Here I’ve listed and described my favorite physics texts by topic. See here for my favorite maths texts. For each of the books listed below, I either own it or have used it in a course. I’ll also mark each with a symbol to indicate the difficulty (I) for introductory, (M) for intermediate, and (A) for advanced.
The classic undergraduate three-volume set written by physics' greatest elucidator.
Tipler - Physics (I)
More modern, all-encompasing volume for introductory physics courses.
Common reference for first courses in special relativity.
Standard introductory reference for experimental methodology, statistical analysis of data, and error propagation.
Great undergraduate reference text, usually seen in an upper-division undergraduate mechanics course.
Undergraduate level classical mechanics text, more advanced than Taylor.
The standard graduate-level text on mechanics.
Mathematical tools for classical mechanics. Notation is a bit old (and Russian), for instance $[A, B]$ is used for the vector cross product instead of $A \times B$.
Excellent reprint of a text that analyses the symplectic structure of classical mechanics. Insofar as classical mechanics is truly geometry of phase space - this text presents a rigorous treatment of symplectic forms, spaces, and how they relate to Hamiltonian systems. Very rigorous.
Electricity & Magnetism
Standard undergraduate level text on E&M, frequently used for upper-division courses on electricity and magnetism. Interestingly, doesn’t include much on circuits.
The standard graduate text on E&M, a rite of passage.
Interesting advanced text that analyses the geometric implications of EM theory, including deriving the Minkowski metric from the Clifford algebra. Draws really nice connections between special relativity and Maxwell’s equations.
Excellent advanced reference on the detailed mathematical structure of electromagnetic theory, including exterior algebras and metric-free examination of Maxwell-Lorentz spacetime relations. Strong emphasis placed on axiomatic approach, considerable rigor.
Interesting advanced text that analyses Maxwell’s equations as an example of a gauge theory, then develops generalized notions of gauge theory. Considers applications to gravity along the lines Weyl considered in the early days of GR.
Classical Gravity (GR)
Clean, modern reference that is relatively self-contained. Builds the essential differential geometry (quickly) before introducing gravitational concepts. Notation is very close to modern mathematical literature.
Less modern introductory text to GR, worth reading after / with Carroll.
Standard graduate level introduction to GR. Excellent exposition of mathematical aspects of GR with a medium amount of rigor. Does not discuss bundles, and only briefly mentions tetrads.
Moderately advanced text covering details of Newtonian, Post-Newtonian approximation methods.
Advanced techniques for applying GR to astrophysical situations, assumes a working knowledge of GR.
Standard reference text, absolutely massive. Includes the most detail on the most topics out of any book on the subject, and is a useful reference for practitioners.
Great supplement reference at the graduate level. Shows full derivations of Schwarzschild and Kerr metrics, has great discussion on black hole thermodynamics. Also includes material of Cartan structure of the field equations and affine connections.
Geroch is a master. These lecture notes, while brief, expertly weave the mathematics and physics from a spacetime-first perspective using a wealth of visuals. Geroch shows how physical phenomena can be explained first in spacetime, then decomposed into space + time to recover familiar quantities.
One of the most rigorous treatises on black holes in existence, with pages upon pages of calculations. Excellent introduction to tetrad formalism as well as Newman-Penrose formalism. Covers basically any topic in black holes imaginable, including derivations / construction of Schwarzschild, Reissner-Nordstrom, and Kerr solutions, perturbations and effect on electromagnetic phenomena.
Numerical Relativity (NR)
Clean, modern introduction to NR, briefly reviews GR but most focus is on numerical considerations.
Standard, in-depth reference on numerical relativity.
Quantum Gravity (QG)
If you can read one introductory book on gravity, make it this book. Baez has the unique ability to present enough detail to give the interested reader a foothold in related mathematical subjects while staying high-level enough to provide a coherent overview of the many related fields that appear in quantum gravity. Introduces vector field functional formalism, gauge fields and relations to local symmetries, elements of knot theory including crossings and windings, and how these apply to (loop) quantum gravity.
A friendly introduction to LQG that doesn’t assume prior familiarity with either GR or QFT. While this book doesn’t go into a great deal of depth, it provides a concise, high-level view of what loop quantum gravity is and how it fits into the landscape of theoretical physics.
A high-level text that introduces more detailed structure than the text above; however, this is mostly a summary for new researchers in the field that have some familiarity with LQG. Carlo’s inimitable style makes this an enjoyable read.
Graduate level text on loop quantum gravity; the starting point for any serious reading into LQG. Jumps pretty quickly past the GR essentials and into the tetrad formalism, introduces the concept of spin networks, intertwiners.
Excellent set of lecture notes from the eponymous discoverer of the spinorial formulation of GR. These are a must-have for any LQG reader.
The rigorous complement to Rovelli, a monolithic volume of mathematical detail. Discusses details of spaces of connections, bundle structures, and other aspects of the mathematical details of LQG.
Excellent, detailed reference for loop representations with applications to gauge theories and lattice techniques. Discusses applications to gravity including braid theories. Predates Rovelli and Thiemann, so final chapter is mostly interesting for understanding development of the current theory.
Excellent introduction to the theory of groups and tensors, aimed at physics students. Self contained, Jeevanjee (properly) introduces tensors as multilinear maps, and derives all the familiar behavior including transformation “rules” and index mechanics. Introduces key concepts from Lie theory with just-enough rigor to prepare reader for further study, includes many examples from physics including SU(2), SO(3) and others. Introduces representations in a clear way as well. Cannot recommend highly enough.
The lecture notes of a course taught by a renowned expert in quantum gravity on the mathematical preliminaries for classical gravity. Includes the standard intro to differential geometry; however, Isham also includes an excellent exposition of connections and bundles (which is usually missing from such texts). Isham also includes multiple perspectives on elementary definitions, unifying the various methods by which these concepts are conventionally introduced.
Standard reference text at the undergraduate level for mathematical methods. Has many examples of each technique introduced, but doesn’t introduce certain topics from the graduate level such as integral regularization.
Graduate level reference on mathematical methods from a renowned author of mathematical physics books. Goes into more depth than Arfken (as expected), including functional analysis, operators and algebras. Covers distributional derivatives.
Rudolph, Schmidt - Differential Geometry and Mathematical Physics: Part I. Manifolds, Lie Groups and Hamiltonian Systems (A)
Great, verbose reference for differential geometry and applications to physics. The first part covers manifolds and elementary lie theory with applications to Lagrangian mechanics.
Rudolph, Schmidt - Differential Geometry and Mathematical Physics: Part II. Fibre Bundles, Topology and Gauge Fields (A)
Second volume of a great reference on differential geometry, covering aspects that are often missing from gravitation texts including fiber and principal bundles, Clifford algebras and spin geometry, and gauge theory.
Ubiquitous undergraduate text on quantum mechanics, covering the standard sequence of “shutup and calculate” quantum mechanics. Wavefunctions, some (unfortunately Copenhagen) interpretation, simple potentials, and basic properties of quantum systems. New edition has a chapter about symmetries and conserved quantities, a nice introduction to Noethers theorem.
Three volume series at the graduate level on all aspects of quantum mechanics. Incredibly thorough, Cohen shows details that are omitted from most other quantum mechanics texts. The many supplemental chapters work through examples that bring a higher degree of clarity to QM topics. Volumes I and II cover standard graduate level quantum mechanics, formalism and simple potentials, angular momentum and algebraic implications,
Intermediate reference text on the mathematical aspects of quantum mechanics. Still focused largely on particle-based non-relativistic systems. More rigorous references included in “Quantum Theory” section below.
Accessible introduction to the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics from the inimitable Feynman (who created the path integral approach).
Included for completeness, a standard graduate-level text. Much more terse than Cohen. The author only wrote the first three chapters, then the rest of the text was written posthumously from lecture notes by collaborators - I include this detail because it explains why the first three chapters are the best in the book - formalism, dynamics, and angular momentum. The remaining material I would recommend sourcing elsewhere.
Quantum Field Theory (QFT)
Approachable introduction in a relaxed style, Zee provides a clear presentation of QFT essentials.
The standard, graduate level reference used in QFT courses.
Insightful two-volume set taking a unique approach to developing QFT.
Standard rigorous reference on QFT.
Set of advanced lectures from a renowned elucidator of QFT.
Quantum Theory - eg. Foundations, Formalism
Norsen - Foundations of Quantum Mechanics: An Exploration of the Physical Meaning of Quantum Theory (I)
Accessible introduction to a field often omitted from the standard physics education - interpreting quantum theory. Norsen presents the main interpretations, Copenhagen, Many Worlds, Bohmian, Spontaneous Collapse. Excellently introduces ontological considerations as well as the measurement problem.
Rigorous, unconventional approach to developing quantum theory. Woit eschews the standard approach of introducing classical systems first, then ‘quantising’ these systems with bad analogies. Instead, Woit develops intuition around the algebraic nature of quantum theory using examples that have no classical analogues. Excellent text with unique perspective.
Rigorous introduction to quantum theory aimed at mathematicians, using a Hilbert-space approach. Covers the role of Lie theory in quantum mechanics as well as a more rigorous presentation of path integrals.
Detailed (read: thick) exposition of operator algebras and the connection to classical Poisson structures.
Statistical Mechanics & Thermodynamics
I’ve not found a thermo book that included everything satisfactorily, but below are some that I’ve used in various courses.
Standard undergraduate thermodynamics book.
Clear, concise statistical mechanics and thermodynamics book at the graduate level. Derives the laws of thermodynamics in an abstract setting, includes several unique derivations (some are probably worth skipping).
Follow up volume to the one above, excellent discussion of Landau principles.
Great reference on nonequilibrium systems and their statistical properties.
Graduate level text focusing on more mathematical aspects of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, including the renormalization group, Landau theory and mean field theory. Many examples considered including superconductivity and quantum fluids.