I've taken a college level course on nuclear physics. Though the course was titled "Nuclear and Particle Physics," almost nothing about elementary particles had been taught. I'm on vacation now, and intend to go beyond the phenomenology of nuclei.

Whenever I search for textbooks on nuclear physics, I invariably run into books covering particle physics too. But then again, the emphasis on the latter subject varies. I want to learn from a textbook which does more than stating "Magic Numbers". I want a textbook which explains the nuclear phenomena rather than simply stating it. I have no qualms about elementary particle physics. But I want a book whose contents are biased towards nuclear physics.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The way to search for suitable textbooks is to go to the physics library and to chose among the hundreds, sometimes thousands of books on the shelves. Sometime you will find an older textbook more helpful on some questions than a new one. Having said that, nuclear physics, by its very nature, is phenomenology driven physics. Despite a lot of progress there are no still no good ways to solve QCD in a way that nuclear physics comes out. After all, you would also not try to derive the structure of DNA from the Schroedinger equation, would you? $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/607100/226902 $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


Walecka's graduate level text Theoretical Nuclear and Subnuclear Physics focuses on developing the theory in detail. He follows the historical development most of the time, but skips over big chucks that don't lead in the direction he is going. That direction is actually about laying the foundation for being able to do JLAB-style transition-regime physics (i.e. the few GeV scale), so it might not be what you want if you are interesting in really traditional nuclear physics.

He assumes you have a solid understanding of quantum mechanics at the graduate level, and you'll need some basic quantum field theory to work some of the exercises but much of the course is comprehensible without it.

Published by Oxford University Press, so it's pretty expensive.


Have you tried Samuel Wong's book "Introductory Nuclear Physics"? I used in for both undergraduate and graduate nuclear physics and found it very useful. It seemed to have less handwaving than many other traditional texts.


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