Physics Textbooks - Lets Build a List

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Physics Textbooks - Lets Build a List

Postby Grant » Fri Jul 30, 2004 4:43 pm

This thread is a work in progress and will continue to grow.


Note: There have been some discussions about physics textbooks throughout the forums and I am trying to collect the information discussed elsewhere and put in this thread so that future students may be able to easily find it, benefit from it, and perhaps build upon it. In the future I plan to summarize this thread on the main site and when that happens I will link to it here (i.e. it hasn’t happened yet).

Note: I use the ISBN feature of this site to link to books on Amazon and it would be nice if others would as well. This has a number of benefits such as all of us knowing what book we are talking about, it will make it easier to summarize this thread, we can read the comments written about the books on Amazon, and even more benefits.

Note: Some the books linked to below are not necessarily the most current edition. If you plan to get a book for your class text then you want to make sure you get the edition you will use in class. If you plan to get the book as a supplement to your class text or to help you prepare for the Physics GRE then you may want to look at all editions and find the lowest price.

Introductory Physics Textbooks
Undergraduate Lower Division Texts (i.e. Freshman/Sophomore Physics)

I think all of these books are good. For Physics GRE purposes, it is probably best to use the book you learned from since it is familiar to you and you have some solutions to many of your homework problems. However, if you want some more problems with solutions to work through then you may want to get one of the books listed above with an accompanying solutions manual. Note: Some of the older editions of the books above cost much less than the current edition.

Classical Mechanics Textbooks

  • Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems (isbn=0030973023) by Jerry B. Marion, Stephen T. Thornton
    [isbn=003097304X]Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems/Students Solution Manual[/isbn]
  • (graduate) [isbn=0201657023]Classical Mechanics (3rd Edition)[/isbn] by Herbert Goldstein, Charles P. Poole, John L. Safko
Electrodynamics Textbooks

  • [isbn=013805326X]Introduction to Electrodynamics (3rd Edition)[/isbn] by David J. Griffiths
    I am not alone with my belief that Griffiths is the master at writing books that teach physics. In my opinion, it would be a crime to go through undergraduate education and not know about this E&M book. Note: Griffiths was also on the Physics GRE committee at some point (and may still be) so perhaps the concepts he thought were important enough to emphasize in his book found their way onto the Physics GRE.
  • (graduate) Classical Electrodynamics (isbn=047130932X) by John David Jackson
    I consider this book part of a hazing process that physics graduate students are forced to go through. Working Jackson problems is a humbling experience and you should not be ashamed if you need help to solve them. I am still licking my wounds and it has been years since I have touched this book.
Mathematical Physics Textbooks

Quantum Mechanics Textbooks

Statistical and Thermal Physics Textbooks

Modern Physics Textbooks

Of course there are many more physics textbooks. Please share what you know about physics textbooks.
Last edited by Grant on Thu Aug 05, 2004 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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References to other discussions about physics textbooks

Postby Grant » Fri Jul 30, 2004 5:03 pm

Note: This thread was kind of born out of the thread about Long-term study strategies. There is some good discussion about books on that thread and you should check it out.

Note: The list of physics books pointed out by krilvyn on that thread is quite comprehensive. The list I just linked to is a bit old and doesn't include books by Griffiths or Boas. It does include books that I have never heard of so perhaps people can check out the list and add books from it that they are familiar with and give a brief comment or two.

Note: I started a new thread because I felt it was important to have a thread devoted to physics textbooks and to have it located in the "physics books" forum.

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Solutions Manual for Serway

Postby satalick » Wed Sep 22, 2004 9:01 pm

I have Serway's "Physics for Scientists & Engineers" 3rd Edition, and I was just wondering which edition the "Student Solutions Manual & Study Guide" is supposed to be for. Does it work for any edition?

Would you recommend that I get the Solutions Manual for help in preparing for the GRE?

How useful is it?



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Serway Pocket Guide

Postby satalick » Wed Sep 22, 2004 10:01 pm

I also found Serway's

[isbn=0030156599]Physics for Scientists & Engineers: Pocket Guide[/isbn]

on Amazon.

Any info about it from anyone?

Maybe it would be a good reference for practise problems?

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what about Atomic & Nuclear books?

Postby satalick » Mon Sep 27, 2004 12:49 pm

I haven't used any books on Nuclear or Atomic physics, and I need to leard these topics for the GRE.

Would anyone recommend some books for a quick crash course in these areas?

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Postby Grant » Mon Sep 27, 2004 6:55 pm

Hi Satalick,

Unfortunately I do not know of any good nuclear/atomic books to recommend and I am also not familiar with that pocket guide you referenced.

I did look to try and find a student solutions manual for your 3rd edition Serway book but I was not able to find one. I found the 4th 5th and 6th edition (see link above for 6th edition) student solutions manuals on Amazon and maybe they will have some of the same overlapping problems at your 3rd edition book but I am not sure. It would be nice if the problems are actually stated within the student solutions manual (i.e. you wouldn’t necessarily need your full textbook to practice working through the problems) but I am not sure if they are.

In regards to you questions of whether or not you should get the student solutions manual:
I am not sure if you should get that particular solutions manual because I am not familiar with it. However, I will mention that I really benefit by having lots of physics problems with well written solutions for the following reasons.
1) It is nice to compare your solution to the solution that is given and often times you see an alternate and perhaps even better method of solving the problem. Also, it goes without saying that it is not a good idea to work through a problem and think you got it right when you actually made a fundamental mistake that you don't even know about.
2) Having solutions to the problems allows me to efficiently check my application of physics in solving the problem without having to actually grind all the way through to get the final answer. Note: It is very important to practice grinding through problems because you will need to on the Physics GRE but if you know you that you need more practice setting up problems (i.e. Writing down the Lagrangian) than you do grinding your way through the problem (i.e. taking a bunch of partial derivatives and manipulating equations) then it makes sense to practice setting up problems and checking the solution to make sure you set the problem up properly. Having solutions can help you to practice what you need to practice more efficiently.
3) Sometimes it is also nice to treat solutions as additional example problems to help you learn the concepts. By seeing how a problem is solved it can help you to understand the concepts involved. However, keep in mind that it is very important to actually work through problems as well.

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Postby ChrisAS » Sat Oct 09, 2004 6:24 pm

My local community college physics class is using the Serway books: Physics for Scientists and Engineers, 6th edition. This book has lots and lots of problems to practise on. The answers are given for odd problems. I also have the study guide. However, the study guide only has solutions for about 15 questions per chapter. Not all of the odd problems are shown in the study guide. I thought you might want to be aware of that in making a decision to purchase. The book is very heavy and thick. It includes lots of verbage which is good for a first time student to the material, but can slow you down if you just want to review.

I also picked up a copy of "An Introduction to Mechanics" by Kleppner/Kolenkow off Ebay. This is the book that is used in the MIT open courseware physics course. It goes through classical mechanics in a more concise manner and is much more calculus/vector oriented than the Serway book. There are not as many chapter problems as the Serway book. Answers are provided for odd problems. ISBN 0074636855

I have an old Physics book I found on my book shelf. I can't remember if this was my High School or College text. It is Applied Physics by Paul E. Tippens. It is non-calculus based and has more problems than Kleppner but less than Serway. The book is a good low level review and for developing problem solving techniques. Answers for odd problems given. ISBN 0070649618

I have "A Review of Undergraduate Physics" by Bayman/Hammermesh. This book is very strictly a review. You will learn very little with it, unless you are already familiar with the concepts. Chapters include: Classical Mechanics, Special Relativity, Electricity and Magnetism, Optics, Quantum Mechanics, Thermal Physics. Each chapter has review problems with answers for each problem. I've never taken the GRE Physics (yet), but my impression is that these problems are probably harder than test questions. ISBN 0471816841

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Nuclear and Atomic Physics

Postby Miles » Tue Oct 19, 2004 6:52 pm

An *excellent* book for nuclear and atomic physics that is on a level very similar to the GRE is
Essentials of Modern Physics (isbn=0060401621)
by Acosta.

It's not coming up on Amazon, but I was at my school library and you can find info about it at

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Postby PhysicsBooks » Sat Jan 15, 2005 3:38 pm


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Postby jjoseph » Thu Mar 31, 2005 10:36 am

Hi everybody,

some of the physics textbooks that made a lasting (positive) impression on me are the following:

- The Feynman Lectures on Physics, by R.P. Feynman. I have never seen someone explain physics so clearly. When I did my undergraduate (in Canada) we were taught physics with a strong emphasis on how to do the calculations, i.e. the technical side. We could solve the equations and do the integrals pretty well, but often we didn't really understand what it was all about, in terms of the physical meaning. When I read the Feynman lectures it beautifully tied up together all I had learned, it sort of put "some flesh on the bones" of the mathematical formalism we were taught. I really recommend these (3) books.

- Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, by D.J. Griffiths. Very clear, even funny sometimes, it is a great book. I heard a lot about his Electrodynamics book but I didn't have the chance to read it.

- Modern Quantum Mechanics, by J.J. Sakurai. Very good book too, but more advanced than Griffiths (it's a graduate book). A strong emphasis on physical principles without sacrifying mathematical rigor.

- Mathematical Methods for Physicists, by G. Arfken and H. Weber. Actually it's not a good book for learning, but it's a helluva reference book. All you need to know in (standard) mathematical physics is in there. A better book for learning the basic math you need in physics is

- Advanced Engineering Mathematics, by E. Kreyszig. Well explained, with a lot of exercises. Answers to some of the exercises are provided at the end of the book. Covers linear algebra, series, differential equations, complex analysis, numerical analysis, probability theory and statistics.

I'm actually a master's (M. Sc.) student now so I know a couple of good graduate-level books too, mostly in quantum mechanics, statistical physics and condensed matter / solid state physics (my area of research). If you'd like to hear about these just ask me.


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My undergrad book list

Postby fizxman » Sun Apr 03, 2005 12:25 pm

Here's a list of the books I used as an undergrad.

Physics for Scientists and Engineers, by Tipler
Modern Physics, by Serway, Moses, and Moyer
Analytical Mechanics, by Fowles and Cassidy
Introduction to Electrodynamics, by Griffiths
A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics, by Townsend

My thermodynamics book was in the process of being written by one of my professors old graduate school professor. I don't know what title he finally decided on either. Also my electronics book wasn't very good, so I didn't include it.


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Postby darkhorse » Sat Apr 30, 2005 10:59 am

Hey physicsbooks, that is a nice selection of qualifier exam prep books you have listed on your site. I think you have that area covered. I'm going to add some books i know of to your other sections.

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Postby jcain6 » Mon Sep 05, 2005 12:35 am

I used as undergrad:

Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Serway****
Classical dynamics of particles and systems Marion and Thornton****
Modern Physics by Rohlf*
Quantum Mechanics by Griffiths****
Electrodynamics by griffiths****
Introductory Stat Mech by Sanches *


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classical mechanics

Postby perihelion » Thu Oct 06, 2005 12:29 am

Hey everyone,

I'm looking into getting an upper undergrad classical mechanics text. The M&T stands out, but the feedback is varied. Anyone have any insight as to whether the book is good or not especially for self-study?

How is the solutions manual? Helpful? Does it answer all of the questions?

Another big question is which edition is good to get, the 4th or the 5th (or any others)?

Thanks in advance,

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Thoughts on M&T for classical mechanics

Postby Grant » Thu Oct 06, 2005 9:30 am

I think M&T is a pretty good book. It is by no means perfect, but I learned a lot from it. The student solutions manual does NOT cover all the problems but maybe 30% of them.

As far as which edition to get, if you need it for a class then I would get the edition your class uses. However, since you don't appear to be railroaded into that type of situation, then I would shop around for prices on various editions. However, you might want to make sure the text and solutions are of the same editions just in case they actually do change things around with the new editions. For what it is worth, the following IBSNs are for my 4th edition M&T book with corresponding solutions
[isbn=0030973023]M&T 4th edition[/isbn] and [isbn=003097304x]M&T solutions 4th editionl[/isbn].

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Postby perihelion » Mon Oct 10, 2005 1:36 am

Hey everyone,

Grant, thanks for you reply to my earlier post. I went ahead and ordered the Marion and Thornton. I wanted to pick everyones brain about a stat mech and thermo book. My experience with stat mech and thermo was in physical chemistry, about 3/4 of the year so i'm fairly comfortable with it, but I figured I should look in a good physics text as well. Any advice for a self-studying undergrad looking to brush up?

Secondly, i'm looking for a hardcover US copy of the the 2nd edition griffiths quantum book. Seems like amazon and ebay are filled with the softcover international version. Anyone have any suggestions where to find the book for a good price? (I tried ebay too). Thanks!


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another classical mechanics text?

Postby perihelion » Thu Dec 29, 2005 8:57 pm

Hi there,

I wanted to find out if anyone has had any experience with the Taylor upper division classical mechanics text. It's an undergraduate text and I wanted to find out how it compares with marion and thornton and the rest. Let me know, thanks!

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Postby Relativist » Sun Apr 02, 2006 12:39 am

I had a different text than Kittel used on me for Thermo & stat mech in my undergrad, specifically it was this one:

Introduction to Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics (isbn=0471870587) by Stowe

I felt that it was a good textbook, and I think that once I review it I will do better on the thermo/stat-mech questions.

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