Whether you’re studying materials science in university, working in the industry, or looking for an engineering-themed gift, these resources may prove useful to you!

On this page we’re presenting our favorite textbooks, toys, software, and (soon) even more!

As a PhD student (and teaching assistant) I have used many of these textbooks or toys for my classes, or for fun science demonstrations. These are the products that I recommend, or use myself.

Recommended Textbooks

If you are in school, of course you’ll need whatever textbook your professor requires. In many cases, however, that textbook won’t be very good. Whether you’re trying to learn a subject on your own, or looking for something to supplement your class, here are the textbooks I’ve found most useful in my studies.

All of these textbooks are commonly used in different universities, so you can probably find illegal copies online, for free. If you’d rather pay for the textbook, I’ve included an affiliate link for each one (even if you buy something else on Amazon, if you enter Amazon from these links I’ll still get a small commission).

Introduction to Materials Science: Callister

The proper title for this book is Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction by William D. Callister and David G. Rethwisch. I believe the current edition is the 10th edition, but unless you need to follow exact page numbers in class, an earlier edition has all the same information, just presented in a slightly different order. 

I have a physical copy of the 4th edition which I bought in high school and used for undergrad, and my wife has a PDF of the 8th edition which she used in her master’s program, so I can guarantee that they are almost the same, and although I haven’t bought the 10th edition, I doubt it has changed much either. I’m linking to the 10th edition, but just buy a cheaper, older edition.

This book covers every materials science topic at a basic level. Even if you are not a student, if you are interested in learning the basics of materials science, this is the #1 textbook for you. If you are a university student, this book contains most of the knowledge you’ll learn in your undergraduate degree.

Whenever I got stuck in one of my advanced classes, I would always come back to this book and read the relevant chapter. Callister does a great job explaining the philosophies behind these concepts, so you have a solid base to understand advanced concepts in advanced classes. From mechanical properties, to polymers, to corrosion, to crystallography; Callister covers it all.

The book is also a great reference for material properties–and though I often try to find other sources when I tabulate material properties on this site–many times, Callister is simply the best reference.

Thermodynamics: de Hoff

I found Robert de Hoff’s Thermodynamics in Materials Science to be a rather dry read, but it was definitely better than what I had to read in grad school. I’m not sure there’s an amazing textbook about thermodynamics, but de Hoff’s is the best from what I’ve seen. Here is the link to this book.

Sorry that’s not a stellar recommendation, but if you prefer a different thermodynamics textbook, you can always contact us with your recommendation.

Phase Transformations: Porter and Easterling

Phase Transformations in Metals and Alloys by David A. Porter, Kenneth E. Easterling, and Mohamed Y. Sherif was not a book I enjoyed the first time around. I skimmed the required chapters for my basic phase transformation class, but I really appreciated this book once I took advanced metallurgy classes. If you’re interested in buying Phase Transformations by Porter and Easterling, click this link. This book is fairly affordable, and is my #2 recommendation for MSE books to have a physical copy (after Callister).

This book combines thermodynamics with explanations of the results in real life alloy processes, in a way that helped me understand thermodynamics better. The professor of my graduate course on phase transformations bashed this book because the math was not rigorous enough, but I think this book is great for helping you develop your intuition for how alloys behave, based on fundamental principles.

Environmental Materials: Ashby

Mike Ashby’s Materials and the Environment: An Eco-Informed Choice is the only textbook on my list which I never had to read for class. Ashby is a legend among materials scientists, and I found this relatively new textbook while looking for different materials properties. Ashby is also the creator of CES Edupack (and his namesake Ashby plots), which is a great software for materials selection.

This textbook goes into great detail about the different kinds of environmental impact that materials can have (for example, one material may be more-easily recycled, but another material may be less dense and therefore require less fuel when transporting it). It’s also a great repository of materials properties (including properties like strength or conductivity, which are not directly related to environmental impact), if you don’t have a CES Edupack license.

You may be able to find this book for free from your university library, but if it’s not available, you can always get it from Amazon.

Recommended Toys

Neither my wife Ewelina nor myself have outgrown our inner child 🙂 As soon as we started this website, we used it as an excuse to purchase some visualization tools (aka: toys)

If you want to visualize molecules or crystal unit cells, you can use software like CrystalMaker or VESTA; make models with styrofoam and toothpicks (or cheese balls and toothpicks), or build crystals with magnetic stick-and-ball toys.

This is the magnetic stick-and-ball toy that I recommend.

I actually bought the 150 pieces (instead of 206 pieces) and realized that I needed just a few more pieces if I wanted to make 2 crystal structures simultaneously (such as comparing FCC to HCP). Otherwise, the magnets were strong and I wasted a few afternoons playing with them “for science.” At the time I bought those, they were the best price, and I can vouch for their quality. I’ll review Amazon’s offers periodically, and update this recommendation if I notice a better deal.

Recommended Software

I am an experimental materials scientist, but I’ve had to use a handful of computational tools. I often see people on reddit ask what programs they should learn to get a head start into grad school, so here is my short list.

Crystal Viewing: VESTA

I actually can’t say I’ve used much of VESTA, but I know it’s free and this is the program that my colleagues have recommended to me. If you want to play around with crystal structures, VESTA is a good place to start.

Finite Element Method (FEA or FEM): ABAQUS or COMSOL

I’ve used both Abaqus and COMSOL in my studies, and I can’t say I have a preference for either. Both will require a license, so use the one that your school has a license for 🙂


If there was one skill that I wish I had learned in undergrad, that skill would be basic programming. Both MATLAB and python can get the job done, but MATLAB is more focused for scientific calculation and graphs, while python is a general programming language. Python is also free, but you’d need a license to use MATLAB.

As a complete beginner, I found MATLAB easier to get started with my graduate work, but I would like to learn python so I have a usable tool after I graduate and my student MATLAB license expires.