I'd like to switch to a physics undergraduate (Bachelor of Science) course next year, until the end of next year I won't be able to do much due to medical reasons, but I will be able to study for myself.

I would like to do proper preparation work, or even build a bit of a head start.

Do the following books build a decent foundation and preparation?

  • The Feynman lectures on Physics: The New Millennium Edition
  • Susskind's Theoretical Minimum 1: Classical Mechanics
  • Susskind's Theoretical Minimum 2: Quantum Mechanics
  • Susskind's Theoretical Minimum 3: Special Relativity and Classical Field Theory
  • Spivak's Calculus

Are there important topics missing that aren't touched by these?


closed as primarily opinion-based by AccidentalFourierTransform, Jon Custer, Kyle Kanos, Aaron Stevens, ZeroTheHero Aug 9 at 16:30

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I thought I'd say as an aside: in my experience, Feynman's lectures books are good as a review of the stuff you already learned or as a supplemental aid. They are excellent at making you reflect deeply on the stuff you learned, but I don't find them good as introductory material. Of course, this is only personal experience from me, so it might not apply to others. Also in my experience, I found that choosing the right book makes a world of difference and it's not actually a trivial task. $\endgroup$ – SpiralRain Aug 9 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ Answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than on facts; ergo it is off-topic (cf. Help). $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Aug 9 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ "What is required by an undergraduate course" is definitely a matter of opinion. $\endgroup$ – AccidentalFourierTransform Aug 9 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ Examples of answers with a low portion of opinion would include something like 'Yes they do cover relevant parts of an bachelor physics course' or 'No, they don't prepare for an undergraduate physics course, here are missing topics'. As far as I know, any bachelor course has topics that have to be included, is this different for physics? While the question certainly has aspects up for discussion, it certainly allows for non opinion based answers. $\endgroup$ – Jessica Nowak Aug 9 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ No, the best foundation is just a solid understanding of the basics, like calculus, linear algebra, and mechanics. "Casual" books like Susskind's often strongly mislead readers into thinking they know more than they do, while only giving them the ability to recognize a couple buzzwords. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Aug 9 at 16:00

In my opinion, the books you have mentioned are better suited for reading after you have taken your first courses in the corresponding subjects. They all contain wonderful insights on physics, especially the Feynman lectures really put a lot of physical phenomena into perspective.

However, the Feynman lectures are lecture notes, and in my experience, you get the most out of them after having a basic understanding of the discussed concepts. You should be able to read the first book in the series, though.

If you have no prior exposure to university physics, Susskind's books are probably too advanced - especially vol. 2 and 3, and so are book 2 and 3 in the Feynman series. If this is the case, you might consider a basic introduction to physics like fx Young & Freedman's University Physics. This could be combined with the first book in the Feynman series, so you can get the beautiful intuition of Feynman combined with the ton of exercises and more complete description of basic concepts you find in a standard textbook like Y&F's University physics.

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    $\begingroup$ We shouldn't be encouraging off-topic questions by answering them. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Stevens Aug 9 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ I was simply trying to help $\endgroup$ – Simon G. Aug 9 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't say you were not helpful. I think being helpful is a great thing to do in general. For example, I love tutoring students in physics. But this site has policies against posting homework questions here, so I vote to close those questions and I do not answer them, even though in a different context I would welcome and respond to such a question. I down voted this answer because in this context a question like this is off-topic, and we should not be encouraging going against site policy. It is nothing against you or your willingness to help. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Stevens Aug 9 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ I can appreciate that, but it still seems relevant to be able to share experiences about litterature, what and how to self-study etc. Isn't there a place on SE for such questions? $\endgroup$ – Simon G. Aug 9 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ Probably Academia SE? $\endgroup$ – Aaron Stevens Aug 9 at 16:53

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