Physics books

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These Physics books are recommended by Art of Problem Solving administrators and members of the AoPS-MathLinks Community.

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Books by subject

Astrophysics and Cosmology

Chaos Theory

Introductory Textbooks

Error Analysis

Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Particle Physics

Undergraduate Level Books

Studying for the F=ma Exam

The F=ma exam is the first round selection exam for the US Physics team, which selects five travelers to compete in the International Physics Olympiad.

  • Conceptual Physics by Paul Hewitt. This book is a basic introduction to physics.
  • Thinking Physics by Lewis Carroll Epstein. This book contains hundreds of conceptual problems. Only some of the problems focus on mechanics.
  • Problems and Solutions in Introductory Mechanics by David Morin. This is the single most-important book for F=ma training. A few of the problems require calculus (which the F=ma exam does not), but anyone who works through this entire book should be well-prepared for the test.
  • Physics by Halliday, Resnick, and Krane (see note in USAPhO section) This is a calculus-based textbook that is very thorough, and good for getting a deeper understanding. It has thousands of challenging problems, and is useful for those who have covered the basics of mechanics and want to go deeper. It also covers many other topics in physics and will carry forward to the USAPhO exam.
  • Former F=ma exams are available from AAPT on their website. There is also a solution manual to some of these exams. If your goal is to advance to USAPhO, you should solve all of the problems on all of the past exams.
  • Try IsaacPhysics for additional practice problems.
  • Take the AoPS F=ma Problem-Solving Series course for additional practice, problem-solving forums, an original practice exam, and personalized guidance from expert teachers and assistants.

Studying for the USAPhO, IPhO, and other physics olympiads

  • Physics by Halliday, Resnick, and Krane (see note below). This is the single-most important book to read to prepare for the USAPhO exam. This book covers everything and contains many challenging problems.
  • Introduction to Classical Mechanics by David Morin. This book will take you deeper into mechanics, including some material (such as Lagrangian mechanics) beyond the syllabus of olympiads.
  • Electricity and Magnetism by Purcell and Morin. This is a great book on electromagnetism for those who want to learn it with multidimensional and vector calculus.
  • The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Feynman. This is a deeply-insightful set of lectures that covers a very broad swath of physics, but does not on its own contain practice problems.
  • Past USAPhO Exams are available from AAPT.
  • Take PhysicsWOOT to practice USAPhO-style problem solving, take four original USAPhO practice exams and two original F=ma exams, access problem-solving forums, get personalized feedback and help from expert teachers and assistants, and for even more practice.
  • Official IPhO problems from past Olympiads are available for download.
  • Jaan Kalda's resources contain a huge number of practice problems.

Note: There are two introductory physics texts by Halliday and Resnick. This happened because after their first textbook had existed for a decade, some colleges began asking for an easier version.

"Physics" by Resnick, Halliday, and Krane is in its 5th edition (published 2002). This book is often called "HRK". It is the recommended book for Olympiad preparation. The current editor is Paul Stanley, former academic director of the US Physics team. This edition has many challenging problems in it.

"Fundamentals of Physics" by Halliday, Resnick, and Walker is in its 10th edition (published 2013). This edition describes the basic physics of the same topics as HRK. However, it goes into less detail, omits some of the interesting calculations, and has fewer challenging problems. Although this is a good book, it is not written to train students to the same level of problem-solving ability as HRK. So HRK is recommended for those interested in improving their problem-solving ability to the level of the USAPhO or similar olympiad physics competitions.

There are a large number of introductory, calculus-based textbooks available. They all cover similar material, so other books, such as Giancoli, Thomas Moore, Sherwood and Sherwood, Knight, Mazur, Cummings Laws Redish and Cooney, etc. are all acceptable for basic readings. However, for those seeking to earn medals or make the US Physics team on USAPhO, additional problem-solving practice through old exams, PhysicsWOOT, and other sources of problems is recommended.

Books of Problems

General interest

See Also