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  Books that every physicist should read

+ 10 like - 0 dislike
22164 views

Inspired by How should a physics student study mathematics? and in the same vein as Best books for mathematical background?, although in a more general fashion, I'd like to know if anyone is interested in doing a list of the books 'par excellence' for a physicist.

In spite of the frivolous nature of this post, I think it can be a valuable resource.

For example:


Course of Theoretical Physics - L.D. Landau, E.M. Lifshitz.

Mathematical Methods of Physics - Mathews, Walker. Very nice chapter on complex variables and evaluation of integrals, presenting must-know tricks to solve non-trivial problems. Also contains an introduction to groups and group representations with physical applications.

Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics - Byron and Fuller.

Topics in Algebra - I. N. Herstein. Extremely well written, introduce basic concepts in groups, rings, vector spaces, fields and linear transformations. Concepts are motivated and a nice set of problems accompany each chapter (some of them quite challenging).

Partial Differential Equations in Physics - Arnold Sommerfeld. Although a bit dated, very clear explanations. First chapter on Fourier Series is enlightening. The ratio interesting information/page is extremely large. Contains discussions on types of differential equations, integral equations, boundary value problems, special functions and eigenfunctions.


This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:35 (UCT), posted by SE-user Robert Smith
asked Nov 16, 2010 in Resources and References by Robert Smith (0 points) [ no revision ]
retagged May 4, 2014 by dimension10
Good but not really a question. It is hardly possible to find a "correct" answer. I wish the answers will be detailed, not just "I like it", but with explanations like - why given book contains the excellent and original exposition of a certain milestone problem in physics.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:35 (UCT), posted by SE-user Grisha Kirilin
Excellent, I like your idea. I will update with some comments in a few hours.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:35 (UCT), posted by SE-user Robert Smith
If I'm not mistaken, this would be a good candidate for the [soft-question] tag, if we would like to introduce it on this site.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:35 (UCT), posted by SE-user David Z
@David: I think it's very appropriate. I already added the soft-question tag.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:35 (UCT), posted by SE-user Robert Smith
If one wants to prepare for graduate school and a future academic job, then they should read a great deal of Franz Kafka (particularly The Trial, perhaps?).

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:35 (UCT), posted by SE-user wsc
Most of the books listed are more related to theoretical physics. I wonder if there is any "bible" for experimental physics?

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:35 (UCT), posted by SE-user pipsi
I wonder how many physicists have read all the books every physicist should read.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:35 (UCT), posted by SE-user MBN

25 Answers

+ 0 like - 0 dislike

The Six Core Theories of Modern Physics by Charles F. Stevens has nice brief summaries of modern physics and a good summary of the basic mathematics including a section on functional integrals that is very clear.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:36 (UCT), posted by SE-user MadScientist
answered Jun 8, 2012 by MadScientist (0 points) [ no revision ]

Not a good introduction, OK for those that already know.

+ 0 like - 0 dislike

I can't believe Fearful Symmetry by A.Zee hasnt been mentioned here uet. Its a popular physics book but it really captures how beautiful and profound symmetries pop out from our physical models and give us glimpses of "the book" presumably written by god.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:36 (UCT), posted by SE-user James Cooper
answered Sep 1, 2012 by James Cooper (0 points) [ no revision ]
+ 0 like - 0 dislike

His Dark Materials Series by Philip Pullman.

Like The Old Man in the Sea it's a novel series, not a hard science book. But perspective is important, and every physicist should definitely take the time to read it through.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:36 (UCT), posted by SE-user Freya Natasha Geneviève Paré
answered Dec 30, 2012 by Freya Natasha Geneviève Paré (0 points) [ no revision ]
+ 0 like - 0 dislike

I recommend Analysis Vol I and Vol II by Terence Tao.

Although it is a book on real analysis but the book is very much different from rest of the books out there. Also, Tao is one of the finest minds of the century and it is important for a student of physics to have a good understanding of the stuff underlying most of the mathematics that we dabble in. Apart from the philosophical satisfaction (in Tao's own words), it helps the reader from not getting into trouble by applying rules without knowing how they came about or what are the limits of their applicability.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-05-04 15:36 (UCT), posted by SE-user AchiralSarkar
answered Jan 3, 2013 by AchiralSarkar (40 points) [ no revision ]
+ 1 like - 2 dislike

How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog by Chad Orzel

Utterly useless, but the title is hilarious :D

answered May 5, 2014 by physicsnewbie (-20 points) [ no revision ]

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