I am a high school student. I want to learn physics on my own, but I am puzzled :

  1. Should I read a book which talks about all branches of physics? If yes, recommend a book.

  2. Should I read a book which talks only about classical mechanics? If yes, recommend a book.

Note: I am looking forward to be a theoretical physicist and pure mathematician.


closed as off-topic by Najib Idrissi, Thomas, Tobias Kildetoft, Umberto P., TMM Mar 13 '14 at 15:55

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  • $\begingroup$ If you already know some calculus and physics then I suggest you to read Apostol's book on Calculus and also read Kleppner's book on Mechanics. note that they are not easy books and and you should really work hard on them. $\endgroup$ – Soosh Mar 13 '14 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ Apostol's haven't a solutions book on net . So i will read spivak's $\endgroup$ – user135139 Mar 13 '14 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ Solutions! do not use solution manuals and if you curious about your solution to be correct or not. well I tell you that if you solved it correctly and undrestand it, then you can feel it without doubt. $\endgroup$ – Soosh Mar 13 '14 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ I can't find you here always . So, i may solve questions wrong thinking i have made it correctly . $\endgroup$ – user135139 Mar 13 '14 at 8:23

If you are brave enough, try The Feynman Lectures on Physics.

  • $\begingroup$ I second that motion, +1! $\endgroup$ – Robert Lewis Mar 13 '14 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ why ? Which you recommend. $\endgroup$ – user135139 Mar 13 '14 at 9:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The Feynman Tips on Physics is also good. $\endgroup$ – littleO Mar 13 '14 at 11:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also, I would venture to say that "The Lectures" are a good candidate for the set of books that require the least bravery to try. $\endgroup$ – Boluc Papuccuoglu Mar 13 '14 at 12:29

If you wish to be a theoretical physicist I highly recommend to check out Gerard 't Hooft's (Physics Nobel Prize recipient in 1999) great website "How to become a good theoretical physicist". It's basically a list of books and resources on several subjects necessary for a proper education in theoretical physics.

As an addendum to 't Hooft's guide I would recommend David J. Griffiths "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics" for non-relativistic quantum mechanics. For the mathematics part I would recommend Riley and Hobson's "Essential Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences" which also come with a solution manual for students. And as Martín-Blas Pérez Pinilla proposed, the Feynman Lectures on Physics are a great read as well.

If you are interested in astrophysics, you can check out Ryden's "Introduction to Cosmology" and Sparke and Gallagher's "Galaxies in the Universe - And Introduction". Both can be read after having Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics from 't Hoofts guide.

If you are interested in non-linear dynamics and chaos theory I would highly recommend Steven H. Strogatz' "Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos". It's a wonderful book and even if you are not particularly interested in the subject you would still gain a lot from reading it :)

If you want a book that spans many subjects in one you can check out "University Physics" by Young and Freedman. It covers all from classical mechanics to modern physics (quantum mechanics and special relativity). It's not as in depth as the specified books but can be used at the side.

If you are interested in other subjects, please let me know and I may be able to recommend some text books for those subjects :)

(I'm sorry I couldn't provide links for the rest of the books, but apparently I need 10 reputation to post more than 2 links. A quick search will provide you with Amazon links or similar book stores) EDIT: Now I can post the links :)

  • $\begingroup$ The "Essential Mathematical Methods..." book has a couple bad reviews (amazon: only has those reviews), how accurate are those opinions, particularly does it really only show a high level concept and not the actual mathematics involved? $\endgroup$ – Bennett Yeates Mar 13 '14 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ @BennettYeates I included it because it covers a lot of mathematical subjects specifically needed by the physical sciences. It covers vector calculus, line, surface and volume integrals, fourier series, integral transforms (Fourier and Laplace transforms), Dirac delta-function, differential equations, and complex variables and integrals. I'm not sure I recognize the criticism from the Amazon reviews. I found the book's review of the subjects adequate but you could probably find better resources on the subjects individually elsewhere. The book however is fine and all the subjects are there. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Lind Mar 13 '14 at 16:53

learn mathematics and try to get a feel for physics




  • $\begingroup$ is the theoretical minimum for beginners like me ??? If yes, after reading it i should study what in physics ? $\endgroup$ – user135139 Mar 13 '14 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ For the Love of Physics is definitely divulgative. The video lectures of Walter Lewin ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/… are actual physics. $\endgroup$ – Martín-Blas Pérez Pinilla Mar 13 '14 at 10:24

For a high school student, I'd suggest to start with Feynman's Six Easy Pieces.

This book reprints the six easiest chapters from Feynman's celebrated Lectures on Physics, which the Nobel Prize-winning scientist delivered from 1961 to 1963 at the California Institute of Technology. Intended for as wide an audience as possible, these chapters are primarily qualitative in nature, with a minimum of formal mathematics.

It starts off with basic atomic models and ends with quantum physics. It's extremely well written, and the chapter on quantum physics in particular is a great and exciting overview. Overall it is more intuitive than quantitative, but the important relationships are there. E.g., w.r.t quantum physics, he says

We have been talking about the probability that an electron will arrive in a given circumstance... We can only predict the odds! This would mean, if it were true, that physics has given up on the problem of trying to predict exactly what will happen in a definite circumstance. Yes! Physics has given up... the only thing that can be predicted is the probability of different events.

Also available is Six Not So Easy Pieces, which is more mathematical, starting off with a chapter on vectors and vector algebra.


As someone who studied physics at UIUC (America) and Lund University (Sweden) I would give you this short life advice:

Myself and my classmates had almost all read the book The Elegant Universe by Brian Green, and basically all of us entered with the goal of doing theory and it highly motivated us. After some time in the university and only some of us finishing graduate Quantum Mechanics and even fewer with solid grades we became a bit disenchanted with the idea. Flash forward 6 years and our pathways split between teaching high school, Ph.Ds, unemployment, startups, and engineering.

The capacity to think critically at a highly logical level gives your future really amazing possibilites, but if I could give my younger self some advice it would be to #1 do what I did "learn for the sake of learning" but also to "learn for the sake of creating."

Too many brilliant people get out of college and don't "get anything done" and really struggle because they study without application. Apply apply apply, practice solving problems not just the concepts! If you like also learn to make things. Its amazing fun to see the machine turn on and you are making quantum properties in some rare material and its real, its not on paper, its a new transistor you fabricated, or to make a program that calculates terabytes of data in milliseconds.

I have also read "why do you care what other people think" and many other physics novels both hardcore theory and popscience. I believe this is true: virtue and the study of discipline will do you more good so learn it first, because the road is hard. Go read the meditations.

Theres my 2 bits, good luck!


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