Linked bibliography for the SEP article "Quantum Mechanics" by Jenann Ismael

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Books Useful For Beginners

Here are some recent books that will be especially useful to beginners.

  • Travis Norsen, T., 2017, Foundations of Quantum Mechanics: An Exploration of the Physical Meaning of Quantum Theory, Cham: Springer.

    This is a textbook for students who want to learn quantum mechanics, but learn it in a way that emphasizes physical clarity. The book covers topics of a standard introduction to quantum physics, but focuses attention on questions of ontology often glossed over in standard texts. The physics student who wants to learn quantum mechanics either as preparation for studying foundations or simply in a way that looks for clear answers to questions like ‘What are the basic objects in the quantum world?’, ‘What kinds of configurations can they assume?’, ‘How do they move and interact with one another?’ can do no better than starting here.

    (Scholar)
  • Susskind, L. and Friedman, A., 2014, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum (2nd edition), New York: Basic Books.

    At 384 pages, this book isn’t as pithy as the title would suggest. It provides very clear presentation of the principles of quantum mechanics for the physics student without any previous background. This is how one would learn quantum mechanics in a standard university course.

    (Scholar)

Quantum Mechanics Textbooks

There are a great many textbooks available for studying quantum mechanics. Here are a few especially important ones with some notes to guide choices among them. It is good to work with two or three texts when learning QM. No text is perfect and differences in approach can illuminate the subject from different angles.

  • Ballentine, L., 1998, Quantum Mechanics: A Modern Approach, Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company.

    This book is not recommended for beginners, and not recommended as a textbook. It is recommended once one has some technical background to deepen understanding of the fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics.

    (Scholar)
  • Basdevant, J.L., and J. Dalibard, 2005, Quantum Mechanics, Berlin: Springer.

    This is a brief, but elegant introduction. There aren’t a great many problems, but detailed solutions are provided for those that are included. The book comes with a CD-ROM that is very helpful for visualization.

    (Scholar)
  • Dirac, P.A.M., 1930 [1958], The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930; 4th edition, revised, 1958.

    This is a classic, beautiful book that remains one of the clearest presentations of quantum mechanics. Everything is presented with extreme simplicity using Dirac’s formulation with non-commutative algebra. Even a beginner will be able to follow the presentation. The book emphasizes logical structure, in Dirac’s words: “problems were tackled top-down, by working on the great principles, with the details left to look after themselves.”

    (Scholar)
  • Cohen-Tannoudji, C., 2006, Quantum Mechanics, New York: Wiley-Interscience.

    This is a comprehensive, encyclopedic text. It’s not the best to learn from, but is a good reference book.

    (Scholar)
  • Gasiorowicz, S., 1995, Quantum Physics (3rd edition), New York: Wiley.

    This is a decent text, relatively well-written.

    (Scholar)
  • Griffiths, D., 1995 [2018], Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (2nd edition), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall; 3rd edition, 2018.

    This is a standard undergraduate text for a first course in QM, and I would recommend it as a starting point for beginners. It is concise and very easy to read. There is an emphasis on conceptual development. Unfortunately, there are no worked examples in the book, and the answers to the problems are available only to instructors. It is easy to find and has recently been updated.

    (Scholar)
  • Liboff, R., 1998, Introductory Quantum Mechanics (4th edition), San Francisco: Addison-Wesley.

    This is a nicely designed book, relatively well-written. It is a good starting point for beginners, but not at comprehensive as Shankar.

    (Scholar)
  • Merzbacher, E., 1997, Quantum Mechanics (3rd edition), New York: Wiley.

    This is a standard graduate text in the US, not recommended for beginners, but quite good at an advanced level.

    (Scholar)
  • Sakurai, J.J., 1993 [2021], Modern Quantum Mechanics (revised edition), Reading, MA: Addison Wesley; third edition, with coauthor Jim Napolitano, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.

    This is generally used as a graduate text. It is well-written and there is emphasis on experimental phenomena and important questions like Bell’s Inequality. The material is introduced at a higher level than Griffiths and Shankar, with lots of mathematics. There is a wealth of problems, but unfortunately few solutions are provided, making it most useful in a classroom setting or in conjunction with a book that contains worked examples and derivations.

    (Scholar)
  • Schwinger, J., 2003, Quantum Mechanics (corrected edition), Berlin: Springer.

    This book is extremely mathematical in emphasis. There is less emphasis on conceptual development, and it is best used after one has acquired a conceptual understanding of QM and wants to see the mathematical development. The approach is very revealing. It is a difficult text, in part because some of the formalism is abstract and unconventional, but it is well worth the effort to comprehend. The problems throughout are excellent, but again unfortunately, solutions are not included in the text.

    (Scholar)
  • Shankar, R., 1994, Principles of Quantum Mechanics (2nd edition), Berlin: Springer.

    This book is highly recommended as a starting point. It starts from ground zero, developing the mathematical tools needed to understand quantum mechanics. It is well written, and friendlier than Griffiths for students who are learning the subject on their own. QM is not introduced until page 115. 
The introductory chapter on linear algebra is very good. At 676 pages, it is comprehensive. It covers Feynman path integrals more thoroughly than other books, and contains solved problems. If you buy one book on QM, this is a good choice.

    (Scholar)
  • Zettili, N., 2009, Quantum Mechanics: Concepts and Applications, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    This is a very good book as well. It covers theory and problem solving in an integrated way. It is easy to follow and full of problems and solutions that are related to the experimental basis of the theory.

    (Scholar)

Useful General Texts in Mathematics and Physics

Whether studying quantum mechanics on one’s own, or in a classroom setting, it is useful to have these books on hand as accompaniments. Even a seasoned teacher will find himself from time to time reaching for them:

  • Benenson, W., J. Harris, H. Stoecker, , and H. Lutz, 2006, Handbook of Physics (2nd edition), Berlin: Springer. (Scholar)
  • Bronshtein, I.N., and K.A. Semendyayev, 2007, Handbook of Mathematics (5th edition), Berlin: Springer. (Scholar)
  • Halliday, D., R. Resnick, and J. Walker, 2008, Fundamentals of Physics (8th edition), Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. (Scholar)
  • Halmos, P., 1957, Introduction to Hilbert Space (2nd edition), Providence: AMS Chelsea Publishing. (Scholar)

Books on Philosophy of QM

The last three decades have been a golden age for studying foundations of quantum Mechanics. Most of the active research is published in journals. The discussion surrounding standard non-relativistic quantum mechanics has stabilized in a way that makes it possible to survey. Three recent books absorb and organize the work of these decades.

  • Barrett, J., 2019, The Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, New York: Oxford University Press.

    This is a recent text on the history and conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics. It will serve an excellent primary text on the foundations of quantum mechanics for philosophy students, and will also make an excellent supplement to the standard quantum physics texts of physics students.

    (Scholar)
  • Lewis, P., 2016, Quantum Ontology: A Guide to the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics , New York: Oxford University Press.

    Lewis’s book gives a very good presentation of the most influential and well-developed interpretations of the formalism and provides an even-handed comparative assessment. It provides is an up-to-date survey of the landscape with sophisticated analysis and commentary. The book is well-suited for use in or for the layperson with a serious interest in foundations. The discussion is sophisticated without undue technicality and manages philosophical analysis in a jargon-free way.

    (Scholar)
  • Maudlin, T., 2019, Philosophy of Physics: Quantum Theory, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    This is an excellent, if challenging introduction to quantum foundations. The book is unparalleled in clarity and uncompromising in its insistence on ontological intelligibility. It is more selective than Lewis and Barrett’s book (it covers Everettian Quantum Mechanics and Bohmian Mechanics and Spontaneous Collapse theories, but the Copenhagen approach is dismissed because it doesn’t have an explicit ontology). The author makes no bones about where his own sympathies lie, but it will reward the study of any beginning student or seasoned practitioner.

    (Scholar)

Here are some general texts to introduce you to the philosophy of QM.

More specialized readings include:

  • Becker, A., 2018, What is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Mechanics, New York: Basic Books.

    This is a retelling of the early history of quantum theory that describes how Bohr’s influence persuaded a generation of physicists that the demand for a clear account of quantum ontology was somehow inappropriate. The book is a gripping tale of a turbulent time in the history of physics, when personalities clashed as deeply as philosophical sympathies.

    (Scholar)
  • Carroll, S., 2019, Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime, New York: Dutton.

    This is a lively development and well-written defense of the Everettian viewpoint that looks beyond standard non-relativistic theory and argues that the real lesson of quantum conundra and their reconciliation of quantum mechanics with General Relativity is the recognition that space-time is not fundamental.

    (Scholar)

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