A few favorites I think are worth reading…
Most of these are textbooks from my undergrad degree, some are books I simply enjoyed. All are worth reading if you’re interested in physics.
The Feynman Lectures on Physics, by Feynman, Leighton and Sands. These are a pretty obvious recommendation, but are still worth mentioning for emphasis if nothing else. I first read these books in high school, understanding them only in part, but still gaining an immense satisfaction and appreciation for the phyics they contained. Subsequent readings have only improved my opinion of these books. Not really stand-alone textbooks, unfortunately, but very useful for improving one’s understanding of basic physics.
The Character of Physical Law, by Richard Feynman. An excellent book, originally a set of lectures given by Feynman on physical laws. Relatively short, and absolutely worth reading.
Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and Particles, by Eisberg and Resnick. A very good introduction to Quantum Physics, which I like for its good explanations of the actual physical behaviors rather than just mathematics.
Introductory Statistical Mechanics, by Bowley and Sanchez. One of the most readable introductions to statistical mechanics I’m aware of.
Introduction to Solid State Physics, by Charles Kittel. Another classic recommendation, but still an excellent solid state book. I actually bought this for myself and read it despite having no solid state class that semester, and found it fun.
Thirty Years That Shook Physics, by George Gamow. This is a nicely readable history of the early development of quantum physics by someone who lived through it.
My major focus in my studies of materials science was viscoelastic materials, reflected below. I also love solid-state, though.
Principles of Electronic Materials and Devices, by Safa Kasap. My second intro to solid state physics, and perhaps it was strictly more useful than Kittel: I remember the problem sets being much better. It was much more focused on the materials science and practical engineering.
Molecular Driving Forces, by Dill and Bromberg. Starts as another stat-mech book, but flows into some generic materials science and polymer physics.
Polymer Physics, by Rubenstein and Colby. This is a truly excellent introductory text on polymer physics and rheology, and explains the weird statistical ways that polymeric materials behave in a much clearer fashion than most of the books I found.
The Structure and Rheology of Complex Fluids, by Ronald Larson. I actually really hated the experience of reading this book, but it’s the best survey I’ve found for all the weird things viscoelastic materials do.
These are all relatively “pop-science” books I enjoyed because they presented an interesting and readable history of science and/or scientists I was interested in. Story-telling is an important part of any culture, science included; and in my opinion these books do a good job of telling some interesting stories about important developments in our world.
The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes. This is a really excellent book about the development of nuclear physics as a scientific field; the political and military environment that led to the development of nuclear weapons; and the Manhattan Project itself. The writing is superb, the story told is gripping and intense, and the events in question seem to be well-researched. If you read one book I recommend, this is the one to read.
The Information, by James Gleick. This ran a tad long, but was in general a fun and interesting depiction of the development of information theory and some of its connections to other fields. Mostly readable and enjoyable.