The 8 Best Physics Textbooks

Updated May 27, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

8 Best Physics Textbooks
Introduction To Quantum Mechanics
Conceptual Physics
A Self-Teaching Guide
We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. With the cost of college tuition and board reaching astronomical levels, any science student would be grateful to receive one of these physics textbooks. Though, to show you don't have to be a student to want to learn, we've also included some great resources for the at-home science enthusiast. There's sure to be something here for every budget and every level of knowledge. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best physics textbook on Amazon.

8. University Physics With Modern Physics

University Physics With Modern Physics by Hugh Young and Roger Freedman is currently on its 14th global edition, so clearly there is much merit to this volume. It is expensive, but intended only for the student actively pursuing advanced studies in the field.
  • learn mechanics and electromagnetism
  • authors hold multiple degrees
  • takes some math for granted
Publisher imusti
Model n/a
Weight 6.5 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. Principles With Applications

Professor, PhD, and author Douglas C. Giancoli's Principles With Applications is now in its global edition and is praised by students and peers alike as being both elegant and engaging. It uses abstract and real-world examples to illustrate concepts.
  • wide range of practice problems
  • impressive length
  • not suitable for beginners
Publisher Pearson Higher Educatio
Model n/a
Weight 4.6 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. Conceptual Physics

If you're a bit wary of the mathematics involved in the study of the physical world, Conceptual Physics by Paul G. Hewitt delves deeply into the concepts without inundating you with anything more complicated than algebra and a little trigonometry.
  • great for new students
  • captures the field's big ideas
  • no end-of-chapter practice questions
Publisher Conceptual Physics
Model n/a
Weight 3.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. A Self-Teaching Guide

The most striking thing about A Self-Teaching Guide by Karl F. Kuhn has nothing to do with force or gravity, but rather with the fact that it costs so little. This easy-to-read option is a great primer for anyone interested in advanced study.
  • minimal math prowess needed
  • lists objectives for each chapter
  • end-of-chapter self-tests
Publisher Wiley
Model n/a
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

4. Mechanics, Relativity, And Thermodynamics

Mechanics, Relativity, And Thermodynamics is a part of the Open Yale Courses Series, so you can count on two things: a great resource filled with vital information and a nice low price that puts this book within the reach of all.
  • written by an enthusiastic educator
  • covers core concepts
  • well received by professionals
Publisher imusti
Model n/a
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. Introduction To Quantum Mechanics

David J. Griffith's Introduction To Quantum Mechanics seeks to tackle a very intimidating subject by breaking the material up into two distinct sections. The first is all about giving students the chance to perform its calculations, with the next focused on their meaning.
  • problems are realistic
  • exercises are engaging
  • math is well explained
Publisher Cambridge University Pr
Model n/a
Weight 2.5 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Introduction To General Relativity And Cosmology

Introduction To General Relativity And Cosmology by Christian G. Böhmer places an emphasis on the physical realities of the universe and spacetime. As such, it's a great way to engage students with the field, as it focuses on the stars.
  • deep look at einstein's theories
  • review at the end of each chapter
  • written in an approachable style
Publisher Introduction To General
Model n/a
Weight 4 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. No Bull---t Guide To Math And Physics

As the playful name would have you guess, the No Bull---t Guide To Math And Physics takes a lighthearted approach to serious subject matter -- the very manner in which matter and energy relate and function. It makes for great summer reading before the semester begins.
  • brisk read at 350 pages
  • great gift for students
  • minimal jargon used
Publisher No Bull---t Guide To Ma
Model n/a
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Are Physics Textbooks Only For Students?

Physics is the study of forces that govern much of the known universe. Concepts of physics directly influence every aspect of life, so it is no wonder the number of people choosing to study the topic is on the rise. Physics textbooks provide an easy way for students of all ages to learn about these concepts.

Contrary to popular belief, physics textbooks are not simply for academics. While many are written to cater to institutions of higher learning, a self-learner stands to benefit from them, as well. Physics textbooks tend to be broken down into succinct and easy-to-follow chapters. The study of physics textbooks also tends to take place in order, meaning that they will not delve into the mind-boggling realm of spinning tops before they explain Newton's Laws.

Any prerequisites for understanding concepts are generally covered in the first few chapters of a textbook, and can help bring any learner up to speed with some of the most basic concepts of physics. It is also important for the reader to have a strong grasp over basic algebra and trigonometry, as well as concepts like the Pythagorean theorem.

Textbooks are also made to be read. While it can seem like an obvious notion, the technical literature put out by the physics community is difficult to follow by most standards. Textbook manufacturers take it upon themselves to digest this information and rewrite it in ways that make the concepts accessible to all who read them.

What Types Of Topics Do Physics Textbooks Cover?

The ultimate goal of physics is to better understand physical reality. To do this, physicists have formulated a series of fundamental laws and theories used to describe how forces in reality function. From the first time a physics textbook is opened, some basic principles will need to be covered and understood.

While physics is evolving every day, the understanding we have of the basic theories of physics came from one man in the 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton. Newton's first law of motion states that an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an outside force. Likewise an object in motion remains in motion unless acted on by an outside force. His second law of motion states that acceleration occurs when a force acts upon a mass. The greater the mass of the object, the more force it will require to move. Newton's third law famously states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton also developed a law of gravity, which explained the attractive force between a pair of masses. This was an incomplete law, however. A more comprehensive understanding of gravitational forces came with Einstein's most notable equation, E=mc². This theory of relativity shows that the increased mass of a body comes from the kinetic energy of that body, divided by the speed of light squared. This raised the idea that mass and energy are the same physical entity, and changed the field of physics forever. These make up some of the most basic concepts that every physics textbook will touch on.

Noteworthy Fields Of Physics

The public interest about the topic of physics has piqued in the modern era. While physics as a whole is the study of the nature and properties of matter and energy, there are a vast number of different fields covering various aspects of physics.

Particle physics is one such field that has gained popularity recently. This is largely due to a number of new discoveries being made, such as the Higgs-boson particle. In short, the Higgs-boson particle is responsible for giving the universe its mass. The Higgs field was the last missing piece in the Standard Model of particle physics. The discovery of the Higgs-boson particle marked a huge milestone in the human understanding of nature, and allows physics to move towards new discoveries with ease.

Quantum physics is another interesting area that deals with the fundamental theory of nature on the smallest scale. Fro example, one principle of quantum physics is that everything in the universe is made up of particles, while simultaneously being made up of waves. For instance, a photon is considered to be a particle of light. In reality, it is not a particle alone, but an excitement occurring in a quantum field of energy. It is easy to isolate small particles like photons or electrons in conversation, but in their natural state, they exist in the inseparable particle-wave state.

Another fascinating idea stemming from quantum physics is the idea of quantum entanglement. In quantum physics, any particles which are entangled remain connected even after they separate. Actions performed on one of these particles will affect the other entangled particle. Two entangled particles may have miles put between them, but if one begins an action, the other begins a similar action near-instantaneously. While Schrodinger was the first to use the term entanglement, Albert Einstein famously called it spooky action at a distance.


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Last updated on May 27, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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