This article summarizes what we believe are the six best quantum physics books for beginners. We include two amazing books that hardly contain formulas to justify this bold claim. They are suitable for laymen but are also interesting for physics students. Then we include two great books that still focus on a conceptual approach but have many formulas. They are suitable for amateur scientists with certain math backgrounds and as complementary lectures for physics students. Finally, we include what we believe are the two best books with a higher degree of difficulty but really teach you all about quantum physics calculations.
For each of the latter four books, we have written a detailed review to which we link from this article, respectively. We have also written an article that shows according to which criteria we review the quantum mechanics books. We shall now review the individual books with the easier ones first, and then summarize our findings.
How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog
Don’t let the title deceive you. This book is clearly written for humans and contains a great deal of knowledge. However, the pedagogic explanations are interrupted by dialogs between the author Chad Orzel and his dog Emmy. These dialogs are very insightful since Emmy seems to ask all the questions a human also would have. Well, at least nearly. The dialogs have some dog-related humor, for example asking whether it would be possible to quantum tunnel through the fence to chase the squirrels on the other side. Due to the humor in these dialogs, the reading becomes a joy.
But again, the topics covered are still very meaningful from particle-wave duality over the uncertainty principle to the different interpretations of quantum physics. And on to more complex topics as decoherence, quantum tunneling, and entanglement. The table of contents, with its dog-related humor included, has an introductory chapter, and these main chapters:
- Which Way? Both Ways: Particle-Wave Duality
- Where’s My Bone? The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
- Schrödinger’s Dog: The Copenhagen Interpretation
- Many Worlds, Many Treats: The Many-Worlds Interpretation
- Are We There Yet? The Quantum Zeno Effect
- No Digging Required: Quantum Tunneling
- Spooky Barking at a Distance: Quantum Entanglement
- Beam Me a Bunny: Quantum Teleportation
- Bunnies Made of Cheese: Virtual Particles and Quantum Electrodynamics
- Beware of Evil Squirrels: Misuses of Quantum Physics
If you are new to quantum physics, this is a great read, and you will learn a lot about quantum physics with little effort. We counted a handful of fairly simple (though important) quantum physics formulas and 34 images. Even without a strong math background, you should be able to read through and understand the book within a weekend, which makes the book interesting for everyone, including physics students. But note that this is a purely conceptual book, so you will not learn to do quantum physics calculations. (See books 3-6 for that.) All in all, this book deserves our highest recommendation.
The Quantum World – Quantum Physics for Everyone
This paperback book is written by Kenneth W. Ford, retired director of the American Institute of Physics. When he talks about breakthrough physicists, he often has met them in person. The book has nearly no formulas — we counted around three simple ones, plus maybe another two or three in the footnotes. Spread over close to 300 pages. This together with an easy presentation of the topic makes the book very suitable for the layman, who is interested in quantum physics. The book has 52 images, quite some of them showing historically important physicists. The Quantum World starts out by explaining, that quantum physics is the world of the small, and relativity theory the physics of the fast. The chapters in the book are
- Beneath the Surface of Things
- How Small is Small? How Fast is Fast?
- Meet the Leptons
- The Rest of the Extended Family
- Quantum Lumps
- Quantum Jumps
- Social and Antisocial Particles
- Clinging to Constancy
- Waves and Particles
- Pushing the Limits.
In addition, there are four appendices. You may notice that the first chapters cover a lot of physics of subatomic particles, which is easy to follow for the layman. On the other hand, important quantum concepts like the particle-wave duality and the uncertainty principle come very late in the book. While we did not particularly like this order, it may make the presentation simpler. Which of course is great for beginners. And even though they come late in the book, the book covers important concepts like Bose-Einstein condensation and entanglement. All in all this book deserves our highest recommendations for beginners. And since it nicely explains many important concepts, even physics students may profit from reading this book before looking at a book filled with formulas.
Quantum Mechanics – The Theoretical Minimum
This book is written by Leonard Susskind and Art Friedman. Quantum Mechanics – The Theoretical Minimum intends to make quantum mechanics “as simple as possible, but no simpler”. We find that for anyone not shying away from formulas, they really nailed it.
The roughly A5 size book is comparable easy to read: we managed reading 42 pages per hour in the middle of the book. This makes it possible to read through the roughly 350 pages in a spare weekend, which is a great plus for the book. Simple exercices help you ensure staying on track with your reading. The chapters, called lectures, are
- Systems and Experiments
- Quantum States
- Principles of Quantum Mechanics
- Time and Change
- Uncertainty and Time Dependence
- Combining Systems: Entanglement
- More on Entanglement
- Particles and Waves
- Particle Dynamics
- The Harmonic Oscillator
The book uses a modern approach where two-state systems, called qubits or quantum bits, are treated from the first chapter on. The images really help with the understanding. Their number is with 24 rather on the low side, but this didn’t disturb reading pleasure in our eyes. The exercices have in general no solutions, but are so simple, that this should not be a problem.
In summary, this is a fantastic book. It is very accessible for the amateur scientist who does not shy away when seeing formulas. But with simple formulas and exercises and crisp clear explanations, it is also a great book for physics students. Probably not the only quantum mechanics book. Topics like perturbation theory or addition of angular momenta are not treated at all. But it is a very understandable book, that can be worked through in a spare weekend. After doing so, conquering one of the more advanced books will be so much easier.
|Motivation:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Images:||(3.0 / 5)|
|Formulas:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Exercises:||(4.0 / 5)|
Feynman Lectures on Physics Volume 3 – Quantum Mechanics
This book belongs to the three-volume series by Nobel prize winner Richard P. Feynman and coworkers. The notable thing about the Feynman Lectures Volume 3 is that it is fairly accessible for non-physicists – much more than most other quantum physics books. Part of what makes the book so great is a multitude of images that accompany the text and greatly help with the understanding. Therefore for many people, this is the perfect beginner book when learning quantum physics and quantum mechanics. You should be aware that the book contains formulas, but they are very accessible due the great explanations and images that accompany them.
Physics students may complain that there are no exercises in the book. There is however a complete exercise book in addition to the three volume series.
The book is fantastic in explaining the basic concepts of quantum physics. It starts with thought experiments – that can be performed in reality – about the interaction of light or atoms with a double slit. It discusses the particle-wave duality in an easy to follow way and early on explains Heisenbergs uncertainty principle. The book explains the major principles of quantum mechanics, and discusses among other things the Schrödinger equation, probability amplitudes, spin, time-dependence, the Hamiltonian, Masers, two-state systems, the hydrogene atom and its hyperfine splitting, symmetry and conservation laws, and the angular momentum.
In summary, The Feynman Lectures on Physics 3 – Quantum Mechanics is certainly a great book. It delivers a fantastic introduction for non-physicists that do not shy away when seeing formulas. Together with the exercise book it is also a great start for physics students. The edition we review is a paperback edition and fairly inexpensive when compared to some other beginner books on quantum mechanics. Thus all in all, we can highly recommend this book.
|Motivation:||(5 / 5)|
|Images:||(5 / 5)|
|Formulas:||(5 / 5)|
Quantum Mechanics by Claude Cohen-Tannoudji et al.
This is a two volume book series, written by nobel prize winner Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and coworkers Bernard Diu and Frank Laloë. It is possibly the most extensive
quantum mechanics resource, with together around 1400 pages. The length is due to the fact that quantum physics principles are explained in detail, and not as dense as in the book by Landau and Lifshitz. This makes it specifically suitable for beginners. Each chapter contains a supplement with additional information that is helpful but can be skipped during a first read. This may actually help to get through all of the 14 chapters.
The chapters in the first book cover particles and waves, the mathematical framework of quantum mechanics, the postulates of quantum physics, and simple systems. It concludes with the harmonical oscillator and the angular momentum in quantum mechanics. The second book covers particles in a central potential, elementary scattering theory, and the spin of the electron. Then it continues with additon of angular momentum, stationary perturbation theory and the fine and hyper-fine structure of the hydrogen atom. The second volume concludes with approximation methods for time-dependent problems and systems of identical particles.
In short, Cohen-Tannoudji – quantum mechanics is probably the most complete book series about quantum mechanics there is. That alone makes it worth the money, and it is not inexpensive. But the old saying you get what you pay for applies here. With a great motivation, lots of images, an abundance of formulas, and many exercises, partly solved, this book deserves our blessings. If you are truly serious about learning quantum mechanics, you should certainly consider getting both volume one and volume two. You may save some bucks by buying the two volume set or choosing the used books options under the links.
|Motivation:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Images:||(4.0 / 5)|
|Formulas:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Exercises:||(4.0 / 5)|
Quantum Mechanics by L.D. Landau and E.M. Lifshitz
This is the third book in a ten-books series by nobel prize winner L.D. Landau and his student E.M. Lifshitz. These books contain a lot of physics, they are, however, quite dense. While this per se makes them less suitable for beginners, they have what most other physics books don’t: Solved exercises. These books contain many exercises, and all of them are solved. That alone makes this third book on nonrelativistic quantum mechanics worth it for any serious physics student – beginner or not.
The book is structured in 18 chapters together with mathematical addititions. The chapters are as follows:
- Basic principles of quantum mechanics
- Energy and momentum
- The Schrödinger equation
- Angular momentum
- Movement in a spherical field
- Perturbation theory
- The quasi-classical case
- Identical particles
- The atom
- Two-atomic molecules
- Theory of symmetry
- Many-atomic molecules
- Addition of angular moment
- Movement in a magnetic field
- Structure of the atom nucleus
- Elastic shocks
- Inelastic shocks
In summary, we would have liked to see more images in this book. But if you love dense content without any bla bla, or you need solved exercises, you certainly need to look at this series. All in all this is a fantastic book that can be seen as complementary to that by Feynman.
|Motivation:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Images:||(3.0 / 5)|
|Formulas:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Exercises:||(5.0 / 5)|
Summary: Quantum Physics Books for Beginners
To summarize our quantum physics books review, How to Teach Quantum Physics To Your Dog and The Quantum World – Quantum Physics for Everyone are clearly the most accessible for non-physicists. They have hardly any formulas, and a presentation that is truly aimed at beginners who do not need to have a strong math background. We would recommend to start with the former if you like humor. The latter is fairly complementary and has much more content on the particle part of quantum physics. Both will even help with the general understanding of quantum physics for physics students, but they do not teach calculus at all.
The easiest quantum physics book with many formulas is the book by Susskind and Friedman. It truly aims to make quantum mechanics as simple as possible (but no simpler). With simple exercises, it could also be the first quantum mechanics book for a physics student.
Close after comes the book by Feynman and coworkers that has more content and is great for beginners who want to learn quantum mechanics. It has a lot of images that help in explaining the content. And it is great in explaining the main quantum mechanics concepts. Together with the exercise book it is also a great fit for physics students.
The two quantum mechanics books by Cohen-Tannoudji and coworkers are probably the most complete source of quantum physics knowledge there is. With still fairly many images and many exercises, a few with solutions, these may be the best books for physics students.
The book by Landau and Lifshitz is rather dense and has not so many images. However, it contains a lot of knowledge and a ton of exercises, all with solutions. This makes it a great fit if you seriously want to learn quantum mechanics on your own.
These are our favorite quantum physics books for beginners on the planet. We plan to add more over time. There is also a list of recommended books with links to Amazon, in case you want to buy quantum mechanics books. Do you love others? Let us know in the comments, and we may review them as well.