- The Feynman Lectures on Physics
- Classical Mechanics by Herbert Goldstein
- University Physics with Modern Physics
- Classical Electrodynamics Third Edition
- Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences
To the majority of people, physics is nothing more than a cause for headaches, but to some, it’s the excitement of discovering the laws and patterns of how the world around us – even the entire universe, – works.
Just saying it sounds incredible, right?
Anyway, if this is something that brings you joy, you’re going to need the best physics book to get you through your studies – and that’s precisely what you’ll find in this guide.
Let’s get started!
**Below, you’ll find more detailed review, but you can also click links above to see current prices and read customer’s reviews on Amazon.
So, You’d Like To Learn Physics?
If you’re thinking of taking up physics in college, there are two things you need to know:
First and foremost
it’s going to be a lot different than school-level physics. From developing a new approach to familiar-sounding areas to entirely new subjects – you get the picture.
Lots and lots of math.
Now, before we go any further, let alone dive into the in-depth reviews of the actual textbooks, I’d like to take a second to explain to you what general physics education looks like, and what kind of knowledge you’re most likely to obtain in both undergraduate, as well as graduate-level studies.
I promise to keep it short and to-the-point, though!
So, undergraduate-level physics look something like this:
Graduate-level physics, on the other hand, cover the following areas:
You’re not seeing double – it does include some of the same topics as undergraduate physics, but with a lot more depth and mathematical rigor.
Getting A Good Deal: Save Money On College Textbooks
After you spend what seems like an entire fortune on your tuition, dorm room, and what not, there’s one more budget-busting venture – buying textbooks.
And let me tell you something:
The prices can get ridiculously high!
Now, here’s the thing:
While these books are all necessary course materials, spending a couple of hundred bucks on them semester after semester isn’t – here are a few ways to find cheap university textbooks:
1. Do Your Research
Research is the first – and most important – step to getting a good deal on your college textbooks:
Now and then, new and „improved“ editions of college textbooks appear, and although about 90 percent of the content stays the same, they’re usually accompanied by hefty price tags.
If your course calls for a book that’s on its 20th edition (you’ll see some pretty good examples of that in my round-up of the best physics books), don’t be shy:
Ask your professor if you could work with an earlier edition, instead.
It may not work for all your textbooks, especially those that contain problem sets – you’re not done with doing homework just yet. Otherwise, it should be fine.
2. Look Beyond Your Campus Bookstore
Although it might be the most straightforward approach, going straight to the university bookstore and buying brand new copies – and latest editions, of course – of every book you’ll need in the following semester is not the best solution budget-wise.
Don’t forget you have options other than the campus bookstore.
You can find the best physics textbook online, too – but more on that later.
3. New Or Used?
I know everyone loves their books all shiny and new – at least I know I do – but for the sake of your budget, get over it. Now’s not the time to be picky, and here’s why:
You probably can’t afford it.
Plus, think about your plans for these books:
Are they more likely to end up ditched and forgotten as soon as you’re done with the class or do you plan to keep them?
If the latter is true, by all means, go down the „new” route – spending more is worth it if you plan to keep these books and revisit them sometime in the future.
Otherwise, buying second-hand textbooks almost always guarantees a significantly lower price – and as long as they’re in a reasonable condition, chances are you won’t even notice!
If you opt for a used physics textbook, chances are you’ll find some marginalia worth reading in there somewhere, too. Maybe these notes left by the book’s previous owner end up helping you understand the given topic better!
That said, be sure to check the book’s condition. While notes can be helpful, highlighting isn’t:
Not only is it distracting but could prevent you from identifying the chapter’s key points on your own, as well.
Best Physics Book: Top 5 Choices For College Students
I promised to help you find the best physics book for your college classes, so let’s get to it – here are my top 5 recommended reads!
The Feynman Lectures on Physics – The Best Introduction To Physics You’ll Ever Read
First things first, right?
You might think your high school experience should be enough to get you through your college physics courses, but you couldn’t be more wrong. There’s a vast amount of knowledge you’re yet to grasp, let alone understand completely.
That said, the Feynman Lectures On Physics is the best book to help you make that transition.
The insightful lectures, thorough explanations, extensive examples, and the overall conversational tone of the famous „three red books“ work together to create more than a mere textbook – it’s an enjoyable read, as well.
Plus, I’m pretty sure every physicist out there has a copy of Feynman Lectures on their bookshelf!
There’s one thing that had me slightly worried – the use of glossy paper. It’s nowhere near as shiny as something you’d see used for magazine prints, but it’s still noticeable.
Now, I know that the price might be a bit too high for your college budget, but here’s the thing:
You’re getting all three volumes of Feynman’s legendary lectures here. I’d say that’s a pretty good bang for your buck!
Classical Mechanics by Herbert Goldstein – The Best Classical Mechanics Textbook
There comes a time in every physicist’s education when they should make the connection between „classical“ and „modern“ physics – and this book has been an essential part of making that jump for decades now.
The book flows – although in a quite formal way – from one topic to the next in a profound and explanatory manner. Moreover, it’s filled with a lot of useful exercises, which are, without a doubt, essential for a better understanding of its concepts.
In his writing, Goldstein manages to make the connection between classical mechanics and what could be considered the modern-day teachings in physics.
That said, Classical Mechanics might not be the best choice for those that don’t have any previous knowledge on physics – not beyond high school level, anyway. Things will get pretty deep pretty fast, and I’m not sure an absolute beginner would be able to keep track on Goldstein’s train of thought.
Also, watch out for the price, though. As you can imagine, a classic like this – and a hardcover copy, for that matter – comes with a hefty price tag. If you’re looking to save some cash, I’d recommend the paperback version.
University Physics with Modern Physics – The Best Physics Textbook
You know how some academic books tend to be „dry“ and hard to read?
Well, the authors somehow managed to work their way around this, and write a book that converses with you. It’s as if you were having a casual talk with a friend, but instead of talking about the weather, you’re having a deep, mind-enlightening conversation about physics.
And it’s not just the way it was written that continues to amaze me – it’s the examples and sample problems that go hand in hand with it, too.
Moreover, it features some of the best illustrations of the physical phenomenon I’ve seen in physics textbooks so far.
That’s why this is, by far, one of my favorite physics-related reads of all times.
Now, you should probably keep in mind that this isn’t the lightest of reads, and I’m not talking about the content, either. Due to the sheer weight of the book – it’s massive, by the way – you probably won’t be carrying it around campus a lot.
And while it’s super expensive, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s overpriced – with approximately 1600 pages of content to go through, you are certainly getting your money’s worth.
Classical Electrodynamics Third Edition – The Bible Of Electrodynamics
by J. D. Jackson
As I mentioned previously, electrodynamics is an area of physics you’re very likely to encounter both during your undergraduate, and your graduate studies – depending on how far you’re looking to take your degree, that is.
That’s why I figured this round-up couldn’t go without at least one book on the subject, and Classical Electrodynamics by J. D. Jackson was the obvious choice for the job.
The best way to describe the book’s essence would be:
Classical electrodynamics paired with exceptional mathematical rigor.
Moreover, it’s an exceptional source of problem sets, some of which could be described as „brutal.“ It might be rigorous in its approach, but it yields results:
By the time you’re done with this book, you’ll know your electromagnetism.
Now, I’ve tried to figure out a nice way to say this, but I haven’t come up with one, so here comes the harsh truth:
Although I consider it to be the best physics book when it comes to electrodynamics, it’s not written in a very „readable“ or pleasant manner. It’s complicated and dry, and it will result in many sleepless nights – but it’s the so-called Bible of electricity and magnetism in physics, nonetheless.
Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences – Essential Math For All Physicists
Okay, lastly, I’d like to talk to you about something that’s doesn’t necessarily fall into the „best physics textbook“ category, but is essential for your physics education, nonetheless – and that’s Boas’ Mathematical Methods In The Physical Sciences.
As you probably know by now, studying physics is more than merely „studying physics“ – there’s an insane quantity of math that goes into it, too.
And that’s where Boas’ book comes to play:
Its comprehensive, yet condensed content, paired with ample amounts of exercises, manages to cover anything – and everything – math-related that you might need as a physics undergraduate.
Most importantly, it’s nowhere near as expensive as the rest of the textbooks mentioned in this round-up. And if you’re working with a somewhat limited budget, I know that’s something you’ll appreciate.
The main issue I’ve had with this book is that it’s so compact and condensed, that it almost entirely omits explanations of specific topics. It’s as if the author expects you to be already familiar with these areas.
Overall, though, it’s a must-read for physicists – you probably won’t survive applied math without one of these!
Final Thoughts On The Best Physics Book
Can you already guess which one of these takes the title of the best physics book?
If you placed your bets on the University Physics with Modern Physics, you guessed it right! It’s not only the amount of information it contains but the way it’s delivered, as well.
Educational and mind-enlightening, yet at the same time, surprisingly casual, it continues to amaze me – and I bet you’ll agree with me on this, too.
If you studied physics and you have some suggestions of your own, feel free to share them with the rest of us in the comment section below!