Physics textbooks - The Student Room

I've decided to make a further appendage to the recommended reading list to advise and suggest core text books for an undergraduate physics course. This is always a tricky area, as a core text book is often specific to a particular course (this is the reason I originally avoided the area). I therefore advise that these recommendations are taken with caution but may be used as a starting point or an alternative if you want a different viewpoint to your recommended core textbook. Because I have experience of only one course there is likely to be some bias towards my own course here, so I highly encourage you to make your own suggestions for addition.


As you know I really like this book. It's the greatest reference mathematics book you could possibly have. Maybe not great for learning from alone, but if there’s something bugging you or you cant quite remember what some formula/ method is this is the book + It’ll be useful for your entire course. French – A good relativity book, quite wordy, with quite a lot of explanation. It does take a bit of getting into but its actually quite readable as a bedtime story if you are so inclined


There are two books that should be accesible to most: 'Black Holes' and 'Spacetime Physics'. He's also published undergraduate textbooks. They are written by John Wheeler, a great physicist of the mid 20th century studying general relativity. One of his books is an 'alternative' guide to SR. It’s fairly hardcore mathematically, with some quite abstract ideas. It’s also laid out rather oddly, but it is one of those books that seems to mention everything + it has lots of pictures. I’d say this is more an acquired taste.


A good solid EM book... has all the explanation and probably more suited to a first year course. It does have a huge amount of content but does have the disturbing habit of sending you to sleep while reading it. To be fair though I’d rate it quite highly, especially for 1st year.


This is Duffin + a bit more. I find it more readable/ interesting than Duffin and if I had to pick a favourite EM book this would be it. It goes off into solid state stuff later, but the first half is very good for EM. Its well written, well explained and I’ve very rarely found it lacking in anything. The main drawback is its a bit advanced maybe for 1st year, but definitely my favourite.


Very Mathematical! Its seriously hardcore and unless you are a maths genius very difficult to learn from. But its great as a dip in book if there’s that problem you can’t find anywhere else. Jackson pretty much wrote the book on the subject I would say. Not for the faint hearted though and certainly not advisable for 1st year. A good companion to a Bleaney or whatever though as a 2nd year text. Hecht – This is pretty much your optics bible, and I think its generally accepted as THE optics book. It has it all really, but is quite mathematical and maybe starts at a highish level – i.e. it doesn’t have much on geometric optics and ray diagrams etc. But… apart from that its comprehensive and about the only optics book you will ever need. Also good for parts of EM.


This is our standard QM text book. I quite like it though it can be a bit mathsy and take a few big steps on occasions. It does cover pretty much everything though and I find it a good book to have alongside the lecture course which is taught rather differently. All in all a pretty good book and fairly well explained.


This is actually a graduate level textbook. Now before you run off, it actually starts off relatively straightforwardly. It’s a beast of a book physically and is THE quantum mechanics textbook to a lot of people. It is probably the most precise book on quantum mechanics ever written. It makes no mistakes in its wording and explains things very well. It’s a good book that will obviously last you a long time. It does get quite hardcore later on but that’s a given. I’m actually considering buying this book, but at £50 have yet to pluck up the courage.


Great thermo book, the 1 recommended for our course. It has it all that I've seen and you could probably read it and use it if you wanted. I however, don’t use it that much, I find it a little inaccessible and difficult to find things in. But Definitely a good book and the more thorough book


The reason I’ve neglected Adkins is this book. Its pretty much based on Adkins it seems. It has most of the stuff you need but is not quite as detailed/ thorough as Adkins. I’d say it has 95% though. It’s a very accessible book that’s very readable (I’ve read it cover to cover). It focuses more on the fundamental understanding (hence quite wordy) and I found it really helpful. I didn’t get thermo to begin with but this book really helped. Definitely my thermo book of choice, the only issue is its slight lack of content.

Original content written by F1 fanatic and others in on TSR.

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