The best books for beginners to learn about quantum physics and quantum technology

Michael G. Raymer Author Of Quantum Physics: What Everyone Needs to Know
By Michael G. Raymer

Who am I?

I am a professor of physics, passionate about researching physics and inspiring non-scientists to enjoy learning about physics. My research addresses how to use quantum physics to accelerate the development of quantum information science including quantum computing, quantum communications, and quantum measurement. My current projects are in developing quantum satellite communications, increasing the precision of telescopes, and constructing a quantum version of the Internet—the Quantum Internet. These topics revolve around quantum optics—the study of how light interacts with matter. I originated the idea of a National Quantum Initiative and lobbied the U.S. Congress to pass it into law, resulting in large investments in the new, exciting field of quantum technology.

I wrote...

Quantum Physics: What Everyone Needs to Know

By Michael G. Raymer,

Book cover of Quantum Physics: What Everyone Needs to Know

What is my book about?

Until recently, quantum physics was seen as an esoteric topic that had little direct impact on ordinary people. That view is rapidly changing as scientists come to grips with the real-world ramifications of quantum physics as it applies to new kinds of technologies. The possibilities of quantum computers and a quantum Internet are raising our expectations for the next revolution, which will likely be as world-changing as the semiconductor revolution has been over the past 50 years. I wrote this book after years of developing creative ways to explain the inner workings of quantum physics in a way that requires little if any mathematics. Many non-scientist readers have said they appreciate the manner the subject is presented in, with just the right level of gentle challenge to help them think and learn.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments

Why did I love this book?

My first book pick tells the story (and quite a story it is) of how quantum theory came to be and why it is essential for understanding the physical world at its deepest level. Written by a master of popular exposition, this book covers everything from the discovery of the quantum in 1900 to recent discoveries in quantum optics. Baggott is an accomplished scientist as well as award-winning author, enabling him to write what I think of as the best update in the style of a cherished book I was first inspired by in the 1980s: In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat by John Gribbin. 

By Jim Baggott,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Quantum Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The twentieth century was defined by physics. From the minds of the world's leading physicists there flowed a river of ideas that would transport mankind to the pinnacle of wonderment and to the very depths of human despair. This was a century that began with the certainties of absolute knowledge and ended with the knowledge of absolute uncertainty. It was a century in which physicists developed weapons with the capacity to destroy our reality, whilst at the same
time denying us the possibility that we can ever properly comprehend it.

Almost everything we think we know about the nature of…

Book cover of QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

Why did I love this book?

My second pick is by the master himself. Richard Feynman’s little book explains quantum electrodynamics or QED to a lay audience. Not only did he receive a Nobel Prize for his discoveries in this area, but Feynman was at the pinnacle of using deep understanding of physics to give the simplest possible yet accurate description of the world as seen through physics. He steps the reader slowly and carefully through some incredible journeys of logic (without equations) to explain how light travels from one place to another and how light interacts with matter such as electrons. It’s basic stuff, but deep and a fun ride. 

By Richard P. Feynman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked QED as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrated for his brilliantly quirky insights into the physical world, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult concepts to the general public. Here Feynman provides a classic and definitive introduction to QED (namely, quantum electrodynamics), that part of quantum field theory describing the interactions of light with charged particles. Using everyday language, spatial concepts, visualizations, and his renowned "Feynman diagrams" instead of advanced mathematics, Feynman clearly and humorously communicates both the substance and spirit of QED to the layperson. A. Zee's introduction places Feynman's book and his seminal contribution to QED in historical context and…

Book cover of Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos

Why did I love this book?

Now we are getting to the modern era, where physics meets computing in ways never dreamed of by the founders of quantum physics. Seth Lloyd is a professor at MIT and one of the first to prove that quantum theory admits the possibility of building computers on wholly quantum foundations. He is also one of the most creative and engaging writers on the subject. His main message is that information is the basis of all things physical. From quantum bits or qubits to cosmology, this book has it all, and is written in a highly accessible way. Not a single equation can be found. 

By Seth Lloyd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Programming the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


The universe is made of bits of information and it has been known for more than a century that every piece of the the universe - every electron, atom and molecule - registers these bits and that information. It is only in the last years, however, with the discovery and development of quantum computers, that scientists have gained a fundamental understanding of just how that information is registered and processed.

Building on recent breakthroughs in quantum computation, Seth Lloyd shows how the universe itself is a giant computer. Every atom and elementary particle stores…

Q is for Quantum

By Terry Rudolph,

Book cover of Q is for Quantum

Why did I love this book?

This masterful book goes one step further and presents a game-based analogy that goes a long way toward explaining how a quantum computer actually works. Working through the book, one gains an understanding of how qubits can be quantum entangled and how entanglement leads to computing tasks that could not be performed on an ordinary computer. Deceptively simple in appearance, the method leads you deep into the inner workings of quantum logic operations without realizing you are digesting some pretty advanced concepts. The author knows of what he writes, as his theoretical discoveries led to one of the world’s most ambitious quantum computing efforts.  

By Terry Rudolph,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Q is for Quantum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

COMPUTING. ENTANGLEMENT. REALITY. Books containing these three words are typically fluff or incomprehensible; this one is not. "Q is for Quantum" teaches a theory at the forefront of modern physics to an audience presumed to already know only basic arithmetic. Topics covered range from the practical (new technologies we can expect soon) to the foundational (old ideas that attempt to make sense of the theory). The theory is built up precisely and quantitatively. Deceptively vague jargon and analogies are avoided, and mysterious features of the theory are made explicit and not skirted. The tenacious reader will emerge with a better…

Book cover of Totally Random: Why Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics (A Serious Comic on Entanglement)

Why did I love this book?

The subtitle of this book is A Serious Comic on Entanglement. Normally I am not fond of comic-style presentations of physics (although I do love comics, as my Conan the Barbarian collection can attest). But I am happy to make an exception for this excellent book, written by a daughter-father team, the father being one of the leading philosophers of physics and the daughter being an artist and web designer. All the deep physics is there, presented in a fun, reader-friendly style. The acknowledgments section credits six ‘reviewers,’ ages 12 to 15, for reviewing and helping edit the book – now that’s inter-generational! 

By Tanya Bub, Jeffrey Bub,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Totally Random as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An eccentric comic about the central mystery of quantum mechanics

Totally Random is a comic for the serious reader who wants to really understand the central mystery of quantum mechanics--entanglement: what it is, what it means, and what you can do with it.

Measure two entangled particles separately, and the outcomes are totally random. But compare the outcomes, and the particles seem as if they are instantaneously influencing each other at a distance-even if they are light-years apart. This, in a nutshell, is entanglement, and if it seems weird, then this book is for you. Totally Random is a graphic…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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