Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

10 Physics Books That Will Help Answer Your Questions About Life, The Universe and Everything

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Senjuti Patra

Staff Writer

Senjuti was born and raised in Bankura, a small town in India. A reluctant economist, fierce feminist and history enthusiast, she spends most of her time reading. Her interaction with other people is largely limited to running away from them or launching into passionate monologues about her last perfect read or her latest fictional crush.

Physics, as a science that tries to understand how the universe really works, is fascinating and inspiring — not only to scientists and academics, but also to lay readers and writers of speculative fiction. It is the science that most frequently veers into the territory of philosophy. Thanks to my grandfather’s infectious enthusiasm for the subject, and some Bengali popular science physics books I read in my teenage years — especially Biswasghatak by Narayan Sanyal, which deftly combined nuclear physics with fiction — it was always one of my best subjects in school. In a very important exam during the last two years of high school, which in India determine your career path for college, I even achieved the unique distinction of almost failing Math but scoring top marks in Physics — a contradiction that left my teachers thoroughly baffled.

Due to a combination of circumstances I chose not to major in Physics in college, but I retained my love for the subject through reading. Thanks to the work of science journalists as well as gifted scientists who have taken the time to write about their field in a way that is accessible and enjoyable for lay readers armed with eager curiosity but little academic background, there is no dearth of good physics books to dip one’s toes into. Here I have compiled a list of ten physics books that cover various aspects of this vast field of study, to get you started.

The cover of A Brief History of Time

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Let us start with the most popular book on the list. Chances are that at some point in your reading life you were recommended A Brief History of Time. But sometimes the most well known books are the ones that we perpetually put off reading. If you have not picked this one yet, do so immediately. The book does require its readers to pay attention, but at the end of the day is a very readable, concise chronicle of the origin and nature of the universe and the evolution of our understanding of it.

Cover of Physics of The Impossible by Michio Kaku

Physics of The Impossible by Michio Kaku

Did you find yourself intrigued about the concepts of physics because you are an ardent fan of science fiction? Do you find yourself wondering if time travel will be a scientific possibility some day? Then this is the best physics book for you. Michio Kaku takes some of the most common science fictional inventions, like time machines, invisibility cloaks, and telekinesis, and tests the frontiers of science to examine which of these are impossible today but may be possible sometime in the future, and which are impossible because they violate known laws of physics. This book is a supremely enjoyable read, full of fascinating insights into the world of physics.

Cover of Six Easy Pieces by Feynman

Six Easy Pieces by Richard P. Feynman

Richard P. Feynman is one of the most celebrated American physicists, known for his unorthodox wit as much as his Nobel Prize–winning contributions to his field. Six Easy Pieces collects six of the most beginner-friendly chapters from The Feynman Lectures in Physics, and covers topics like basic physics, atoms, and the relationships between physics and other sciences. If you feel adventurous after finishing this one, pick up Six Not So Easy Pieces, which deals with topics that are more difficult to grasp, including Einstein’s theory of relativity. I also wholeheartedly recommend his Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman if you are looking for something with a more personal flavor.

Cover of The Disordered Cosmos by Chanda Prescod Williams

The Disordered Cosmos by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

This book is a combination of concepts from physics, the author’s experience as a non–cis male physicist of color, and commentary on the prejudices based on race, gender, nationality, and disability that permeate the scientific establishment. Passionate and precise, this book is a must read in the context of the overwhelmingly white male history of physics, and science in general.

Cover of Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski

Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski

This is a great book if you want something that is interesting but not intimidating, and can be read in bits and pieces. Storm in a Teacup gives its readers the unique satisfaction of knowing answers to the questions about everyday phenomena that they are sure to have pondered but never actively looked up — as well as discussions of broader, topical concepts like climate change and the energy crisis. It combines lucid and warm presentation with an impressive range of concepts covered.

Cover of big bang by Simon Singh

Big Bang by Simon Singh

The Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe is one of the most important and iconic scientific theories in the modern world. This book chronicles the journey and the science behind the development of this theory, with entertaining details about the people involved in this saga.

Cover of Quantum by Manjit Kumar

Quantum by Manjit Kumar

This book is a look into the evolution of quantum theory in the 20th century. You will probably not emerge from this book with a perfect understanding of all the discoveries it talks about, but it is a perfect illustration of science blending into philosophy as some of the most brilliant scientific minds in human history try to reconcile their views of reality, and of the purpose of science, with the various advancements in scientific theory. Set in a century that saw two world wars and the Cold War, it is also a testament to the impact of social and political history on the forward march of science.

Cover of How the Universe Got its Spots by Janna Levin

How the Universe Got its Spots by Janna Levin

The central questions that the author discusses in this book are related to the size of our universe, and how the pattern of hot and cold spots created during the birth of the universe can help answer these questions about the cosmos. Told in the form of short letters and interspersed with personal details about the author’s life, the heartfelt and intimate tone of this book makes the science easily digestible and fascinating.

cover of the end of everything

The End of Everything by Katie Mack

This book explores in detail the many theories about the end of the universe, and sheds light on various concepts like quantum mechanics and string theory. This is a surprisingly fun and upbeat look at the end of everything, that will appeal to lay readers, especially those who are fans of sci-fi stories and apocalypse fiction.

Cover of Only The Longest Threads

Only the Longest Threads by Tasneem Zehra Husain

The format of this book is different from that of the others — it is a novel about two characters, a scientist and a journalist, who discuss writing a novel about the evolution of physics, covering groundbreaking discoveries from the discoveries of Newton to String Theory. The author is a scientist herself, and does a splendid job of describing the science in a clear and interesting manner. The sweeping scope of the book evokes in its readers something of the sense of wonder and curiosity that propelled mankind towards these discoveries.

Did these physics books inspire you to broaden your horizons and delve deeper into the world of science? Check out our popular science archives here.