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Recommended Reading

The list below includes books that I have read on various topics relating to physics, astronomy, and science. All of them can be found in the physics room (950) and are available for checkout by students. Many of these books give excellent introductions to topics in physics that we do not cover in our physics courses.

Scientists

Alvarez, Luis W. Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1987.
Traces the life of Luis Alvarez, including his involvement in the Manhattan Project as well as in the development of the hypothesis of catastrophic extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Brown, L.B. & Rigden, J.S., editors. "Most of the Good Stuff:" Memories of Richard Feynman. New York: American Institute of Physics, 1993.
In contrast to many of the other later books written about Richard Feynman, this one is a collection of eulogies from those who knew him best: physicists, teachers, entrepreneurs, and friends. Some of the anecdotes have been at least referenced in other books or through the several Nova programs about him, but this book contains additional anecdotes about the everyday Feynman, as well as a peek at how other physicists viewed Feynman's physics. Provides some nuance to Feynman's persona that cannot be gleaned from other sources.

de Harsanyi, Zsolt. The Star-Gazer: A Novel of the Life of Galileo. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1939.
A fictionalized account of the life of Galileo. Vividly describes his conflict with the church as he worked on his science.

Feynman, Richard, P. “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character. New York: Bantam Books, 1986.
A humorous account of Richard Feynman's childhood, his work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, and his Nobel Prize in Physics. One of my all-time favorite books.

Feynman, Richard, P. “What Do You Care What Other People Think?”: Further Adventures of a Curious Character. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1988.
A follow-up to "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" More technical than the first book, it largely follows Feynman's role in NASA's panel that investigated the shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.

Gribbin, John & Gribbin, Mary. Richard Feynman: A Life in Science. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1998.
Many of the book I've read about Richard Feynman have been anecdotes about his life and how he thought about science.  This is the first book I've read that melded this part of his life with the science of Richard Feynman, giving concise overviews of his contributions to physics.  A good follow-up to the two books listed just prior to this on the book list.

Isaacson, Walter. Einstein: His Life and Universe. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2007.
It is rare that I would be so enrapt in a biography, particularly a lengthy one, but this book was hard to put down. Einstein's life is broken down into increments of several years, and the author extensively incorporated letters, papers, and other correspondence that were released by Einstein's estate in 2006. Isaacson creates a picture of both the scientist and person and weaves a story that gives the reader insight into the conditions that allowed Einstein's creativity to create his hallmark theories where his contemporaries were not able to do so. This book is a gem.

Levenson, Thomas. Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.
This is a biographical look at the life of Newton after his greatest scientific achievement of publishing the Principia which outlines his laws of motion. As a result of his notoriety as a scientists, Newton was asked to help England solve its problem with the devaluation of money and counterfeiting. The book simultaneously looks at the life of William Chaloner, one of the most cunning counterfeiters of the day. Newton made it his mission to bring Chaloner to justice and this book details how Newton accomplished this task.

Sakharov, Andrei. Memoirs. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.
Traces the life of this prominent Russian physicist, his role in the H-bomb race, and his battles with an oppressive government.

Sayen, Jamie. Einstein in America: The Scientist's Conscience in the Age of Hitler and Hiroshima. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1985.
The beginning of the book looks briefly at Einstein's younger years spent in Europe and during his development of the photoelectric effect and his relativistic theories. But most of the book looks at the years he spent at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. During this time, Einstein was largely irrelevant as a scientists but was involved, sometimes against his wishes, in a variety of political movements, decrying the spread of Nazi fascism, imploring the United States to drop its isolationist stance so that it could contribute to need to dethrone Hitler, and his largely pacifistic views. Einstein's politics are shared within a larger context of the national and international political environment from World War II into the Cold War years. The book also shares a number of stories of Einstein the person and his role as a world icon.

History of Physics

Cohen, I. Bernard. The Birth of a New Physics. New York: Anchor Books, 1960.
Documents significant growth in the field of physics, starting with Aristotle and ending with Newton.

Einstein, Albert & Infeld, Leopold. The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta. New York: Touchstone, 1938.
I think this book is probably mostly written by Infeld, a colleague of Einstein, with creative insights provided by Einstein. The book is an attempt to walk the reader through the highlights in the history of physics, culminating in Einstein's theories of relativity and in the concept of the quanta, an introduction to quantum mechanics which invariably Einstein struggled to accept as a valid picture of reality. I am always suspicious when a book is described as one that can reach all audiences without any math and sadly I think this book missed the mark. The book is short on illustrations and I found it difficult to carefully ingest the "intuitive" non-mathematical examples. If one is going to try and teach physics without math, I think you need to compensate heavily with illustrations; it's just too tedious to work through the descriptions which are fast paced. Too often the authors suggested that a conclusion could be arrived at trivially and I think that most readers, at least today, would be put off by the style.

Gleick, James. Isaac Newton. New York: Vintage Books, 2004.
This book documents the life of Isaac Newton. Gleick combed through Newton's personal papers to deliver a short treatise on Newton's scientific and occult drives, delving into Newton's theories on the cause of motion, universal gravitation, optics, and his work with alchemy.

March, Robert H. Physics for Poets. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1978.
Truth be told, I couldn't stomach following this book to the end. It covers a wide range of physics topics, from the historical development of Newtonian Mechanics, through wave theory, and into modern physics. The author, in hitting a wide-range of topics over such a small book, could not delve into any detail or interesting facets to hold my interest. It might be good for some, but I just gave up trying to like it.

Modern Physics

Baker, Adolph. Modern Physics and Antiphysics. Reading, MA. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1970.
I was skeptical when I saw the cover of this book; it looks really dated and that didn't give me much confidence in the author. But I found this to be a pretty refreshing read and an excellent recap of the two main advances in physics in the first half of the 20th century: special relativity and quantum mechanics. It does so in a largely non-mathematical manner and was written, it appears, as a response to the hippie-era backlash against the establishment, which included both government and big science. A nice introduction to these two theories.

Particle Physics

Lederman, Leon. The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question? Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993.
Starts with a humorous historical account of the concept of matter and ends with the development of particle physics theory. The ultimate aim of the account is to explain the search for the Higgs boson.

Quantum Physics

Davies, P.C.W. & Brown, J.R., editors. The Ghost in the Atom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
The first third of the book summarizes some of the key points about quantum mechanics. It is dealt with very broadly and frankly is not very enlightening. There are other books that give a much better synopsis of quantum mechanics, its paradoxes, and possible interpretations. The rest of the book includes transcripts of radio interviews conducted with eight different physicists and this is where the magic happens. The crux of the situation at the time this book was compiled was that either our conventional view if reality must be aborted (the idea that there is an objective reality and we are just making observations about it) or Einstein's idea of locality must be aborted (allowing for information traveling at faster-than-light speeds). Due to the frontier nature of this work, the viewpoints of these physicists are all over the place and it's exciting to see such broad disagreement about the meaning of reality. Unavoidably, the interviews weave in what is means for a theory to be scientific and provides plenty of food for thought.

Feynman, Richard P. QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.
This is a compilation of a series of four of Feynman's lectures presumably written for the layperson.  The lectures set out to lay the basis for the theory for which Feynman shared the Nobel prize, a theory that purports to explain everything that occurs outside the confines of the atomic nucleus.  In avoiding the use of any equations, the reader is left with a large void in the mechanics of this theory.  That aside, he gives a nice insight into the world of quantum and particle physics, and a nice alternative view to the "wave-particle duality" of the photon.  As unsatisfying as I was left with the void, I gained a number of new insights into physics that were valuable and informative.

Gribbin, John. In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality. New York: Bantam Books, 1984.
Written for the layperson, delves into the world of quantum mechanics. Gives a historical account of light and atoms and contrasts the classical view of these two entities with the quantum mechanical view.

Gribbin, John. Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality: Solving the Quantum Mysteries. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.
This book is a follow-up to his first book In Search of Schrodinger's Cat.  It includes a number of experimental results that were not yet known at the writing of the first book.  The author's intent is to look at the quest to find a model of quantum mechanics that shows a coherent understanding of quantum mechanics and all of it's mysteries.  I found it to be more technical than the first book, but a fitting sequel.  The shining beacon of the book is one of the later chapters that discusses the role that modeling plays in understanding physical systems.  This book made my head hurt, but it was a good and satisfying pain.

Lederman, Leon M. & Hill, Christopher T. Quantum Physics for Poets. New York: Prometheus Books, 2011.
In reading the first half of the book, I thought that maybe this book would overthrow Gribbin's In Search of Schroedinger's Cat as my favorite introductory book on all that is weird with the theory of quantum mechanics. Lederman writes with a sense of humor and he covers much of the same landscape as Gribbin. However, I felt that the authors bit off too much in the second half of the book. Whereas in the first half of the book they were very careful to bring the reader along and to reassure her about the strangeness of quantum mechanics, I felt the second half was rushed and contained too much content, losing sight of the fact that they were bringing the layperson along for a ride through a strange and unfamiliar universe.

Zukav, Gary. The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics. New York: Bantam Books, 1980.
DISCLAIMER: Although the author is not a scientist, he does give an adequate overview of the dilemmas of physics from Galileo through Schroedinger. The focus of this section of the book builds a foundation for trying to understand quantum physics and how it came about. The second half of the book, unfortunately, attempts to use the science in the first section to legitimize eastern religion; this section of the book is, in my opinion, a sham. Read the first half for an introduction to quantum physics, skip the second half.

Chaos, Sync, & Non-Linear Dynamics

Gleick, James. Chaos: Making a New Science. New York: Penguin Books, 1988.
Written for the layperson, lays the foundation for the relatively new science of chaos, a science that deals with environments that are sensitive to initial conditions (sometimes called the "butterfly effect.") and how these chaotic systems still exhibit defined boundaries.

Strogatz, Steven. Sync: How Order Emerges from Chaos in the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life. New York: Theia, 2003.
This author attempts to do to the study of sync what James Gleick did to the study of chaos theory. There are many examples in nature where a system of objects seem to spontaneously enter a state of synchronization. The book is broken into three sections. The first section studies sync in biological systems. He studies the phenomenon of fireflies by the millions in certain parts of the world that seem to synchronize their flashing, and he also delves into the circadian rhythm. The second section studies sync found in physical systems and specifically studies the synchronization of pendula and the causes of superconductivity. The third section studies sync in networks: the power grid, the internet, the proliferation of fads, and more. Ironically, I found the section dealing with the sync of physics as the least interesting. The other two sections, though, make the book a worthwhile read.

Davies, Paul. The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
I placed this book under this category because a) the author looks specifically at non-linear systems as being paramount to his premise and b) it could eventually bear out to be a new field of physics. The author, a theoretical physicist, proposes that in addition to our more conventional laws and theories of physics (Newtonian Mechanics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics), there are as yet undiscovered laws that would explain how our universe seems to have the ability to be creative, to show self-organization and a progression toward more complexity. He looks at a wide variety of scientific fields to illustrate this trend and argues that attributing the underlying process that takes us to more complexity cannot possibly be due to random chance as Darwinists would suggest. While purportedly written for the layperson, he fails miserably. I don't think the general reader would find this book entertaining. I found it difficult to get through the first and final thirds of the book, although the middle third was pretty good when he started looking more in depth at biological applications. The author could have done the same job in 50 pages and the book would have been a better read.

String Theory & Extra Dimensions

Greene, Brian. The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.
An excellent portrayal of physics' attempt unify all physical laws into one grand theory. It portrays string theory as being the most promising theory available to accomplish this goal.

Greene, Brian. The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality. New York: Vintage Books, 2005.
Greene's followup to the The Elegant Universe takes a different approach toward the argument for string theory.  He looks at the very fabric of space (is it an entity?) to the direction of time's arrow.  In presenting these topics, he brings in classical Newtonian physics, Einstein's general and special relativity, and the bizarre world of quantum mechanics.  He also invokes the arena of cosmology as being at the forefront of allowing us to peak at the validity of these ideas.  This book, in my opinion, is much deeper and more dense (packed with physics concepts) than his first book, and will require periods of time to put the book down and reflect.

Randall, Lisa. Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.
Lisa Randall considers herself to be a "model builder," a physicist who plays both sides of the fence when it comes to choosing a side between particle physics and string theory. Her goal is to show how extra dimensions (beyond the three of space and the one of time) can solve the fudge factors and unanswered questions in the Standard Model of particle physics. She additionally claims that evidence of extra-dimensions, if they exist, should be forthcoming within the next ten years with the completion of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The first and third sections of the book make it a fascinating read (although far from being a light read). The middle section on particle physics, although done better in other books, is a necessary segue to show the need (or desire) for looking at extra-dimensions to solve the problems that modern physics still faces.

Cosmology

Bonnor, William. The Mystery of the Expanding Universe. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1964.
Cosmology is a field that has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, so this book is pretty dated. Nevertheless, I would characterize this book as an introduction to the infant stage of current cosmological thought and it does give a good background on how Einstein's general relativity and how a growing set of observations have been used to pose a variety of different models of the universe. Unlike more contemporary books, this one is very clear on the scientific process and how assumptions and interpretation of data has driven and continues to drive the development of cosmological models; for this reason alone a enjoyed it. A good introduction to cosmology, but probably best read only if followed up with a more contemporary treatment that includes more current observations and ideas.

Ferris, Timothy. The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe(s) Report. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
This book really is what the sub-title suggests; a report on everything that is known about the universe today, the theories or ideas that cosmologists continue to try and answer, and all of the evidence that brings us to our current point in time. Although purportedly written for anyone who has an interest in cosmology, I found that having a background in these topics, ranging from special and general relativity to quantum mechanics, was extremely helpful in understanding the content. Very comprehensive in its breadth, it gives a bare-bones review of the physical theories and principles. Unfortunately, he covers so much that he seems to assume the reader has a background in principles of physics and cosmology. I think it would be difficult to understand much of the book without having some background knowledge.

Hawking, Stephen W., & Mlodinow, Leonard. The Grand Design. New York: Bantam Books, 2012.
The main point in the early chapters is that our reality is a reflection of our scientific models, and those models are based on scientific evidence. It is through this lens that the authors go about unveiling the most basic "truths" about nature, rooted in quantum mechanics and relativity. They give special credence to Richard Feynman's "sum of histories" approach to understanding quantum mechanical problems and later use that principle to predict the multiverse. Given our universe today, and given the probabilistic nature of the first moments of the universe, they reason that we occupy a universe incredibly fine-tuned to be amenable to our existence because we happen to live in such a universe within the multiverse of uncountable different possible universes, most of which do not have the fine-tuning necessary to life as we know it. Profound mix of science and what is often thought of as philosophy.

Hawking, Stephen W. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. New York: Bantam Books, 1988.
A hard read, this book delves into particle physics and quantum mechanics and their role in the formation of the universe as well as the physiology of black holes. A good book, but requires multiple reads.

Lightman, Alan. Ancient Light: Our Changing View of the Universe. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.
Gives a historical account of cosmology, starting with the Greeks and concluding with the Big Bang Model. Also gives an overview of the problem with "dark matter."

Randall, Lisa. Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2015.
The first section of the book describes what we know about the evolution of the universe since the Big Bang and highlights the role that dark matter has played in giving the universe the structure that we see. The second section gives an overview of the structure of our Solar System, ending with a description of the role that comet/meteorite impacts have had on Earth. The final section delves into what we know about dark matter and speculates on the rich possibilities of the nature of dark matter, given that our knowledge and evidence base of this stuff is relatively weak. Randall and her collaborators have created a model of dark matter that can help to explain a possible periodicity to the impact record on Earth.

Schilling, Govert. Ripples in Spacetime: Einstein, Gravitational Waves, and the Future of Astronomy. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017.
Some have likened the finding of gravitational waves by LIGO in the fall of 2015 as the scientific find of the century, nearly 100 years after release of the theory that postulated their existence. Gravitational waves are a reflection of the mathematics of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, but do they have a physical meaning? Einstein himself waffled on this point. The author walks the reader through a historical timeline of the quest to find gravitational waves. Success in finding them goes beyond verifying (yet again) relativity; it rings in an entirely new way of observing and learning about the universe. The book is written for the interested reader who does not have much, if any, background in relativity and he shares a number of analogies to convey what gravitational waves are (and what they aren't). I felt the book got a little tedious near the end when he talked about a litany of new and upcoming probes and observatories that would be used in near future to explore multi-messenger astronomy to its fullest extent. However, the book is well done and I would recommend it as a great introduction to this fledgling field of astronomy.

Tyson, Neil DeGrasse. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.
This book is a collection of short chapters that were originally written as essays for the magazine Natural History. Each chapter deals with a different topic including: the Big Bang, the expansion of the universe, dark matter, dark energy, the electromagnetic spectrum, and exoplanets. As promised, each chapter provides a quick introduction to a topic relevant to today's astrophysics. As with everything Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an enjoyable read.

Weinberg, Steven. The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe. New York: Basic Books, 1988.
Uses our knowledge of particle physics to extrapolate back to the earliest moments of the universe.

Junk Science

Huber, Peter W. Galileo’s Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom. New York: Basic Books, 1991.
An account of how "expert" witnesses have misconstrued, twisted, and misused science in legal proceedings.

Sagan, Carl. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.
Sagan debunks witchcraft, faith healing, demons, and UFO's, among other myths of pseudoscience.

Salem, Kenneth, G. The New Gravity. Johnstown, PA: Salem Books, 1994.
Unlike the other two books in this category that document how junk science is used, this book IS junk science. The author attempts to legitimize a new "theory" of gravity. Although it is a sad commentary on how the author attempted to do science, it is very amusing.

Miscellaneous

Asimov, Isaac. Asimov on Physics. New York, NY: Avon Books, 1976.
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote monthly essays for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He wrote on a wide range of topics, including science fiction, history of science, and contemporary science. This book is a collection of essays dealing specifically on physics topics.

Asimov, Isaac. The Relativity of Wrong. New York, NY. Pinnacle Books, 1988.
Another collection of essays, this time dealing with the topics of isotopes as chemical tags, and topics on astronomy. Essays well document the scientific process of discovery (creation) and the assumptions behind different theories.

Carroll, Sean. The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. New York: Dutton, 2017.
I had a love-hate relationship with this book. It has six different sections: Cosmos, Understanding, Essence, Complexity, Thinking, and Caring. For the most part, the first four sections are awesome. The author provides a wonderful description of how scientists observe nature and update their ideas and theories accordingly. While scientists often just learn this process through practice, the author explicitly describes the process as one where one constantly increases the likelihood of one understanding while simultaneously decreasing the likelihood of a competing understanding. He then goes on to explain how the arrow of time is a consequence of the fact that the universe started at a very low state of entropy and has evolved since that moment into a state of increasingly higher entropy. Through the evolutionary process, complexity (like the appearance of organized structures and life) is a natural consequence of this shift in entropy. I took issue with 2 things in the book. First I feel that he overstepped his authority in delving in the last two sections; I don't see him as having a credible background. Second, he used the book as a means of defending his stance that the universe is Godless. My personal feelings on religion aside, I feel that he tarnished the science in pushing that agenda. If his goal was to sway opinion, I think he will fail. Those who are non-believers will continue to be, and those who are believers will likely not change their mind and also will likely find the science that he discusses as being less credible. A missed opportunity to connect with everyone on a very important topic.  

Feynman, Richard P. The Meaning of it All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist. Reading, MA. Perseus Books, 1998.
This book is a compilation of three lectures that Feynman gave at the University of Washington.  He gives his thoughts on a wide variety of topics including religion, politics, and statistics.  I wasn't as enamoured with this book as much as with his other books, but the first lecture, "The Uncertainty of Science," is a real gem and worth the price of the book.

Feynman, Richard P. Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher. Reading, MA: Helix Books, 1995.
Six of Richard Feynman's most essential lectures on physics while teaching at Cal Tech in the 1960's. The book is accompanied by an audio CD of each lecture.

Feynman, Richard P. The Character of Physical Law. New York: The Modern Library, 1994.
A collection of Feynman's lectures while at Cornell University that address how science goes about creating physical laws and looks at the implications and assumptions behind laws and theories.

Feynman, Richard P., Leighton, Robert B. & Sands, Matthew. The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume 1. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1963.
Feynman taught a 2-year physics course to all incoming students at the California Institute of Technology.This volume covers the first year of lectures given in the 1961-62 academic year. A lot has changed in physics in the past 50 years, so the some of the material is dated, but this collection of lectures is a gem and gives insight into the mind of Richard Feynman. He hoped that he could connect with all of his students on some level through his lectures. They contained themes that would be understandable to the non-physics major and enough detail to appeal to the most staunch student of physics. This same volume of lectures, along with Volumes 2 and 3, are also available online at feynmanlectures.caltech.edu.

Goodstein, David and Judith Goodstein. Feynman's Lost Lecture: The Motion of Planets Around the Sun. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.
The book gives a detailed description and analysis of a lecture Richard Feynman delivered to his Caltech freshman class on March 13, 1964. He derives Kepler's Laws from purely geometrical arguments and is able to argue using the same approach WHY the planets orbit in ellipses. The book is accompanied by an audio CD of Feynman's 1964 lecture.

Gordon, J.E. Structures: or, Why Things Don't Fall Down. New York: Da Capo Press, 1985.
This book focuses specifically on how forces (stress, shear, torsion, fracture, and comporession) affect natural and man-made design of various structures.  It is a fascinating overview of how engineers apply these principles in the design of their structures.

Greenler, Robert. Rainbows, Halos, and Glories. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1980.
An intriguing book that uses computer modeling techniques to explain various atmospheric phenomena such as sundogs, sun pillars, and the blue sky.

Kaku, Michio. Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel. New York: Anchor Books, 2009.
If you are a fan of science fiction, you will appreciate this book. Kaku is a physicists who takes a look at the impossibility, improbability, or likelihood of someday realizing some of the most fantastic and most common elements of science fiction, ranging from Star Trek's phasers and transporter, to Star Wars' Death Star, to galactic travel and parallel universes. He classifies each of his topics as either a Class I impossibility (possible because it does not break the laws of physics and may be realized within a few centuries), Class II impossibility (maybe possible because our limited understanding of the laws of physics does not currently prevent it, but cannot be attained in the near future), and Class III impossibilities (break the laws of physics as we know them or would require a total rework of the laws of physics).

Leslie-Pelecky, Diandra. The Physics of NASCAR: The Science Behind the Speed. New York, NY. Plume, 2009.
While I am not a NASCAR fan, I picked up this book thinking that it is an application of physics I should know more about. I was hoping to learn all about why they pump nitrogen gas into the tires instead of air, why they use wide tires when tire width is not supposed to have an effect on the amount of friction, etc. To be sure, the author does delve into those questions, but the density of those types of questions was quite low. The author clearly knows her craft, but I felt like she was not adept at communicating it very effectively. She would throw out numbers and vocabulary as if they spoke for themselves. She used graphics on a very limited basis, and when she did I thought her choice of what to illustrate was very poor. I thought some of the applications of physics were contrived (race cars make sound, therefore let's look at the physics of sound). She also had a propensity to use literary devices which I thought were wholly inappropriate for the book. For example, she would describe the physical characteristics of a building, office space, garage, as well as every single individual she spoke with. Simply not relevant in my opinion. I had high hopes of learning more about the physics of NASCAR, and I did learn some things, but overall I was very disappointed.

Lovell, Jim and Jeffrey Kluger. Apollo 13. New York: Pocket Books, 1995.
An excellent portrayal of the Apollo 13 mission and the creativity and prowess required of the astronauts and earth-bound engineers to bring the astronauts home safely.

Murray, Charles, and Catherine Bly Cox. Apollo: the Race to the Moon. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.
Documents the political and scientific environment of our journey to the moon, starting with John F. Kennedy's initial charge.

Sagan, Carl. Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium. New York: Random House, 1997.
Various essays by Sagan that look at how humans are adversely affecting their environment.

Smolin, Lee. The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next?. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.
The author laments that his generation of physicists has been the first in two centuries to fail to answer a significant question or solve a significant problem in the field. He blames this situation on the way that string theory has been self-propagating and how it has sapped up all available resources in the physics profession. He gives very compelling arguments that the physics profession has lost its way and can hardly be recognized as a science anymore. This book is an excellent treatise on how science should be done and how it isn't being practiced in the leading field of modern physics.

Sobel, Dava, and Andrewes, William. The Illustrated Longitude. New York: Walker & Company, 1998.
Finding latitude using the sun or night sky has been known for centuries, but accurately determining ones longitude was still a mystery well into the 18th century. Miscalculations in longitude as well as inaccurate maps caused a catastrophic end to numerous voyages, ranging from shipwrecks on rocky shoals to rampant scurvy among crew. This book follows the history of finding longitude, the creation of the Board of Longitude and the £20,000 prize, and John Harrison's quest to solve the problem with his finely crafted chronometers.

Strogatz, Steven. Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.
This is a great overview of a) the central problems that led to the invention of calculus, b) the underpinnings behind the methods used in calculus, and c) how calculus has been used historically to solve problems (including some recent applications). I think it is probably written for anyone interested in the nexus between science and math, but realistically it is probably really only approachable for someone who has at least some background in calculus. For me, it was refreshing to learn about the basic principles that led to calculus, which I suspect I had learned in one of my first calculus courses, but seemed to hit home in this read without having to worry about what I might have to learn for a test.

Weisskopf, Victor F. The Privilege of Being a Physicist. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1989.
This book is a collection of essays that run a wide gamut of topics. It is broken down into five main categories: The Life of a Scientist, Science and Culture, Ideas in Physics, Two Physicists, and Science and Society. For me, the most compelling section was Ideas in Physics where Weisskopf summarizes the main ideas of quantum mechanics and its relationship to the origin of the universe. His approach provided me with a few new insights. The final section of the book is heavy on the need for nuclear disarmament, which was a very relevant topic when the book was written; to some degree we have followed the path for which he argues. The book makes apparent the passion that this scientist has in his connection with art, music, religion, and society.