semi-infinite media, but no
generalization to stacks of films.
- Feynman: The Feynman Lectures, Vol. 2
- Lorrain & Corson: Electromagnetism, Principles and Applications, 1979
- Resnick and Halliday: Physics, vol 2, 4th ed., 1993
- Igor Irodov: Problems in Physics
Excellent and extensive collection of EM problems for undergrads.
- William Smythe: Static and Dynamic Electricity, 3rd ed., 1968
For the extreme masochists. Some of the most hair-raising EM problems you'll ever
see. Definitely not for the weak-of-heart.
- Landau, Lifshitz, and Pitaevskii: Electrodynamics of Continuous Media,
2nd ed., 1984
Same level as Jackson and with lots of material not in Jackson.
- Marion and Heald: Classical Electromagnetic Radiation, 2nd ed.,
Undergraduate or low-level graduate.
- QED: The strange theory of light and matter Richard Feynman.
One need no longer be confused by this beautiful theory. Richard Feynman gives an
exposition that is once again and by itself a beautiful explanation of the theory of
photon-matter interactions. Taken from a popular, non-technical lecture.
- Cohen-Tannoudji: Quantum Mechanics I & II&, 1977.
Introductory to intermediate.
- Liboff: Introductory Quantum Mechanics, 2nd ed., 1992
Elementary level. Makes a few mistakes.
- Sakurai: Modern Quantum Mechanics, 1985
- Sakurai: Advanced Quantum Mechanics 1967
Good as an introduction to the very basic beginnings of quantum field theory, except that
it has the unfortunate feature of using "imaginary time" to make Minkowski space look
- J. Wheeler and W. Zurek (eds.): Quantum Theory and Measurement, 1983
On the philosophical end. People who want to know about interpretations of quantum
mechanics should definitely look at this collection of relevant articles.
- C. DeWitt and N. Graham: The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum
Philosophical. Collection of articles.
- H. Everett: Theory of the Universal Wavefunction
An exposition which has some gems on thermodynamics and probability. Worth reading
for this alone.
- Bjorken and Drell: Relativistic Quantum Mechanics/ Relativistic
(for comments, see under Particle Physics)
- Ryder: Quantum Field Theory, 1984
- Guidry: Gauge Field Theories: an introduction with applications 1991
- Messiah: Quantum Mechanics, 1961
a] Principles of QM, 4th ed., 1958
b] Lectures in QM, 1964
c] Lectures on Quantum Field Theory, 1966
- Itzykson and Zuber: Quantum Field Theory, 1980
- Slater: Quantum theory: Address, essays, lectures.
Good follow on to Schiff.
note: Schiff, Bjorken and Drell, Fetter and Walecka, and Slater are all volumes in
"International Series in pure and Applied Physics" published by McGraw-Hill.
- Pierre Ramond: Field Theory: A Modern Primer, 2nd edition.
Volume 74 in the FiP series.
The so-called "revised printing" is a must, as they must've rushed the first
printing of the 2nd edition because it's full of inexcusable mistakes.
- Feynman: The Feynman Lectures, Vol. 3
A non-traditional approach. A good place to get an intuitive feel for QM, if one
already knows the traditional approach.
- Heitler & London: Quantum theory of molecules
- J. Bell: Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics, 1987
An excellent collection of essays on the philosophical aspects of QM.
- Milonni: The quantum vacuum: an introduction to quantum electrodynamics 1994.
- Holland: The Quantum Theory of Motion
A good bet for a strong foundation in QM.
- John von Neumann: Mathematical foundations of quantum mechanics, 1955.
For the more mathematical side of quantum theory, especially for those who are going to be
arguing about measurement theory.
- Schiff: Quantum Mechanics, 3rd ed., 1968
A little old. Not much emphasis on airy-fairy things like many worlds or excessive
angst over Heisenberg UP. Straight up QM for people who want to do
calculations. Introductory graduate level. Mostly Schrodinger eqn. Spin
included, but only in an adjunct to Schrodinger. Not much emphasis on things like
Dirac eqn, etc.
- Eisberg and Resnick: Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and
Particles, 2nd ed., 1985.
This is a basic intro. to QM, and it is excellent for undergrads. It is not thorough
with the mathematics, but fills in a lot of the intuitive stuff that most textbooks do not
- David Saxon: Elementary Quantum Mechanics
A decent undergraduate (senior level) text.
- Bethe and Jackiw: Intermediate Quantum Mechanics
- P.W.Atkins: Quanta: A Handbook of concepts
Short entries, arranged alphabetically, emphasis on stuff relevant to quantum
chemistry. Concentrates on the intuition and not the mathematics.
- James Peebles: Quantum Mechanics (1993)
Intermediate level, based on lectures given by the author at Princeton. Very lucid
exposition of the standard material with outstanding selection of mostly original problems
at the end of each chapter.
Statistical Mechanics and Entropy
- David Chandler: Introduction to Modern Statistical Mechanics, 1987
- R. Tolman: Prinicples of Statistical Mechanics. Dover
- Kittel & Kroemer: Statistical Thermodynamics
Best of a bad lot.
- Reif: Principles of statistical and thermal physics.
The big and little Reif statistical mechanics books. Big Reif is much better than
Kittel & Kroemer. He uses clear language but avoids the handwaving that
thermodynamics often gives rise to. More classical than QM oriented.
- Felix Bloch: Fundamentals of Statistical Mechanics.
- Radu Balescu: Statistical Physics
Graduate Level. Good description of non-equilibrium stat. mech. but difficult to
read. It is all there, but often you don't realize it until after you have learned
it somewhere else. Nice development in early chapters about parallels between
classical and quantum statistical mechanics.
- Abrikosov, Gorkov, and Dyzaloshinski: Methods of Quantum Field Theory in
- Huw Price: Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point
Semi-popular book on the direction of time by a philosopher. It has been
controversial because of its criticism of physicists such as Hawking for their
"double standards" in dealing with the old problem on the origin of the arrow of
time. It is thought provoking and clearly written.
The following 6 books deal with modern topics in (mostly) classical statistical
mechanics, namely, the central notions of linear response theory (Forster) and critical
phenomena (the rest) at level suitable for beginning graduate students.
- Thermodynamics, by H. Callen.
- Statistical Mechanics, by R. K. Pathria
- Hydrodynamic Fluctuations, Broken Symmetry, and Correlation Functions, by
- Introduction to Phase Transitions and Critical Phenomena, by H. E. Stanley
- Modern Theory of Critical Phenomena, by S. K. Ma
- Lectures on Phase Transitions and the Renormalization Group, by N. Goldenfeld
- Charles Kittel: Introduction to Solid State Physics (ISSP),
- Ashcroft and Mermin: Solid State Physics,
intermediate to advanced
- Charles Kittel: Quantum Theory of Solids.
This is from before the days of his ISSP; it is a more advanced book. At a similar
level. . .
- Solid State Theory, by W. A. Harrison
(a great bargain now that it's published by Dover)
- Theory of Solids, by Ziman.
- Fundamentals of the Theory of Metals, by Abrikosov
Half of the book is on superconductivity.
- Many-Particle Physics, G. Mahan.
- Taylor and Wheeler: Spacetime Physics
Still the best introduction out there.
- Relativity: Einstein's popular exposition.
- Wolfgang Rindler: Essential Relativity. Springer 1977
With a heavy bias towards astrophysics and therefore on a more moderate level
formally. Quite strong on intuition.
- A.P. French: Special Relativity
A thorough introductory text. Good discussion of the twin paradox, pole and the barn
etc. Plenty of diagrams illustrating Lorentz-transformed coordinates, giving both
an algebraic and geometrical insight to SR. (Seems to be out of print)
- Abraham Pais: Subtle is the Lord: The Science and Life of Albert Einstein
The best technical biography of the life and work of Albert Einstein.
- Special Relativity and its Experimental Foundations Yuan Zhong Zhang
Special relativity is so well established that its experimental foundation is often
ignored. This book fills the gap and will be of relevance to many discussions in
- Kerson Huang: Quarks, leptons & gauge fields, World Scientific, 1982.
Good on mathematical aspects of gauge theory and topology.
- L. B. Okun: Leptons and quarks, translated from Russian by V. I. Kisin,
- T. D. Lee: Particle physics and introduction to field theory.
- Itzykson: Particle Physics
- Bjorken & Drell: Relativistic Quantum Mechanics
One of the more terse books. The first volume on relativistic quantum mechanics
covers the subject in a blinding 300 pages. Very good if you really want to
know the subject.
- Francis Halzen & Alan D. Martin: Quarks & Leptons,
Beginner to intermediate, this is a standard textbook for graduate level courses.
Good knowledge of quantum mechanics and special relativity is assumed. A very good
introduction to the concepts of particle physics. Good examples, but not a lot of
Feynman diagram calculation. For this, see Bjorken & Drell.
- Donald H. Perkins: Introduction to high energy physics
Regarded by many people in the field as the best introductory text at the undergraduate
level. Covers basically everything with almost no mathematics.
- Close, Marten, and Sutton: The Particle Explosion
A popular exposition of the history of particle physics with terrific photography.
- Christine Sutton: Spaceship Neutrino
A good, historical, largely intuitive introduction to particle physics, seen from the
- Mandl, Shaw: Quantum Field Theory
Introductory textbook, concise and practically orientated. Used at many graduate
departments as a textbook for the first course in QFT and a bare minimum for
experimentalists in high energy physics. Chapters on Feynman diagrams and
cross-section calculations particularly well written and useful.
- F.Gross: Relativistic Quantum Mechanics and Field Theory
I am familiar with first part only (rel. QM) which I warmly recommend in conjunction with
Mandl, since Klein-Gordon and Dirac Equation are explained in greater detail than in
Mandl. One of my professors likes a lot the rest of the book too, but I haven't
spent much time on it and can't comment. Published in 1993.
- S. Weinberg: The Quantum Theory of Fields, Vol I,II, 1995
It's the usual Weinberg stuff: refreshing, illuminating viewpoints on every page.
Perhaps most suitable for graduate students who already know some basics of QFT.
Unfortunately, this book does not conform to Bjorken-Drell metric.
- M.B. Green, J.H. Schwarz, E. Witten: Superstring Theory (2 vols)
Although these two volumes do not touch the important new developments in string theories
they are still the best texts for the basics. To keep up with this fast developing
subject it is necessary to download the papers and reviews as hep-th e-prints.
- M. Kaku: Strings, Conformal Fields and Topology
Just a little more up-to-date than GSW
- Superstrings: A Theory of Everything ed P.C.W. Davies
Through transcripts of interviews with Schwarz, Witten, Green, Gross, Ellis, Salam,
Glashow, Feynman and Weinberg we learn about string theory and how different physicists
feel about its prospects as a TOE. This also predates the new developments which
revolutionised string theory after 1993.
- A Pais: Inward Bound
This can be regarded as a companion volume to his biography of Einstein (see special
relativity section). It covers the history of particle physics through the twentieth
century but is best for the earlier half.
- R.P. Crease, C.C. Mann: The Second Creation 1996
Another history of particle physics in the twentieth century. This one is especially
good on the development of the standard model.. Full of personal stories taken from
numerous interviews, it is difficult to put down.
- L. Lederman, D. Teresi: The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?
This book describes the search for the Higgs Boson at Fermilab. It describes what the Higgs is
and gives some background to the subject of particle physics. It also gives an account of some more
general physics history.
- Meisner, Thorne and Wheeler: Gravitation
W. H. Freeman & Co., San Francisco 1973
Usually referred to as MTW. It has two tracks for different levels. A famous
work in the subject whose main strength is probably its various asides, historical and
otherwise. While it has much interesting reading, it is not a book to learn relativity
from: its approach is all over the place, and it pushes gawdy notation which no one
actually uses to do anything useful.
- Robert M. Wald: Space, Time, and Gravity: the Theory of the Big Bang and Black
A good non-technical introduction, with a nice mix of mathematical rigor and
- Schutz: A First Course in General Relativity.
A readable and useful
book, to a point. The 1988 edition, at least, unfortunately has a tangled approach
to its Lambda index notation that is wrong in places. Schutz goes to great lengths
to convince the reader of the usefulness of one-forms, but is clearly unaware that
everything he does with them can be done in shorter time using vectors alone. Beware
the show-stopping typos in the Riemann components for the Schwarzschild metric on page
315. The discussion about Riemann tensor signs on page 171 is also wrong, and will
give you wrong results if you apply it. Indeed, that discussion is indicative of a
general naïveté in the book's early mathematics as a whole.
- Weinberg: Gravitation and Cosmology
A good book that takes a somewhat different approach to the subject.
- Hans Ohanian: Gravitation & Spacetime (recently back in print)
For someone who actually wants to learn to work problems, ideal for self-teaching, and
math is introduced as needed, rather than in a colossal blast.
- Robert Wald: General Relativity
A more advanced textbook than Wald's earlier book, appropriate for an introductory
graduate course in GR. It strikes just the right balance, in my opinion, between
mathematical rigor and physical intuition. It has great mathematics appendices for
those who care about proving theorems carefully, and a good introduction to the problems
behind quantum gravity (although not to their solutions). I think it's MUCH better
than either MTW or Weinberg.
- Clifford Will: Was Einstein Right? Putting General Relativity to the Test
Non-technical account of the experimental support for GR, including the "classic
three tests", but going well beyond them.
- Kip Thorne: Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy
An award-winning popular account of black holes and related objects with many historical
anecdotes from the author's personal experiences. The book is famous for the final
sections about time travel through wormholes.
- Ignore Dirac's small book on lectures in GR, unless you like reading books that have
almost no discussion of their mathematical content (and almost no discussion of anything
else, either). It's a sure bet that this book was only published because Dirac wrote
- Morse and Feshbach: Methods of Theoretical Physics. This book used to be hard
to find, but can now be bought at feshbachpublishing.com.
- Mathews and Walker: Mathematical Methods of Physics.
An absolute joy for those who love math, and very informative even for those who
don't. [This has been severely disputed!--ed]
- Arfken: Mathematical Methods for Physicists Academic Press
Good introduction at graduate level. Not comprehensive in any area, but covers many
areas widely. Arfken is to math methods what numerical recipes is to numerical
methods — good intro, but not the last word.
- Zwillinger: Handbook of Differential Equations. Academic Press
Kind of like CRC tables but for ODEs and PDEs. Good reference book when you've got
a differential equation and want to find a solution.
- Gradshteyn and Ryzhik: Table of Integrals, Series, and Products Academic
THE book of integrals. Huge, but useful when you need an integral.
- F.W. Byron and R. Fuller: Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics (2 vols)
is a really terrific text for self-study; it is like a baby version of Morse & Feshbach.
- Preston and Bhaduri: Structure of the Nucleus
- Blatt and Weisskopf: Theoretical Nuclear Physics
- DeShalit and Feshbach: Theoretical Nuclear Physics
This is serious stuff. Also quite expensive even in paper. I think the hard
cover is out of print. This is volume I (structure). Volume II (scattering) is
- Satchler: Direct Nuclear Reactions
- Walecka: Theoretical Nuclear and Subnuclear Physics (1995)
Covers advanced topics in theoretical nuclear physics from a modern perspective and
includes results of past 20 years in a field which makes it unique. Not an easy
material to read but invaluable for people seeking an updated review of the present status
in the field.
- Krane: Introductory nuclear physics
Introductory-to-intermediate level textbook in basic nuclear physics for senior
undergraduates. Good, clear and relatively comprehensive exposition of
"standard" material: nuclear models, alfa, beta, gamma radioactivity, nuclear
reactions. . . Last edition issued in 1988.
- J. V. Narlikar: Introduction to Cosmology.1983 Jones & Bartlett Publ.
For people with a solid background in physics and higher math, THE introductory text,
IMHO, because it hits the balance between mathematical accuracy (tensor calculus and
stuff) and intuitive clarity/geometrical models very well for grad student level. Of
course, it has flaws but only noticeable by the Real Experts (TM). . .
- Hawking: A Brief History of Time
The ghost-written book that made Popular Science popular, but an odd mixture of easy
physics and very advanced physics.
- Weinberg: First Three Minutes
A very good book. It's pretty old, but most of the information in it is still
- Timothy Ferris: Coming of Age in the Milky Way
and The Whole Shebang
More Popular Science, and very readable.
- Kolb and Turner: The Early Universe.
At a more advanced level, a standard reference. As the title implies, K&T cover
mostly the strange physics of very early times: it's heavy on the particle physics, and
skimps on the astrophysics. There's a primer on large-scale structure, which is the
most active area of cosmological research, but it's really not all that good.
- Peebles: Principles of Physical Cosmology.
Comprehensive, and on the whole it's quite a good book, but it's rather poorly
organized. I find myself jumping back and forth through the book whenever I want to
- Black Holes and Warped Spacetime, by William J. Kaufmann III.
This is a great, fairly thorough, though non-mathematical description of black holes and
spacetime as it relates to cosmology. I was impressed by how few mistakes Kaufmann
makes in simplifying, while most such books tend to sacrifice accuracy for simplicity.
- M.V. Berry: Principles of Cosmology and Gravitation
This is very well written, and useful as an undergrad text.
- Dennis Overbye: Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos
The unfinished history of converge on Hubble's constant is presented, from the perspective
of competing astrophysics rival teams and institute, along with a lot of background on
cosmology (a lot on inflation, for instance). A good insight into the scientific
- Joseph Silk: The Big Bang
I consider Silk's book an absolute must for those who want a quick run at the current
state of big bang cosmology and some of the recent (1988) issues which have given so many
of us lots of problems to solve. [of course that's eons out of date now--ed.]
- Bubbles, voids, and bumps in time: the new cosmology edited
by James Cornell.
This is quite a nice and relatively short read for some of the pressing issues (as of
1987-88) in astrophysical cosmology.
- T. Padmanabhan: Structure formation in the universe
A no-nonsense book for those who want to calculate some problems strictly related to the formation of
structure in the universe. The book even comes complete with problems at the end of each chapter.
A bad thing about this book is that there isn't any coverage on clusters of galaxies and the one really big
thing that annoys the hell outta me is that the bibliography for each chapter is all combined in one
big bibliography towards the end of the book which makes for lots of page flipping.
- P.J.E. Peebles: The large-scale structure of the universe
This is a definitive book for anyone who desires an understanding of the mathematics
required to develop the theory for models of large scale structure. The essential
techniques in the description of how mass is able to cluster under gravity from a smooth
early universe are discussed. While I find it dry in some places, there are
noteworthy sections (e.g. statistical tests, n-point correlation functions, etc.).
- Andrzej Krasinski: Inhomogeneous Cosmological Models
If you are blinded by the dogma of the cosmological principle, this book is a real eye
opener. A technical, historical and bibliographical survey of possible inhomogeous
universes from solutions of general relativity.
- Alan Lightman and Roberta Brawer: Origins: The lives and worlds of modern cosmologists, 1990
Transcripts of interview with 27 of the most influential cosmologists from the past few
decades. This book provides a unique record of how their cosmological theories have
- Hannu Karttunen et al. (eds.): Fundamental Astronomy.
The very good book covering all of astronomy (also for absolute beginners) AND still going into
a lot of detail for special work for people more involved AND presenting excellent
graphics and pictures.
- Pasachoff: Contemporary Astronomy
Good introductory textbook for the nontechnical reader. It gives a
pretty good overview of the important topics, and it has good pictures.
- Frank Shu: The physical universe: an introduction to astronomy
This is a
really grand book, which covers a huge sweep of physics in its 600-odd pages. Not
only does it describe the field of astronomy in great detail, but it also covers in detail
the laws of classical and quantum mechanics, atrophysics and stellar evolution, cosmology,
special and general relativity; and last but not least, the biochemical basis of
life. In fact the last few chapters would make a great addition to a
- Kenneth R. Lang: Astrophysical formulae: a compendium for the physicist and
Here is everything you wanted to know (and more!) about astrophysical formulae on a
one-line/one-paragraph/one-shot deal. Of course, the formulae come complete with
references (a tad old, mind you) but it's a must for everyone who's working in astronomy
and astrophysics. You learn something new every time you flip through the pages!
(See Robert Heeter's sci.physics.fusion FAQ for details)
- Johnson and Rees: Numerical Analysis Addison Wesley
Undergraduate level broad intro.
- Numerical Recipes in X (X = C, Fortran, Pascal, etc.) Tueklosky and Press
- Young and Gregory: A survey of Numerical Mathematics Dover 2 volumes.
Excellent overview at grad. level. Emphasis toward solution of elliptic PDEs, but
good description of methods to get there including linear algebra, matrix techniques,
ODE-solving methods, and interpolation theory. Biggest strength is it provides a
coherent framework and structure to attach most commonly used numerical methods.
This helps understanding about why to use one method or another. 2 volumes.
- Hockney and Eastwood: Computer Simulation Using Particles Adam Hilger
Good exposition of particle-in-cell (PIC) method and extensions. Applications to
plasmas, astronomy, and solid state are discussed. Emphasis is on description of
algorithms. Some results shown.
- Birdsall and Langdon: Plasma Physics via Computer Simulations
PIC simulation applied to plasmas. Source codes shown. First part is almost a
tutorial on how to do PIC. Second part is like a series of review articles on
different PIC methods.
- Tajima: Computational Plasma Physics: With Applications to Fusion and
Astrophysics Addison Wesley Frontiers in physics Series.
Algorithms described. Emphasis on physics that can be simulated. Applications
limited to plasmas, but subject areas very broad, fusion, cosmology, solar astrophysics,
magnetospheric physics, plasma turbulence, general astrophysics.
- D.J. Tritton: Physical Fluid Dynamics
- G.K. Batchelor: Introduction to Fluid Dynamics
- S. Chandrasekhar: Hydrodynamics and Hydromagnetic Stability
- Segel: Mathematics Applied to Continuum Mechanics Dover.
Nonlinear Dynamics, Complexity, and Chaos
There is a FAQ posted regularly to sci.nonlinear.
- Prigogine: Exploring Complexity
Or any other Prigogine book. If you've read one, you read most of
of them (A Poincaré recurrence maybe?).
- Guckenheimer and Holmes: Nonlinear Oscillations, Dynamical Systems, and
Bifurcations of Vector Fields Springer
Borderline phys./math. Advanced level. A nuts-and-bolts "how to"
textbook. They let the topic provide all the razzmatazz, which is plenty if you pay
attention and remember the physics that it applies to.
- Lichtenberg, A. J. and M. A. Lieberman (1982): Regular and Stochastic
Motion. New York, Springer-Verlag.
- Ioos and Joseph: Elementary Stability and Bifurcation Theory. New York,
- Heinz Pagels: The Dreams Of Reason
He is a very clear and interesting, captivating writer, and presents the concepts in a
very intuitive way. The level is popular science, but it is still useful for
physicists who know little of complexity.
- M. Mitchell Waldrop: Complexity
A popular intro to the subject of spontaneous orders, complexity and so on. Covers
implications for economics, biology etc and not just physics.
Optics (Classical and Quantum), Lasers
- Max Born and Emil Wolf: Principles of Optics: Electromagnetic Theory of
For the more classically minded.
- Allen and Eberly: Optical Resonance and Two-Level Atoms.
For quantum optics, the most readable but most limited.
- Goodman: Introduction to Fourier Optics.
If it isn't in this book, it isn't Fourier optics.
- Quantum Optics and Electronics
(Les Houches Summer School 1963 or 1964, but someone has claimed that Gordon and Breach, NY,
are going to republish it in 1995), edited by DeWitt, Blandin, and Cohen- Tannoudji, is
noteworthy primarily for Glauber's lectures, that form the basis of quantum optics as it
is known today.
- Sargent, Scully, & Lamb: Laser Physics
- Yariv: Quantum Electronics
- Siegman: Lasers
- Shen: The Principles of Nonlinear Optics
- Meystre & Sargent: Elements of Quantum Optics
- Cohen-Tannoudji, Dupont-Roc, & Grynberg: Photons, Atoms and Atom-Photon
- Hecht: Optics
A very good introductory optics book.
- Practical Holography by Graham Saxby, Prentice Hall: New York; 1988.
This is a very clear and detailed book that is an excellent introduction to holography for
interested undergraduate physics people, as well as advanced readers, especially those who
are interested in the practical details of making holograms and the theory behind them.
Lie Algebra, Topology, Knot Theory, Tensors, etc.
These are books that are sort of talky and fun to read (but still substantial--some
harder than others). These include things mathematicians can read about physics as
well as vice versa. These books are different than the "bibles" one must
have on hand at all times to do mathematical physics.
- Yvonne Choquet-Bruhat, Cecile DeWitt-Morette, and Margaret
Dillard-Bleick: Analysis, manifolds, and physics (2 volumes)
Something every mathematical physicist should have at his bedside until he knows it
inside and out--but some people say it's not especially easy to read.
- Jean Dieudonne: A panorama of pure mathematics, as seen by N. Bourbaki,
translated by I.G. Macdonald.
Gives the big picture in mathematics.
- Robert Hermann: Lie groups for physicists, Benjamin-Cummings, 1966.
- George Mackey: Quantum mechanics from the point of view of the theory of group
representations, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, 1984.
- George Mackey: Unitary group representations in physics, probability, and number
- Charles Nash and S. Sen: Topology and geometry for physicists.
- B. Booss and D.D. Bleecker: Topology and analysis: the Atiyah-Singer index
formula and gauge-theoretic physics.
- Bamberg and S. Sternberg: A Course of Mathematics for Students of Physics
- Bishop & Goldberg: Tensor Analysis on Manifolds.
- Dodson & Poston: Tensor Geometry.
- Abraham, Marsden & Ratiu: Manifolds, Tensor Analysis and Applications.
- M. Nakahara: Topology, Geometry and Physics.
- Morandi: The Role of Topology in Classical and Quantum Physics
- Singer, Thorpe: Lecture Notes on Elementary Topology and Geometry
- L. Kauffman: Knots and Physics, World Scientific, Singapore, 1991.
- C. Yang and M. Ge: Braid group, Knot Theory & Statistical Mechanics.
- D. Kastler: C-algebras and their applications to Statistical Mechanics and
Quantum Field Theory.
- Courant and Hilbert: Methods of Mathematical Physics Wiley
mathematics book in disguise. Emphasis on ODEs and PDEs. Proves existence,
etc. Very comprehensive. 2 volumes.
- Cecille Dewitt is publishing a book on manifolds that should be out soon (maybe
already is). Very high level, but supposedly of great importance for anyone needing
to set the Feynman path integral in a firm foundation.
- Howard Georgi: Lie Groups for Particle Phyiscs Addison Wesley Frontiers in
- Synge and Schild.
- Max Born: Atomic Physics
A classic, though a little old.
- Gerhard Herzberg: Atomic spectra and atomic structure, Translated
with the co-operation of the author by J. W. T.Spinks. — New York,
Dover publications, 1944
Old but good.
- E. U. Condon and G. H. Shortley: The theory of atomic spectra,
- G. K. Woodgate: Elementary atomic structure, 2d ed. Oxford: New
York: Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press, 1983, c 1980
- Alan Corney: Atomic and laser spectroscopy, Oxford, New York:
Clarendon Press, 1977
Excellent,fairly advanced, large experimental bent, but good development of
background. Good stuff on lasers (gas, dye)
Low Temperature Physics, Superconductivity
- The Theory of Quantum Liquids, by D. Pines and P. Nozieres
- Superconductivity of Metals and Alloys, P. G. DeGennes A classic
- Theory of Superconductivity, J. R. Schrieffer
- Superconductivity, M. Tinkham
- Experimental techniques in low-temperature physics, by Guy K. White.
This is considered by many as a "bible" for those working in experimental low-temperature physics.
Thanks to the 30+ contributors who made this compilation possible.