New Quantum Field Theory Textbook

I recently ran across a very good new quantum field theory textbook in the bookstore. It’s called Quantum Field Theory: A Modern Perspective and is by my ex-Columbia colleague V. Parameswaran Nair, who is now at City College nearby.

The first half of the book covers the sort of standard material about perturbative quantum field theory that appears in pretty much all quantum field theory books, including Peskin and Schroeder’s An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory which seems to be the most popular one these days. But the second half of Nair’s new book very much does live up to his “Modern Perspective” subtitle, containing a wealth of important material that anyone learning quantum field theory should know about, but that has not made it into the standard textbooks until now. This includes a very geometrical approach to gauge fields, anomalies and the index theorem, material on the WZW model and 2d fermion determinants, as well as an introduction to important non-perturbative ideas such as dual superconductivity and the 1/N expansion. Finally, Nair also includes a wonderful final chapter on the ideas behind geometric quantization and their application to the quantization of the Chern-Simons-Witten model.

I highly recommend the book for anyone who wants to seriously learn quantum field theory. Even if you’ve studied the subject already using a book like Peskin and Schroeder, the additional material in Nair’s book makes it well worth reading.

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24 Responses to New Quantum Field Theory Textbook

  1. JC says:

    Carl Brannen,

    In terms of drinking the “poison” of string theory, I haven’t really found many really good presentations of string theory in book or lecture note form. Though if I had to choose one, I would probably pick Kiritsis’s “intro to superstring theory” lecture notes

    though it seems to be a bit dated these days.

    None of the books like Green/Schwarz/Witten, Polchinski, or Zwiebach seem to be satisfactory for the most part. I mainly learned string theory from reading various lecture notes and original papers, when Green/Schwarz/Witten was not being very clear.

  2. Alejandro says:

    Indeed. I never know if to refer the book as CdWD or BMB. Typical problem about married/maiden names. In any case, the underlying point is that for geometry and tensors one must have a index-based book and a index-free one.

    Off topic, some old news about Fomenko:

  3. D R Lunsford says:

    Ugh THAT book…


  4. Peter Woit says:

    I assume Alejandro means

    Analysis, Manifolds and Physics by Yvonne Choquet-Bruhat, Cecile Dewitt-Morette and Margaret Dillard-Bleick

  5. Anonymous says:

    “The book from the three girls”?

  6. JC says:

    Over the years I got the sense many field theory books seemed to fit into one of two categories:

    (I) books which are pedagogical and relatively “easy” to read and learn from

    (II) books which are hard to read and difficult to learn from

    Peskin/Schroder, Feynman’s QED, Griffith’s particle physics, Ryder, Bjorken & Drell, etc … seem to fit into the first category (I).

    Itzykson/Zuber, Zinn-Justin, Weinberg, Faddeev/Slavnov, Berestetskii/Lifshitz/Pitaevskii’s QED, etc … seem to fit into the second category (II).

    The second category (II) books seem to be akin to Dirac’s quantum mechanics book, which is very nice once one knows the subject but is terrible for a first book to learn from.

  7. Alejandro says:

    Dubrovin-Novikov-Fomenko I like too. I use jointly with the book from the three girls.

  8. h says:

    Is this new book readable for a mathematician? In any case, what book do you recommend for a mathematician (student) who wants to learn QFT?
    I don’t need the usual mathematical precision, but I do need clear indication of the underlying structures (imho the lack of this is what makes it very hard for math people to read physics literature) and also some sort of “big picture”.
    I know Weinberg, that’s an example of what I cannot read. I also know the double IAS volume “Quantum Fields and Strings: A Course For Mathematicians”, that is like chinese… (the target audience of that is very narrow I think)

  9. Anonymous says:

    I on the other hand enjoyed Itzykson & Zuber’s textbook. It was very clear, easy to read, complete and intuitive. Generally, I like old style textbooks, alot more physics unlike “modern” crap. Combine Itzykson/Zuber with Slavnov/Faddeev’s book on gauge field theory + Dubrovin-Novikov-Fomenko for fantastic diff. geom. and you are good to go.

  10. Juan R. says:

    What are the main conflictive points of usual QFT (beyond renormalization of course)?

    I used some textbooks like QED by Feynmann and the first two volumes by Weinberg, but I dislike with both.

    Feynman is a calculation recipe based in many asumptions and “intuition”.

    Weinberg’s manual is a unsatisfactory attempt to present us an axiomatic view of the field.

  11. I find Robin Ticciati’s “Quantum Field Theory for Mathematicians” a very good book. The title is somewhat misleading. It covers basically the same material as Peskin & Schroeder, but does not shy away from the fine points. In fact, for it being a bit more formal, I found it more clear than Peskin & Schroeder.

  12. I agree Itzykson/Zuber is hard, but it’s interesting as a reference because they go into all sorts of details. (Incidentally I attended J.B. Zuber’s lectures, and they were way clearer that their book)

    What do you think of Ticciati’s QFT for mathematicians ? I haven’t been through all of it yet but I like its mathematical clarity.

  13. Alejandro says:

    What about Huang? His book on the Standard Model is very readable, and now I have ordered (not received yet) his QFT book, which seems to be a complement.

  14. JC says:

    Years ago I first learned quantum field theory from both T.D. Lee’s “particle physics & intro to field theory” book, and Feynman’s quantum electrodynamics book. They were not exactly the best books at the time.

    Ryder’s quantum field theory book seems to be one of those books which looks “deceptively simple”. On the surface you think you understand what’s going on, but you really don’t.

  15. Carl Brannen says:

    I&Zuber: This really was horrid. Long and hard to understand.

    B&Drell: Unfortunately, I lost my copy, which I
    miss. But it is dated.

    Weinberg: The concentration, at least at first, is on what can be deduced from Lorentz symmetry. I don’t like this text. I should admit that I also doubt that Lorentz symmetry is exact, and that the assumption that it is has held physics back. For example:

    Peskin&Schroeder: This is my favorite. It is widely used as a text and for good reasons. My only complaint is the part where they quantize the Dirac equation as bosons.

    Zee: I have this, but I don’t read it much. My belief is that one should have as many QFT books as possible because different ways of expressing the same theory help one in understanding. If I recall, it starts with a description of field theory from bed springs.

    Ramond: I hated it when it was new, and now it’s dated.

    Brown: This book has some interesting expositions but I can’t stand the typography. Dr. Brown is professor emeritus at a local school (UW), and his text is used there.

    Ryder: This one I don’t have. I guess I will order it and see if I learn anything.

    We should put together a list of guage theory books, and for those of us who have tasted the poison, string theory texts.

  16. DMS, I join in your gasp to “Itzykson and Zuber”, the book that devastated one whole generation of physicists (mine). Perhaps the motivation to go (to escape) towards strings? I have also some doubts about Weinberg, because he, after all, is a disbeliever, seeing every QFT as an “effective theory”, but no more.

    I wished the Bjorken Drell were scanned somewhere, or at least cheaply reprinted. And wonder about these Coleman’s QFT lectures.

    Besides Schwinger, also some frenchies were into the source theory. A young Kastler, I believe. But they are better at Critical Phenomena. Zinn-Justin and Le Bellac. For Schwinger action plainly, the Dyson 1951 lectures. In the net:

  17. D R Lunsford says:

    DMS – I highly recommend the Maggiore book, if for no other reason than the worked problems.


  18. DMS says:

    I am always interested in learning about QFT, and will pick up a copy of Nair’s book. I have not seen Maggiore’s book. Gone are the days when the only references were Bjorken and Drell and Itzykson and Zuber (Ugh!).

    Three of my favourites on QFT are:

    * Weinberg’s QFT (of course). It is needlessly too complicated in parts (especially early on in Volume 1), but has excellent, modern discussion of various topics. Plus, it has the classic references, and is very to up-to-date (Weinberg having conferred with the experts on the topics). Even though his third volume on SUSY is not as complete, I found his discussion very well explained (despite his notation).

    * Zee’s QFT: It has very nice discussion of several topics.

    * Siegel’s Fields (on arxiv): Although highly idiosyncratic, it is an excellent book that teaches one a lot of things not found in many books. Plus, you cannot beat the price!

    But I have also heard that Coleman’s QFT lectures at Harvard (not to be confused with his classic Aspects of Symmetry) are exceptionally clear. I am not aware if it available online.

  19. pfedor says:

    Hello. Until now I only lurked your blog (which I find very interesting), but today’s topic is of particular interest for me, since it’s my ambition to really learn QFT at some point in life (sadly, I didn’t manage to do it during my studies). So forgive me a few questions.

    How does this book compare with Weinberg’s “The quantum theory of fields”? Does it contain material that cannot be found in Weinberg’s book? Is it easier? Harder? Which one would you recommend to someone who used to study heavily Peskin & Schroeder but only managed to understand about 2/3 of the material (I remember that most difficult were the parts about anomalies and operator expansion)? Does prof. Parameswaran’s book include any discussion of bound states?

    With best regards,


  20. Anonymous says:

    Real men learn QFT from the collected works of Julian Schwinger.

  21. D R Lunsford says:

    On another level, a new book by Michele Maggiore replaces Sakurai as a beginner’s book, and includes solved problems! I would recommend this book to any first-timer.

    Maggiore, “A Modern Introduction to QFT” (Oxford)


  22. Alejandro says:

    There is a nascent new generation of books. Zee, Huang, now Nair. Curious.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Off topic, but regular readers of this blog will want to see this exchange, where string theorist Eva Silverstein schools Lubos Motl for his overreliance on straw man arguments.

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