Best Astrophysics Books

10 of the Best Books on Astrophysics That You Must Read to Explore the Wonders of the Cosmos.

Starting learning astronomy and astrophysics can be tough. Very tough. When you don’t have a teacher, it’s easy to get lost in the great number of resources you will find over the internet or in books. I discussed with Bogdan (one of the authors of this website) some of the best books on astrophysics. He’s a great science popularizer in Romania, and he gave me a list of some of the great books on astronomy and astrophysics that he has read. In this article, we have compiled a list of the 10 best books on astrophysics that you’ll surely enjoy. The Amazon links to buy the books are included in this article.

This article is a part of the ‘Basics of Astrophysics’ series. Read all the articles here

Books For General Purpose

So when starting studying astronomy and astrophysics, you may have different goals. You may be a curious person who wants to learn more as a hobby, and you may be a future scientist in the field and want to start this seriously. I personally encourage both kinds of outcomes. Still, it would be best if you didn’t dive deep into astronomy unless you have some background.

10 of the Best Books on Astrophysics That You Must Read to Explore the Wonders of the Cosmos. 2
Best books on astrophysics for general purpose

Reading some popular-science books before is a great solution if you want to do it as a hobby. For me, pop-science books like “A Brief History of Time” have been decisive in choosing my path in life. They have the advantage of simplifying a lot of important concepts in astronomy or astrophysics, giving a good overview.

Of course, you should try reading some books even if you are aspiring to be a scientist. Among the best there are, I recommend Hawking’s “Brief History of Time,” “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” and “Welcome to the Universe” by Neil deGrasse Tyson. The other of Stephen Hawking’s books are also a great read.

10 Best Books On Astrophysics

As I explained in the article on becoming an astrophysicist, the crucial thing for an aspiring scientist in astronomy and astrophysics is physics. It would help if you mastered physics before pretending you really understand astronomy and astrophysics.

Physics is amazing. But driven by the first-sight love you may have for astronomy, it’s easy to forget about physics and imagine you can study astronomy without physics. The truth is that the pop-science books mentioned above won’t make you professional astrophysicists. For that, you first have to study a lot of physics and mathematics.

At the end of the article, I will leave some recommendations of physics textbooks I consider amazing, so check out if you are curious. There are general physics courses, but I suggest from my personal experience and from others to take a general course first and then start to dive deep into each of the major physics chapters.

1. Fundamental Astronomy

Best books on Astrophysics - Fundamental Astronomy (Karutnen, Kroger)
Best books on Astrophysics

Authors: Hannu Kartunen, Pekka Kroger

The list of the best books on astrophysics is opened by Fundamental Astronomy. This, in my opinion, is the Bible of astronomy. Covering almost all astronomy and astrophysics branches, and having great explanations and examples, it is one of the best books to start studying astronomy. Also, the order of topics is good, and that is a very important thing when starting to study something new.

In the first chapter, the textbook covers spherical astronomy, which is very important in understanding the basis of astronomy. It then continues with celestial mechanics, to end with cosmology. One thing to remember, cosmology, despite how easy it seems to be from pop-science books, is one of the most difficult subjects of astrophysics. I don’t recommend diving into the subject unless you finished studying all the physics and astrophysics before.

Also, if you’re not into college, the mathematics is way too hard to understand in high-school. Overall, as I said, this book is great. I always studied from it and I still consult it when needed.

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2. The Rise and Fall of the Black Hole Paradigm

10 of the Best Books on Astrophysics That You Must Read to Explore the Wonders of the Cosmos. 3
Best books on Astrophysics

Author: Abhas Mitra

Mitra’s ‘The Rise and Fall of the Black Hole Paradigm’ was released a few months ago. When the book was still in its draft version, the writer, the former Head of Theoretical Astrophysics section in BARC, sent me a copy of the draft for my review. This was about 4 years ago, and I wasn’t well versed with the General Theory of Relativity. But, to my surprise, I understood the topics because the author briefly introduced all the essential concepts of astrophysics and relativity in the first few chapters and then explained the flaws in the current black hole models.

One of the best parts of this book is that all the chapters contain references to peer-reviewed research papers. It shows how astrophysicists of the 20th century found inconsistencies in the black hole model and also sheds light on MECOs, which are black hole mimickers that perfectly fall in line with several astrophysical observations. You don’t have to be an expert to understand the content of this book. It’s undoubtedly one of the best books on astrophysics.

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Astrophysicist Abhas Mitra shot to fame in 2015 when NASA announced that two of its telescopes have caught a massive burst of X-rays coming from a black hole.

3. An Introduction to Astrophysics

Best books on Astrophysics - An Introduction To Astrophysics (Basu)
Best books on Astrophysics

Author: Baidyanath Basu

If you want a flavor of astrophysics (not astronomy), then this book is for you. The book beautifully starts with the basic concepts of physics required in astrophysics. It then steadily takes you to physics and concepts of outer space. This book is a must-read to start your journey in astrophysics. This book was one of the references for the Basics of Astrophysics series.

Popular articles in series:

Baidyanath Basu, Ph.D. has been Professor and Head, Department of Applied Mathematics, Calcutta University. He did his postgraduation in astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley. Author of numerous research papers, Professor Basu has made a significant contribution to the field of galactic structures, galactic dynamics, and star formation.

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4. Schaum’s Outline on Astronomy

Best books on Astrophysics - Schaum's Outline on Astronomy  (Palen)
Best books on Astrophysics

Author: Stacey Palen

Now this is maybe the best book for beginners, who don’t want to do all the math and equations to understand something of astronomy. This book is somewhere between popular-science and a real textbook. With the minimum of equations, it covers the major chapters of astronomy and astrophysics and explains the basic concepts: very easy to understand, easy to read.

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5. An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure

Best books on Astrophysics - An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure  (Chandrasekhar)
Best books on Astrophysics

Author: S. Chandrasekhar

Written by the Nobel Laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar himself, this book covers advanced stellar astrophysics. Once you have covered basic physics, you may start with this book. It is very important for professional astrophysics. The book begins with the physics required to study stellar astrophysics. If you ever become a researcher in stellar evolution, then this is one of the best books on astrophysics and is highly recommended.

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Also Read:

6. Astronomy Principles and Practice

Best books on Astrophysics - Astronomy Principles and Practice (Roy, Clarke)
Best books on Astrophysics

Authors: A. E. Roy, D. Clarke

Not one to forget, Roy’s book is somewhat of “Fundamental Astronomy”. It is a general book, covering all topics, including the basics of astronomy (not to confuse with astrophysics). Not on the level of “Fundamental Astronomy”. It is a somewhat more popular textbook.

Back when I started studying astronomy, having no teacher, I searched on the internet for the best astronomy textbooks (as some of you may have done too), and more than half of the recommendations were of “Astronomy Principles and Practice”. I consider “Fundamental Astronomy” a far better book, but still, Roy’s textbook is good. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have recommended it, right? Indeed, it is good, but honestly, the recommendation should be taken more as the people’s choice.

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7. Astrophysical Concepts

Astrophysical Concepts - Harwit
Best books on Astrophysics

Author: Martin Harwit

“Astrophysical Concepts” is amazing I think because it also explains and deals with a lot of physics subjects. So even if you are not that familiar with advanced physics, a lot of them are covered. It is about 700 pages long, so it is another book not that easy to study in the conventional way you may be thinking of. Still, it is a great book, well-written, and I studied many chapters from it and clarified a lot of parts in my training.

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Also read:

8. Theoretical Astrophysics (Series)

Best books on Astrophysics - Theoretical Astrophysics (Padmanabhan)
Best books on Astrophysics

Author: T. Padmanabhan

Theoretical Astrophysics is a series of three books on Astrophysics, written by Thanu Padmanabhan, Professor at IUCAA, Pune. The first volume is on basic physics required for astrophysics, the second is on stellar astrophysics, and the third is on galactic and extra-galactic astronomy. The volumes have been carefully designed.

The first volume is for the students who have an undergraduate background in physics with no knowledge of astronomy. After introducing the basics of dynamics, electromagnetic theory, and statistical mechanics, the volume carefully develops a solid understanding of key concepts such as radiative processes, spectra, general relativity, nuclear physics, plasma physics, and dynamics of gravitational systems.

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The second volume develops an understanding of stellar structure and evolution, physics of stellar remnants such as white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. It also contains topics of stellar clusters, interstellar-medium, the sun, and planetary systems.

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The third volume, beginning with an overview of the key observational results and necessary terminology, covers important topics: the theory of galactic structure and galactic dynamics, structure formation, cosmic microwave background radiation, formation of luminous galaxies in the universe, intergalactic medium and active galactic nuclei

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9. An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics

An Introduction To Modern Astrophysics
Best books on Astrophysics

Authors: Bradley Caroll, Dale Oslie

Many of my friends, which have been to the international Olympiads and have been on the national team of Romania (a goal of mine too, hoping will achieve it someday), really believe this is the best textbook there is. It is also my favorite for astrophysics. Of course, it is for advanced studying. Stretching over more than 1300 pages, you can imagine it is not the easiest read. So if you decided to dive deeper into astrophysics, try this. Comprehensive, with no doubt, will clarify some things for you. It’s one of the best books on astrophysics.

You may also like:

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10. Essential Astrophysics

Astrophysics Books - Essential Astrophysics (Lang)
Best books on Astrophysics

Authors: Kenneth Lang

Essential Astrophysics is a book to learn or teach from, as well as a fundamental reference volume for anyone interested in astronomy and astrophysics. It presents astrophysics from basic principles without requiring any previous study of astronomy or astrophysics. It serves as a comprehensive introductory text, which takes the student through the field of astrophysics in lecture-sized chapters of basic physical principles applied to the cosmos.

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Now as I said I will state in short my choices for physics, here I will try to abstain from any further comments.

Choices for some physics topics, worth trying

Mechanics – “An Introduction to Mechanics”, Kleppner and “Classical Mechanics”, Goldstein
Electricity – “Electricity and Magnetism”, E. Purcell
Atomic Physics – “Atomic Physics”, Max Born
Quantum Mechanics – “Quantum Physics” by H.C. Verma

And for the best course overall, check Feynman’s Lectures.

Author’s Message

I started studying astronomy and astrophysics on my own about 10 years ago. Back then, I was in 8th grade. My elder sister gifted me with a book on Mars. I literally fell in love with that book. A year later, my father gifted me a telescope. This is where I fell in love with astronomy and decided to pursue it as a career. I always made sure that I learn something every day. So I would sit and surf the internet and read a lot of stuff on astronomy each day.

That’s the key. Astronomy and Astrophysics are not included in the curriculum of many schools. You have to start studying yourself. And, once you are determined to become an astrophysicist, you have to master physics and mathematics.

This article on 10 of the best books on astrophysics was a part of the series ‘Basics of Astrophysics‘. It’s a 30-article series that explores the fundamental concepts of the subject, from telescopes to star formation and from black holes to galaxy collisions. There’s something for everyone in this series.

Read all the articles of Basics of Astrophysics here

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