“Professor Kittel has succeeded admirably in his purpose, announced in the preface, of producing a textbook suitable for an introductory course in the subject of solid state physics for seniors and graduate students.”

Thus began Physics Today’s review of the first edition of Charles Kittel’s textbook, Introduction to Solid State Physics, which appeared in August 1954. The reviewer was Joseph Masi, the head of physical chemistry at the Callery Chemical Company, which I’m happy to report is still in business.

A selection of books sent by publishers for review at Physics Today.

A selection of books sent by publishers for review at Physics Today.

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Other famous books have been reviewed in the pages of Physics Today. In the August 1974 issue, you’ll find Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar’s review of the first edition of Gravitation by Charles Misner, Kip Thorne, and John Wheeler. The review includes the prescient quote, “The part on gravitational waves is a most useful one, particularly in the enumeration of the astronomical sources of gravitational waves and the means of detection that are available.” Back in 1974, the book cost $39.50 in hardcover, which is $195 in 2018 dollars. Today it retails on Amazon for $54.

Banesh Hoffmann, in the January 1983 issue, was the reviewer of Abraham Pais’s “Subtle Is the Lord . . .”: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein. Hoffmann was especially qualified to review the book. A general relativist, he not only had collaborated with Einstein, but had also written, with Helen Dukas, the book, Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel, which was reviewed in Physics Today in April 1973 by another Einstein collaborator, Peter Bergmann. Despite being a rival Einstein biographer, Hoffmann was effusive in his praise of Pais’s book: “Here is an outstanding biography of Albert Einstein that one finds oneself reading with sheer pleasure.”

Book reviews have appeared in every issue of Physics Today since the magazine’s debut in May 1948. I’m determined that they should remain, and not just because I’m a bibliophile. Few other magazines review books written expressly for physicists and their professional relatives.

Evidence of our commitment to books appears in two places in this issue. On page 10, Physics Today’s former Books editor Jermey Matthews contributes a Readers’ Forum Commentary entitled “It’s the 21st century. Why are scientists still writing books?” On page 53, you’ll discover that the Books department has been revamped. As usual, four solicited reviews of new and notable books form the core of the department. But instead of a list of books received, you’ll find capsule reviews of four books and one documentary. You’ll also notice that the department has an attractive new look.

Even in this short piece about books and Physics Today, it would be remiss not to mention Freeman Dyson’s contributions to the department. His first review, of John Blatt and Victor Weisskopf’s Theoretical Nuclear Physics, appeared in March 1953. His 20th, of Roald Hoffmann’s The Same and Not the Same, appeared in January 1996.

On behalf of Physics Today’s current Books editor, Melinda Baldwin, and all her predecessors, I thank Dyson and everyone who has written a review for the magazine. And in case you’re wondering, this editorial’s title comes from a poem by Argentine writer and bibliophile Jorge Luis Borges: “I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.”

1.
J. F.
Masi
,
Physics Today
7
(
8
),
18
(
1954
).
2.
S.
Chandrasekhar
,
Physics Today
27
(
8
),
47
(
1974
).
3.
Banesh
Hoffmann
,
Physics Today
36
(
1
),
81
(
1983
).
4.
Peter G.
Bergmann
,
Physics Today
26
(
4
),
53
(
1973
).
5.
Jermey N. A.
Matthews
,
Physics Today
71
(
1
),
10
(
2018
).
6.
Melinda
Baldwin
,
Cynthia
Cummings
,
Physics Today
71
(
1
),
58
(
2018
).
7.
F. J.
Dyson
,
Physics Today
6
(
3
),
17
(
1953
).
8.
Freeman J.
Dyson
,
Physics Today
49
(
1
),
64
(
1996
).