To add to Books that every physicist should read:
A list of popular physics books for people who aren't necessarily interested in technical physics.
(see also Book recommendations)
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I can recommend the following physics books. They are all somewhat different, but collectively they provide a good picture of where ideas in physics are today and how modern theories developed.
The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius, Graham Farmelo
Quantum Enigma, Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner
The Infinity Puzzle, Frank Close
About Time, Adam Frank
Knocking on Heaven's Door, Lisa Randall
The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
Dr. Posin's Giants, by Daniel Posin even children can read this one....
The Strange Story of the Quantum Banesh Hoffman a real scientist and a good, if a little colloquial in that breathless American 1940's way, writer
Men of Mathematics Eric Temple Bell includes many of the greatest physicists
Understanding Physics by Isaac Asimov
Irving Adler was also a truly great writer.
Relativity: The Special and General Theory Albert Einstein a masterpiece
I honestly cannot recommend Feynman. I would recommend Dirac if I thought a non physicist could understand him, with that proviso,
Directions in Physics P.A.M. Dirac, and
The Development of Quantum Theory: [the] J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Lecture, by P.A.M. Dirac.... I think a non-physicist could get a lot out of these rather short books but would have to be willing to "black box" a significant proportion of the readings....
The rather overlooked J E Gordon is an excellent teacher, better than the more philosophical Petroski's works
It gives a concise introduction into many important topics of physics and motivates to learn math. I read it during my first semesters and it helped to keep me interested in mathematics even though the professor only occasionally motivated his topics.
I would have liked to read this book when I was in school.
For a layman "The Evolution of Physics" is a must. It is book for every philosopher,beginner in physics and an expert physicist.
Einstein shares his philosophical thoughts about Nature. Einstein begins with a rhetorical style. He does the comparison of physicist with the reader of the Book of Nature and in the 2nd chapter The decline of the mechanical View he rejects the likeness. The book conveys the fact that every physical theory or concept is free creation of human mind. A physicist tries his best to make a picture of reality and hopes for a better picture than the previous one designed to explain the Nature but alas he will never know the real picture of Nature. Two or more different pictures of nature can be drawn to understand it and all of them may well correctly explain Nature but we always should seek for a simpler one and more general pictures.
Einstein strongly recommends realism.
The old edition is available for free download at archive.org. The readers interested in history of the book and its writters should read the new edition which contains a Foreword by Walter Isaacson.
A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
This is good in a summary sort of way but it does not explain concepts in much detail. It's merit lies in the fact that it gives a summary of a whole lot of topics serving to give atleast an intuitive idea of a lot of topics to the reader.
The Flying Circus of Physics by Jearl Walker.
This book primarily focusses on how the normal apparently humdrum physics concept come to life in the course of everyday actions. Some commonly seen phenomenon and some strange and rare ones, often have physics interwoven into them beautifully, which is what the author tries to bring out.
Both of these books can also be read by "non-laymen" for amusements and "laymen" for amusement and knowledge.
As Feynman's lectures have already been recommended, I'll put forth few more recommendations
Thirty years that shook physics by George Gamow. (on the scientists and the scientific upheavals preceding the quantum revolution)
Mr Tompkins series by George Gamow. (rather than providing knowledge for laymen, it serves to amuse the readers, but with plots using several of the physical and general scientific concepts. Requires slight background on physics.)