Electronics is relevant to our modern lives like almost no other field of science. On the one hand, we have the physical world, with objects and phenomena that we touch, see, and interact with. On the other, we increasingly spend time with the digital world, where we log data in spreadsheets or apps, solve complex problems with the help of computers, or rely on various devices to make our lives easier.
Sitting in between these two worlds and bridging the divide is electronics. Without it, there would be no microprocessors, no grids of tiny transistors to switch on and off and do our bidding millions of times per second. No way to power our homes or gadgets, or even manufacture many of the non-technical goods we take for granted. It has truly revolutionized every facet of our existence. Much emphasis today is placed on programming and application development, but it is important to remember that these things are abstractions sitting on top of a physical and electrical foundation.
In case all of this talk of revolution has you fired up, we’ve collected some of the best books to help you learn electronics. Whether you’re a total beginner or advanced engineer, check out the resources below to find a learning guide that’s right for you.
Paul Horowitz, Winfield Hill
In many fields of study, there is often a “grand-daddy” or “godfather” textbook. This is the book that is passed down from generation to generation, the reference that graces every introductory college course on the subject. Some might even call this book the Bible of it’s respective topic. The Art of Electronics, published in various forms for over 30 years, is that book for electronics.
We would write a mini-review of this book as we do for the others, but its history speaks for itself. If in doubt, check the reviews on its Amazon page, both from various published sources and Amazon buyers. When words like “delightful”, “lovely”, “refreshingly simple”, and “finest book on the subject of electronics” are thrown around with reckless abandon, you know you’re dealing with a trusted source.
We should note here that The Art of Electronics is not a quick read, as it clocks in at over 1100 pages. However, it’s designed as both a learning resource and a reference, so you can easily keep it handy and look up a particular topic or concept as needed. It’s also a bit more expensive than other books here, but most agree the price is well worth it. If we had to pick one book on electronics to keep on our shelves, this would be it.
Get it here: The Art of Electronics
Forest M. Mims III
Despite the name of another classic book on this list, Getting Started in Electronics is truly about the art of electronics, and is a work of art unto itself. Each page is hand lettered and each illustration is hand drawn, lending it the comfortable feel of a class notebook. The painstaking effort is clear in every facet. In the author’s own words:
The book was developed during a 58-day marathon session of laying out the book and then drawing/printing the pages with a 0.7 mm mechanical pencil. It was then necessary to develop and test each of the 100 circuits. Each circuit was built and tested at least three times to avoid errors. The final round of tests was done directly from the hand-lettered text. The problem with the final testing was that many of the circuits could be built from memory without referring to the circuit diagrams in the book. This, of course, could have allowed errors to slip through. So it was necessary to check off each connection to make sure the book version was correctly reassembled from scratch.
Mim’s personal touch continues throughout the text, and readers unanimously agree that the book is friendly to beginners, easy to follow, and provides a ton of good examples. Electronics is never an easy subject to master, but if you are a total beginner, this book is a good place to start.
Get the book here: Getting Started in Electronics
Charles Platt is a contributing editor to Make: Magazine and has a long history in electronal hardware and technical writing. This book emphasizes hands-on learning. The experiments begin as soon as you crack open the first chapter (with a battery to the tongue, no less) and continue throughout, with little time wasted explaining historical background. If you are someone that needs to learn by doing, Make: Electronics is the perfect companion. Although the book does go deeper into theory as you progress, it eases you into it, and chooses the appropriate time to introduce more complex concepts. In the words of one reviewer:
I learned more in the first 20 minutes with this book than I did after pouring through several other “electronics basics” books for countless hours.
Overall, this is a great introduction to electronics and highly recommended for anyone who wants to get their hands dirty right away.
Find the book here: Make: Electronics (Learning by Discovery)
This guide is the appropriate choice for anyone who absolutely hates textbooks. Written from an entirely practical perspective, How to Diagnose and Fix Everything Electronic discusses relevant skills for working with electronics in the real world.
Though you might not gain the same deep understanding as you might from one of the more theoretical texts above, the topics conveyed are extremely valuable. Michael Gaier covers tool selection and workbench setup, how to disassemble and examine various devices, and how to successfully replace components and button everything up. The tips on workflow with actual devices is especially valuable, as most electronics books cover circuits from an abstract, laboratory-oriented perspective.
Snag the book here: How to Diagnose and Fix Everything Electronic
When you learn the basics of the electrical world, you begin to understand how our advanced technology is shaped. When your phone battery runs low, you understand what’s going on. If your camera breaks, you may know enough to attempt a repair, saving you money. Even knowing the basics of voltage, current, and power can help you analyze your energy usage and save money on your next electricity bill. Finally, you have the power to create and modify your own devices, instead of forever wondering how that magical little iPhone does it’s thing.
Pick up one of these books and start learning. No matter what your skill level, you’re bound to find a wealth of fascinating insight and possibilities for exploration.
Do you have suggestions for other books to check out? Let us know in the comments. Until then, enjoy discovering the limitless possibilities of electronics.
Image credit: aresauburn