The best physics books

23 authors have picked their favorite books about physics and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Second Creation

By Robert P. Crease, Charles C. Mann,

Book cover of The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics

This book is an extraordinary romp through the discoveries in particle physics during its formative years, from the electron and x-rays, through the muon, antimatter, and the dizzying particle zoo of the 1950s and 1960s. The book tells a lot of history that books focused on science simply gloss over. It’s a fun and interesting read and you will have a much better appreciation of how scientists learned what they have about the subatomic world.


Who am I?

Don Lincoln is both a research scientist and a masterful science communicator. On the science side, he participated in the discovery of both the top quark and the Higgs boson. On the communicator side, he has written books, made hundreds of YouTube videos, and written for such visible venues as Scientific American and CNN. He has both the scientific chops and writer expertise to tell an exciting story about why the universe is the way it is.


I wrote...

Understanding The Universe: From Quarks To The Cosmos

By Don Lincoln,

Book cover of Understanding The Universe: From Quarks To The Cosmos

What is my book about?

The Big Bang, the birth of the universe, was a singular event. All the matter of the visible universe was concentrated at a single point, with temperatures so high that even the familiar protons and neutrons of atoms did not yet exist, but rather were replaced by a swirling maelstrom of energy, matter, and antimatter. Exotic quarks and leptons flickered briefly into existence, before merging back into the energy sea.

This book explains the fascinating world of quarks and leptons and the forces that govern their behavior. Told from an experimental physicist's perspective, it forgoes mathematical complexity, using instead particularly accessible figures and apt analogies. In addition to the story of quarks and leptons, which are regarded as well-accepted fact, the author (who is a leading researcher at one of the world's highest-energy particle physics laboratories) also discusses mysteries at both the experimental and theoretical frontiers, before tying it all together with the exciting field of cosmology and indeed the birth of the universe itself.

Time and Chance

By David Z. Albert,

Book cover of Time and Chance

I vividly remember reading this book some years ago. You probably don’t remember it at all, even if you’re going to take my advice and read it tomorrow. That’s pretty odd when you think about. Why should we remember the past but not the future?

It does no good to echo platitudes like “the future hasn’t happened yet”. You could as well say “the past is already over”, which is equally true and equally irrelevant. The laws of physics tie the past to the present and the future to the present in exactly the same way. Any process that can run one direction in time can run in the other. So if the past can leave imprints on our memory, why can’t the future?

David Albert wants to make you appreciate the question, and then he wants to tell you the answer. Albert is that rarest of birds: A philosopher…


Who am I?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about things like why there is something instead of nothing, why we can remember the past but not the future, and how consciousness arises. Although I’m a professor of economics, I take such things seriously enough to have published some papers in philosophy journals, and even a whole book about philosophy called The Big Questions. These are some of the books that sharpened my thinking, inspired me to think more deeply, and convinced me that good writing can render deep ideas both accessible and fun.


I wrote...

Can You Outsmart an Economist?

By Steven E. Landsburg,

Book cover of Can You Outsmart an Economist?

What is my book about?

Can you outsmart an economist? Steven Landsburg, an acclaimed author and professor of economics, dares you to try. In this whip-smart, entertaining, and entirely unconventional economics primer, he brings together over one hundred puzzles and brain teasers that illustrate the subject’s key concepts and pitfalls. From warm-up exercises to get your brain working, to logic and probability problems, to puzzles covering more complex topics like inferences, strategy, and irrationality, Can You Outsmart an Economist? will show you how to do just that by expanding the way you think about decision-making and problem-solving. Let the games begin!

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

By Carlo Rovelli,

Book cover of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

If you struggled with physics in high school – or even if you didn’t – this is the book for you. Rovelli, an Italian physicist, manages to take the most difficult concepts in physics, from relativity and quantum mechanics to the nature of space and time, and explain them in straightforward, everyday language. He spells out not only what these idea are, but why they matter. Thanks to Rovelli’s easy-going style, after a few pages you’ll forget that you’re even reading a physics book. It is, in a word, delightful.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by the universe since childhood – ever since my parents took me to the countryside in rural Nova Scotia, where the stars shone with wondrous intensity. At first, I borrowed books about space and the universe from our local library for fun; now, as a full-time science writer, I read these books to stay informed about the latest ideas shaping our understanding of the cosmos. (I also read them in order to review them on BookLab, a podcast I host together with science writer Amanda Gefter.) I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!


I wrote...

In Search of Time: The History, Physics, and Philosophy of Time

By Dan Falk,

Book cover of In Search of Time: The History, Physics, and Philosophy of Time

What is my book about?

Time is at once intimately familiar and yet deeply mysterious. We say it flows like a river, yet that “flow” seems to disappear under scientific scrutiny. No wonder poets, philosophers, and physicists have grappled with the enigma of time for centuries. In Search of Time, by award-winning science journalist Dan Falk, looks at the history, physics, and philosophy of time from Aristotle to Einstein and beyond.   

Baby Loves Quantum Physics!

By Ruth Spiro, Irene Chan (illustrator),

Book cover of Baby Loves Quantum Physics!

Baby Loves Quantum Physics is a cute book about Schrodinger’s Cat, which was featured in a “thought-experiment” nearly 100 years ago about what quantum physics ought to look to big things like humans or cats. The illustrations are engaging for young readers and the language is pitched at a suitable level. This a great step on baby’s quantum quest!


Who am I?

I am a professor of quantum physics—the most notoriously complicated science humans have ever invented. While the likes of Albert Einstein commented on how difficult quantum physics is to understand, I disagree! Ever since my mum asked me—back while I was a university student—to explain to her what I was studying, I’ve been on a mission to make quantum physics as widely accessible as possible. Science belongs to us all and we should all have an opportunity to appreciate it!


I wrote...

Quantum Physics for Babies

By Chris Ferrie,

Book cover of Quantum Physics for Babies

What is my book about?

Quantum Physics for Babies is a colorfully simple introduction to the principle that gives quantum physics its name. Babies (and grownups!) will discover that the wild world of atoms never comes to a standstill. With a tongue-in-cheek approach that adults will love, this installment of the Baby University board book series is the perfect way to introduce basic concepts to even the youngest scientists. After all, it’s never too early to become a quantum physicist!

Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure

By Dominic Walliman, Ben Newman (illustrator),

Book cover of Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure

Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure is part picture book, part encyclopedia, part graphic novel, and all quantum awesome. The facts in here go beyond the quantum world into all the things quantum physics touches, like forces, energy, and time. The diagrams are descriptive, yet engaging. This is another great reference book for the quantum collection!


Who am I?

I am a professor of quantum physics—the most notoriously complicated science humans have ever invented. While the likes of Albert Einstein commented on how difficult quantum physics is to understand, I disagree! Ever since my mum asked me—back while I was a university student—to explain to her what I was studying, I’ve been on a mission to make quantum physics as widely accessible as possible. Science belongs to us all and we should all have an opportunity to appreciate it!


I wrote...

Quantum Physics for Babies

By Chris Ferrie,

Book cover of Quantum Physics for Babies

What is my book about?

Quantum Physics for Babies is a colorfully simple introduction to the principle that gives quantum physics its name. Babies (and grownups!) will discover that the wild world of atoms never comes to a standstill. With a tongue-in-cheek approach that adults will love, this installment of the Baby University board book series is the perfect way to introduce basic concepts to even the youngest scientists. After all, it’s never too early to become a quantum physicist!

How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog

By Chad Orzel,

Book cover of How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog

In How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog Chad Orzel has an imaginary conversation about quantum physics with his dog, Emmy. Orzel explains each of the features of quantum physics, like superposition and entanglement, by starting first with an analogy in Emmy’s understandably dog-like behavior.


Who am I?

I am a professor of quantum physics—the most notoriously complicated science humans have ever invented. While the likes of Albert Einstein commented on how difficult quantum physics is to understand, I disagree! Ever since my mum asked me—back while I was a university student—to explain to her what I was studying, I’ve been on a mission to make quantum physics as widely accessible as possible. Science belongs to us all and we should all have an opportunity to appreciate it!


I wrote...

Where Did the Universe Come From? and Other Cosmic Questions: Our Universe, from the Quantum to the Cosmos

By Chris Ferrie, Geraint F. Lewis,

Book cover of Where Did the Universe Come From? and Other Cosmic Questions: Our Universe, from the Quantum to the Cosmos

What is my book about?

In this book I teamed up with cosmology professor Geraint F. Lewis as we examine the universe through the two unifying and yet often contradictory lenses of classical physics and quantum mechanics, tackling questions such as: Where did the universe come from? Why do dying stars rip themselves apart? Do black holes last forever? What is left for humans to discover?

This book represents a brief but fascinating exploration of the vastness of the universe and will have you turning the pages until your biggest and smallest questions about the cosmos have been answered.

Through Two Doors at Once

By Anil Ananthaswamy,

Book cover of Through Two Doors at Once: The Elegant Experiment That Captures the Enigma of Our Quantum Reality

Through Two Doors at Once is the most complete and lucid description of the archetypal quantum experiment, the so-called “double-slit experiment.” Anil Ananthaswamy interviews quantum scientists and weaves modern understanding into the history of one of the most famous science experiments ever.


Who am I?

I am a professor of quantum physics—the most notoriously complicated science humans have ever invented. While the likes of Albert Einstein commented on how difficult quantum physics is to understand, I disagree! Ever since my mum asked me—back while I was a university student—to explain to her what I was studying, I’ve been on a mission to make quantum physics as widely accessible as possible. Science belongs to us all and we should all have an opportunity to appreciate it!


I wrote...

Where Did the Universe Come From? and Other Cosmic Questions: Our Universe, from the Quantum to the Cosmos

By Chris Ferrie, Geraint F. Lewis,

Book cover of Where Did the Universe Come From? and Other Cosmic Questions: Our Universe, from the Quantum to the Cosmos

What is my book about?

In this book I teamed up with cosmology professor Geraint F. Lewis as we examine the universe through the two unifying and yet often contradictory lenses of classical physics and quantum mechanics, tackling questions such as: Where did the universe come from? Why do dying stars rip themselves apart? Do black holes last forever? What is left for humans to discover?

This book represents a brief but fascinating exploration of the vastness of the universe and will have you turning the pages until your biggest and smallest questions about the cosmos have been answered.

How Physics Makes Us Free

By J.T. Ismael,

Book cover of How Physics Makes Us Free

Philosophers for thousands of years have wondered how we can have free will in a deterministic universe. If all events are explained by natural laws, then isn’t the future inflexibly determined by the past? Philosopher Jenann Ismael argues persuasively that (1) human freedom and control over events is only possible if all events are caused, and (2) that giving up on the objective passage of time is to acknowledge a world where the future determines the past just as much as the past determines the future. The actions of human beings help tell the story of both the future and the past, and so our own decisions help form the timeless patterns in the universe that we then call its “laws”.


Who am I?

I am a professor of philosophy at Wake Forest University, with a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I teach courses in the philosophy of space and time, the history of philosophy, and the philosophy of science. In addition to several authored and edited books on the philosophy of time, I have published many scholarly articles on time, perception, knowledge, and the history of the philosophy of time. I have always been attracted to the philosophy of time because time is quite simply at the root of everything: through the study of time we confront and illuminate the deepest possible questions both as to the nature of the physical world and as to the nature of human existence.


I wrote...

A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time

By Adrian Bardon,

Book cover of A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time

What is my book about?

A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time is a short introduction to the history, philosophy, and science of the study of time-from the pre-Socratic philosophers through Einstein and beyond.

A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time covers subjects such as time and change, the experience of time, physical and metaphysical approaches to the nature of time, the direction of time, time travel, time and freedom of the will, and scientific and philosophical approaches to eternity and the beginning of time. I use illustrations and keep technical language to a minimum in bringing the resources of over 2500 years of philosophy and science to bear on some of humanity's most fundamental and enduring questions.

Relativity Visualized

By Lewis Carroll Epstein,

Book cover of Relativity Visualized

Relativity Visualized is simply the secret weapon for understanding Einstein’s theory of relativity. Professor of physics Lewis Carroll Epstein uses brilliant, accessible visualizations (and no equations!) to help any reader to a good conceptual grasp of special and general relativity. If you want relativity without the math, this is the one.


Who am I?

I am a professor of philosophy at Wake Forest University, with a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I teach courses in the philosophy of space and time, the history of philosophy, and the philosophy of science. In addition to several authored and edited books on the philosophy of time, I have published many scholarly articles on time, perception, knowledge, and the history of the philosophy of time. I have always been attracted to the philosophy of time because time is quite simply at the root of everything: through the study of time we confront and illuminate the deepest possible questions both as to the nature of the physical world and as to the nature of human existence.


I wrote...

A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time

By Adrian Bardon,

Book cover of A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time

What is my book about?

A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time is a short introduction to the history, philosophy, and science of the study of time-from the pre-Socratic philosophers through Einstein and beyond.

A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time covers subjects such as time and change, the experience of time, physical and metaphysical approaches to the nature of time, the direction of time, time travel, time and freedom of the will, and scientific and philosophical approaches to eternity and the beginning of time. I use illustrations and keep technical language to a minimum in bringing the resources of over 2500 years of philosophy and science to bear on some of humanity's most fundamental and enduring questions.

The Holographic Universe

By Michael Talbot,

Book cover of The Holographic Universe: The Revolutionary Theory of Reality

To me, this is the best book ever written on the subject of the Universe as a hologram. Berkeley Physicist David Bohm, who contributed to the study of Quantum Theory, and neuroscientist Karl Primbram, emeritus professor of psychology and psychiatry at Stanford University originally offered this explanation of our brains and our world, beyond our limited view through our three-dimensional senses. It explains magic, miracles, the inexplicable. You will be astounded and fascinated by the evidence of this brilliant theory, written lucidly, clearly, scientifically, and involvingly.


Who am I?

Years of teaching Verbal First Aid™, hypnotic language for healing, only whet my curiosity for Non-Verbal First Aid. I love mysticism and magic, and I love science and evidence. When the two work together to illuminate profound understandings, I am such a fan. Just imagine this if you can: Dolphins’ visual and aural nerves connect so that when they send out sound beams of echolocation, it comes back as an ultra-sound-looking picture, which they can send to other dolphins! Magic and science are used by them for healing, as well. How could one NOT investigate further and be passionate about this subject?


I wrote...

What the Dolphin Said: On the Future of Humankind

By Judith Simon Prager,

Book cover of What the Dolphin Said: On the Future of Humankind

What is my book about?

Marine biologists wonder why dolphins are “altruistic,” saving us from sharks and drowning while expecting nothing in return. My time with dolphins convinced me it was because they know we’re all in this together. They understand what we must: that we all meet in consciousness. I’ve taught words for medical emergencies to set a course for recovery (our Verbal First Aid™ protocol) across the US and around the world, and wondered what NON-Verbal First Aid, or healing presence beyond words would be like. The dolphins’ mystical ways provided my answer.

Watching them helping children with disabilities, I told the true story of one dolphin and a woman therapist (me) on separate tracks, needing to find each other. Told alternately by the dolphin and the therapist, it is a novel with dramatic urgency for their two worlds to meet, so the dolphins’ life-affirming message may be received.

Or, view all 87 books about physics

New book lists related to physics

All book lists related to physics

Bookshelves related to physics