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I am in the last year of MSc. and would like to read string theory. I have the Zwiebach Book, but along with it what other advanced book can be followed, which can be a complimentary to Zwiebach. I would like a more mathematically rigorous book or lecture notes along with Zwiebach.

Specifically, mention whether the book discusses string theory

  • Rigorously?

  • Intuitively?

What's the scope of the book? Does it cover the advanced materials, e.g. Matrix string theory, F-theory, string field theory, etc. Maybe even String Phenomenology?

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Before answering, please see our policy on resource recommendation questions. Please write substantial answers that detail the style, content, and prerequisites of the book, paper or other resource. Explain the nature of the resource so that readers can decide which one is best suited for them rather than relying on the opinions of others. Answers containing only a reference to a book or paper will be removed!

I`ve started the Demystified Book because I like the fine grained step by step derivations and calculations therein. – Dilaton May 26 '12 at 15:09
See this list of textbooks on string theory: - A recent explosion of books on strings etc.:… – Luboš Motl May 26 '12 at 17:06
Very basic online-resources: , , – Qmechanic Sep 9 at 10:38

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The canonical textbook is the two-volume set by Polchinski. David Tong has very nice notes up following this text.

You should be able to find various review articles on the arXiv as well, for instance:

Hope that helps...

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Mathematical rigor is not the most important thing when first learning strings, there are many things that are not possible to formulate rigorously, because the best language for doing this isn't known. In addition to Polchinsky (which is excellent), I recommend reading Green Schwarz and Witten, and also the original papers, since these have points of view which are not found in later articles, but are profound and important.

These are found in two very good reprint volumes: "Dual Models", and "Superstrings" (although much of vol II is well covered in Green Schwarz and Witten and Polchinsky). These are essential for properly understanding the subject, even today. The issue is the Regge ideas and the S-matrix ideas which are glossed over in later treatments.

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The Best Sources

Becker, Becker, Schwarz, String Theory and M-theory has a wide scope (from classical bosonic strings to BFSS Matrix theory (and a bit of Matrix string theory), and a bit about F-theory) and discusses the topics very intuitively. I've not read GSW, but I've heard that BBS is a modification to that (old) book. Can be downloaded from (not a pirate).

McMahon String Theory Demystified has a rather wide scope but relatively less depth. Could once be downloaded from a pirate site, which no longer exists.

Mohaupt Introduction to String Theory has a limited scope and depth, but covers the gravitational implications of string theory rather deeply. Can be downloaded here:

Kaku Strings, Conformal fields, and M-theory is an extremely rigorous, rather unintuitive, rather wide and deep, source for learning string theory.

Two More Sources

For String Field Theory

I am planning to read this lecture notes with a supposedly better (PDF only, no abstract page) version here.


Oh, and by the way, you may also be interested in this still-under-construction wiki I've started recently.

Also, these lectures by Shiraz Minwala were suggested by Larry Harson in the comments.

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How long did it take you to read Becker, Becker, Schwarz? – Physiks lover Aug 26 '13 at 15:42
@Physikslover: A few weeks, why? – Dimensio1n0 Aug 26 '13 at 15:50
It got five stars on so I'm interested in studying from it. With its 700 pages, I guessed it would take me at least a year to read, if I spent two hours every day on it, so I was curious how long it took you. – Physiks lover Aug 26 '13 at 16:06
@Physikslover: No, it wouldn't take an entire year. 2 hours per day, of course, is certainly not enough. – Dimensio1n0 Aug 26 '13 at 16:11
@Physikslover: Do you really expect me to remember that??? All I can remember is that I had first learnt strings throiugh the 3 lecture notes listed, then I went to demystified, which I learnt a little, then I went to BBS, a full-fledged textbook on strings. Some of it is still impenetrable to me though... Anyway, I'd say; that just take the book and start reading; you wouldn't wantk to stop after 2 hours ; it's that good. It's that intuitive. – Dimensio1n0 Aug 26 '13 at 16:37

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