14 Best Books on Physics for Beginners: Expand Your Knowledge and Level-Up Your Science Skills!

Discover our guide with the best books on physics for beginners that explain complex theories like relativity and quantum mechanics in simple terms using real-world examples. 

Understanding modern physics can be daunting. Most of us probably remember sitting in a high school classroom with the teacher talking to us about physicists such as Albert Einstein and Newton without really understanding anything. Fortunately, dozens of books on Amazon will help you understand quantum physics, black holes, and general relativity, even if you are an absolute beginner.

Despite the negative experience many of us had in our younger years in physics class, learning about this subject is incredibly rewarding. Understanding physics will help you understand the foundations of our reality, and more and more people are starting to read science books for pleasure.

Best Books on Physics for Beginners Ranked

1. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

A Brief History of Time is probably one of the best physics books for beginners to pick up. The legendary English physicist, Stephen Hawking, explores several fascinating topics, such as black holes and the big bang. Hawking wrote the book, especially for beginners, explaining university physics-level concepts in simple terms using very little technical jargon.

The book is an excellent combination of fundamental concepts and the history of physics. Stephen Hawking starts by looking at some of the most well-known physicists from ancient Greece and how their thinking was developed during the Enlightenment.

The book includes a detailed chapter dedicated to the big bang. Hawking, who, together with Roger Penrose, proved that the Universe could have arisen from a singularity, is arguably the most important voice when it comes to the big bang. This is a must-read for anyone trying to get to grips with the fundamentals of physics and learn more about how the universe began and how it might end.

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.” 

Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

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2. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is a collection of essays that are a perfect introduction to astrophysics for beginners. The author, Neil deGrasse Tyson, became a hugely popular physicist thanks to his ability to explain concepts in simple terms.

This bestseller examines the broad concept of space and time, explaining what these concepts mean in modern physics. Tyson takes the reader on a journey into astrophysics with a lot of attention placed on the big bang, black holes, and quantum mechanics.

If you’ve ever looked into the night sky and wondered how we ended up here and what is out in the dark abyss, this book will help you clarify some of those questions. Tyson has been widely praised for his ability to make physics exciting and understandable. This book is excellent for beginners and deserves a spot on your reading list. You may also be interested in these articles about chemistry and articles about astronomy.

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

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3. Quantum Physics for Beginners: An Easy and Comprehensive Guide to Learning the Fundamentals of Quantum Physics by Loew Kaufmann

Despite the long title Quantum Physics for Beginners: An Easy and Comprehensive Guide to Learning the Fundamentals of Quantum Physics is a very succinct read on quantum physics and is especially valuable to someone looking to self-study the subject. It’s worth noting that this is more of a technical science book than some of the other titles in this list, so unless you’re looking to do some studying, it might not be for you.

The book begins by laying out the foundation of quantum mechanics, which gives you a firm base to build on later as it helps you get familiar with some basic concepts. Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity is explained in detail, as are several other theories that have shaped modern physics.

Later chapters apply quantum physics to real-world scenarios and practical use cases, bringing the subject to life. This is an excellent read if you’re looking to get into a decent amount of detail on quantum physics and learn about Einstein’s theories. Looking for more scientific books to binge on a weekend? Check out our round-up of the best scientific authors! Or you can also search for our best book guides using our search bar.

“Believe what you think is true based on your readings and research but stay true to the falible nature of everything!”

Loew Kaufmann, Quantum Physics for Beginners
Quantum Physics for Beginners: An Easy and Comprehensive Guide to Learning the Fundamentals of Quantum Physics. Discover the Q Field Theory, Q Computing and Q Mechanics
  • Kaufmann, Loew T. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 203 Pages - 05/20/2022 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

4. Principles of Quantum Mechanics by R. Shankar

Principles of Quantum Mechanics is an excellent book if you’re looking for a detailed intro to quantum physics. The book’s author, R. Shankar, is a professor of physics at Yale and provides an extensive introduction to this branch of physics.

Shankar looks at several different theories of mechanics, including those of Newton and Hamilton. Once the reader has a grasp of the earlier theories of mechanics, Shankar develops an easy-to-follow narrative around several theories, such as Time-reversal and integrals.

This book isn’t suitable for absolute beginners. However, if you flourished in physics class in high school and are now looking to do some self-study, Shankar’s work will help you push the bounds of your knowledge. In addition, the book has a very detailed guide to the mathematics behind quantum physics and provides countless examples and explanations of the formulas.

“The aim of this book is to provide you with an introduction to quantum physics starting from its axioms.”

R. Shankar, Principles of Quantum Mechanics
Principles of Quantum Mechanics, 2nd Edition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Shankar, R. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 694 Pages - 08/31/1994 (Publication Date) - Plenum Press (Publisher)

5. The First Three Minutes by Steven Weinberg

The First Three Minutes is all about the origins of the universe. If you’ve ever asked yourself where everything began, this book will be a great addition to your reading list. The Nobel Laureate, Steven Weinberg, explains in brilliant detail the first three minutes of the universe. Although three minutes may seem like nothing in the grand scheme of things, a lot can happen in physics.

Weinberg explains the Planck Epoch, the earliest period in the history of everything, explores several theories, such as that of relativity, the Hubble Red Shift, and the importance of Cosum Microwaves.

To understand the last 14 billion years of the universe, we have to start at the beginning. Weinberg’s book has been widely praised for making the theories we use to understand this insanely complicated beginning accessible to the general reader.

“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”

Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes

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6. The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory is a non-technical explanation of string theory. The sheer complexity of string theory means that most books read like physics textbooks that aren’t suitable for non-graduates.

Brian Greene, a Columbia University professor, is a world leader in string theory and one of the most-respected mathematicians of his generation. The book will give you an easy-to-digest explanation of particle physics with string theory at its core.

Greene explains that string theory suggests that everything in the universe comprises one-dimensional strings vibrating at varying frequencies. The properties of all the particles are determined by their frequency.

Greene uses everyday analogies throughout the book to explain complex ideas that other theoretical physicists struggle to express without jargon. This is a must-read if you want to understand string theory without getting a Ph.D. in mathematics.

“When kids look up to great scientists the way they do to great musicians and actors, civilization will jump to the next level.”

Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe

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7. The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard P. Feynman

The Feynman Lectures on Physics is based on a series of lectures by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman. Although the book is essentially a physics textbook, it’s still suitable for some beginners, especially those happy to self-study physics.

Feynman earned the nickname ‘The Great Explainer’ for his ability to convey complex scientific theories ranging from classical mechanics to general relativity to his students. The book is a product of a series of lectures during which Feynman attempted to provide his audience with a definitive introduction to modern physics.

This is a fantastic read if you are looking for a well-rounded explanation of various different areas of physics. Although Feynman died in 1988, this collection of his lectures continues to be praised by students and newcomers to the field of physics. Note that you can only pick this up as a hardcover, and copies tend to sell for over $100.

“Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.”

Richard P. Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics
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The Feynman Lectures on Physics, boxed set: The New Millennium Edition
  • fresh new!
  • Hardcover Book
  • Feynman, Richard P. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1552 Pages - 01/04/2011 (Publication Date) - Basic Books (Publisher)

8. Thirty Years that Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory by George Gamow

Thirty Years that Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory is an engaging book directed more toward newcomers to space looking to learn about the key figures and events in the modern history of physics. George Gamov covered the early 1930s when quantum theory was being developed through Planck’s concept of anti-particles and Enrico Fermi’s pioneering work in nuclear physics.

The book covers all the most important events in the 20th century regarding quantum theory and theoretical physics. All the ideas are explained clearly, and the book has been praised for using illustrations to aid the explanations.

Suppose you are looking to self-study quantum theory. In that case, this book isn’t for you, but if you want to learn about the history of this branch of physics while getting a rough guide about some of the biggest 20th-century developments, consider picking up a copy.

“It took less than an hour to make the atoms, a few hundred million years to make the stars and planets, but five billion years to make man!”

George Gamow, Thirty Years That Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory

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9. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics is a solid introduction to modern physics for beginners. The book covers black holes, general relativity, gravity, elementary particles, and quantum mechanics. The Italian author Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist who has researched Europe and the United States. The book is not written like a standard science book. Rovelli writes in an engaging manner that resembles a novel more than a physics textbook.

The seven lessons highlighted by Rovelli are a perfect place for beginners in physics to start, as they provide the reader with a solid general explanation of modern physics. Carlo Rovelli’s book has been a huge success. It has seen well over a million copies fly off the shelf, and it’s been translated into over a dozen translations.

“In his youth Albert Einstein spent a year loafing aimlessly. You don’t get anywhere by not ‘wasting’ time- something, unfortunately, that the parents of teenagers tend frequently to forget.”

Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
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Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
  • Hardcover Book
  • Rovelli, Carlo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 96 Pages - 03/01/2016 (Publication Date) - Riverhead Books (Publisher)

10. Cosmos by Carl Sagan

Cosmos is one of the most successful science books ever written. Carl Sagan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and astronomer tells the 15 billion-year history of the universe through a series of illustrated chapters.

The book combines science and philosophy, in which Sagan explores both the past and future possibilities. By bringing in philosophical perspectives, he constantly reminds the writer that physics and cosmology are about more than atoms, stars, and planets.

The book became a bestseller in the 1980s, sold millions of copies worldwide, and opened the door to physics for many people who previously had very little interest in the subject. Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is a great book to add to your reading list if you’re fascinated by our origins and the idea of intelligent extraterrestrial life.

If you enjoyed our guide to the best books on Physics for beginners, we have many more scientific books round-up that you can check out such as the best books for quantum physics.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Cosmos 1st edition by Sagan, Carl (1980) Hardcover
  • Hardcover Book
  • Carl Sagan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Random House (Publisher)

11. In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality by John R. Gribbin

In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality is a detailed intro to quantum physics and quantum mechanics. For a beginner looking for a relatively easy-to-read book covering these immensely complex fields, John R. Gribbin’s book is a solid choice.

At the heart of the British science writer’s book is the Schrodinger equation, which forms the basis for the other formulas of quantum physics. Gribbin explores the bizarre world of quantum physics, encompassing theories surrounding radiation, time travel, atmos, and superconductors.

The book will give you a direct insight into the ideas of three of the most important modern physicists, Albert Einstein, Boris Podolosky, and Nathan Rosen. It also looks at how their ideas have been developed and critiqued within quantum physics.

“…the best things in science are both beautiful and simple, a fact that all too many teacher conceal from their students, by accident or design.”

John R. Gribbin, In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality
IN SEARCH OF SCHRODINGER'S CAT: Quantum Physics and Reality
  • John Gribbin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 02/10/1988 (Publication Date) - BANTAM BOOKS (Publisher)

12. Fundamentals of Physics, 10th Edition by David Halliday

Fundamentals of Physics, 10th Edition, is a great book that covers basic physics and offers an introduction to several necessary subject fields for both physics students and complete beginners. As a self-study physics textbook, this is your best option. The book is broken down into chapters that cover all the fundamentals of physics, allowing you to pick and choose what topic to tackle next.

Every chapter is backed up with dozens of questions and problems for you to solve, which adds to the book’s value for self-study. David Halliday was a Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh.

As someone who spent decades teaching students physics, his writing style is specifically designed to educate and enlighten the reader. Fundamentals of Physics is available as a hardcover on Amazon, where it has received excellent reviews.

“I have many goals in writing this book, but the overriding one is to provide instructors with tools by which they can teach students how to effectively read scientific material, identify fundamental concepts, reason through scientific questions, and solve quantitive problems.”

David Halliday, Fundamentals of Physics, 10th Edition

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13. Quantum Physics for Beginners: The Simple And Easy Guide In Plain Simple English Without Math by Donald B. Grey

Quantum Physics for Beginners: The Simple And Easy Guide In Plain Simple English Without Math will save you from algebra and equations while teaching you about quantum physics. Many people, including myself, are fascinated by physics but struggle with number crunching, so this book has filled a big gap in the market.

Donald B. Grey outlines the theories that use quantum physics to explain our reality and universe. Grey manages to explain usually math-heavy concepts such as relativity, entanglement, and the butterfly effect without the numbers. Instead, he uses real-life examples and jargon-free explanations to make quantum physics digestible for beginners and non-science graduates.

Mathematics is, unfortunately, the foundation of physics. Still, you can gain a decent understanding of the major quantum theories through this book, and that can serve as a jumping-off point for getting a more numbers-based explanation later on.

“Quantum Entanglement and Teleportation Quantum entanglement is indeed spooky – that’s something we can’t argue with. Truly, it often seems more like magic than science, but many parts of quantum physics wind up feeling this way.”

Donald B. Grey, Quantum Physics for Beginners
Quantum Physics for Beginners: The Simple And Easy Guide In Plain Simple English Without Math (Plus The Theory Of Relativity)
  • Grey, Donald B. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 130 Pages - 07/27/2020 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

14. The Oxford Solid State Basics by Steven H. Simon

The Oxford Solid State Basics is an intro to solid state physics that covers all the fundamental cornerstones of this area of modern physics. This field of physics focuses on physical properties, thermodynamics, magnetic fields, and optical properties.

Steven H. Simon, Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, has been praised for handling a very technical field of science without falling into writing in an overly scientific way. However, if you are an absolute beginner, it’s best to get familiar with the basics of quantum physics before ordering this title. The book covers solid-state physics basics like free electrons, crystal structure, phonons, and reciprocal space.

This is a self-study book full of technical information made relatively digestible by the author. However, don’t expect an easy read, as many of these topics will require several hours of extra research and studying to truly master. Looking for more? Check out essays about math!

“People frequently have the feeling that if you continually ask ‘what is it made of,’ you learn more about something. This approach to knowledge is known as reductionism.”

Steven H. Simon, The Oxford Solid State Basics
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The Oxford Solid State Basics
  • Simon, Steven H. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 312 Pages - 08/16/2013 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

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