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"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character [Kindle Edition]

Richard P. Feynman , Ralph Leighton , Edward Hutchings , Albert R. Hibbs
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (629 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A New York Times bestseller—the outrageous exploits of one of this century's greatest scientific minds and a legendary American original.


Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, thrived on outrageous adventures. Here he recounts in his inimitable voice his experience trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and Bohr and ideas on gambling with Nick the Greek; cracking the uncrackable safes guarding the most deeply held nuclear secrets; accompanying a ballet on his bongo drums; painting a naked female toreador. In short, here is Feynman's life in all its eccentric—a combustible mixture of high intelligence, unlimited curiosity, and raging chutzpah.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A series of anecdotes shouldn't by rights add up to an autobiography, but that's just one of the many pieces of received wisdom that Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman (1918-88) cheerfully ignores in his engagingly eccentric book, a bestseller ever since its initial publication in 1985. Fiercely independent (read the chapter entitled "Judging Books by Their Covers"), intolerant of stupidity even when it comes packaged as high intellectualism (check out "Is Electricity Fire?"), unafraid to offend (see "You Just Ask Them?"), Feynman informs by entertaining. It's possible to enjoy Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman simply as a bunch of hilarious yarns with the smart-alecky author as know-it-all hero. At some point, however, attentive readers realize that underneath all the merriment simmers a running commentary on what constitutes authentic knowledge: learning by understanding, not by rote; refusal to give up on seemingly insoluble problems; and total disrespect for fancy ideas that have no grounding in the real world. Feynman himself had all these qualities in spades, and they come through with vigor and verve in his no-bull prose. No wonder his students--and readers around the world--adored him. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

History will remember Nobel Prize–winning physicist Feynman (1918–1988), for his work in quantum physics and his role in the investigation of the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. Contemporary readers and listeners, however, will remember him best for his reputation as a free-thinking iconoclast whose personal adventures were hilarious, insightful and inspiring. Todd does a fabulous job of conveying Feynman's infectious enthusiasm and childlike sense of wonder with his energetic portrayal of the scientist. He's adept even in difficult sections, such as when Feynman "speaks Italian" and "Chinese"—inventing completely made-up but accurate sounding languages. Todd does a good job of portraying Feynman's inquisitive manner and conveys the book's message and attitude with aplomb. While he sounds nothing like the late physicist (Feynman— the subject of James Gleick's Genius—had a thick Long Island accent and sounded more like a cross between Yogi Bear and The Honeymooners' Ed Norton), Todd's clean, polite voice is a revelation. Based on the Norton paperback. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1207 KB
  • Print Length: 356 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (June 28, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003V1WXKU
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,193 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
194 of 204 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Open Palm September 23, 2002
Format:Paperback
A late relative of mine, a world-renowned physicist, once said: "One has to be an open palm. As soon as it clenches into a fist, the person looses the ability to learn and to enjoy new things. And that is the onset of old age".
Looking at our parents and grandparents, older colleagues, and now increasingly often at my own contemporaries and at myself, I am beginning to understand what a hard task it is - to remain an open palm.
Almost no one avoids the nostalgic illusion - in our better days snow was whiter and girls prettier, and what we've been taught is the only correct doctrine. One only sees how ridiculous such claims are when confronted with a different, higher breed of people, who remain curious and young at heart at any age. Richard Feynman was one of such people.
In case someone does not know, Richard Feynman was a physicist, a Nobel prize winner, a participant of the Manhattan project, the founder of quantum mechanics. I have no idea what it is; they say, though, that a new race of computers will shortly change our world and our perception of it; these computers will be supposedly built on principles foreseen by Feynman.
Feynman's book, subtitled "Adventures of a Curious Character", is his memoir - not written down, but narrated in conversations with a close friend. It is very clear that nothing surpassed his ardent passion for physics. When Feynman spoke about his subject, he rejected all notions of etiquette and subordination; Nils Bohr and Einstein could discuss their new ideas only with him - other colleagues just gaped in awe at any dictum of theirs. Feynman writes about the very *process* of discovery - this is probably the only sincere and authentic description of scientific creativity of such scale in literature.
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160 of 172 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique moments from the life of a unique man. December 4, 2000
By Spiff
Format:Paperback
It is not often that you see a Nobel-winner physicist behaving the way Feynman did, with such humour mixed with an obviously enormous amount of knowledge. Feynman was no ordinary physicist and no ordinary citizen, a rebel who could not be forced to behave like many around him.
This is probably the first Feynman book you should read, and it is indeed a book that anyone interested in science with a touch of good humour MUST read. While I am definitely not a fan of those "just read it" reviews, if you are still questioning if Feynman's thoughts are worth your money, I have to say "think no more, and go for it"
I strongly suggest getting "What do you care what other people think"? in the same amazon order so you can read it right after. It is a book which basically shares the same type of structure, but includes more thoughts on Feynman's youth, and a more emotional story about his first wife Arlene. Both titles are full of wisdom and fun. A good 3 rd title is "Most of the good stuff". It might be useful to mention that these titles often appear to have no chronological order, and the new Feynman reader might be left somewhat confused about when and why the events where happening. That is why you should also get the excellent biography of Feynman, "Genius", by James Gleick, which will definitely solve that problem.
For those who are worried about any massive amount of math and physics, fear not. That is obviously part of Feynman's work, but it is not essential for the books I mentioned. (But it is true that knowledge of the 2 subjects will probably make some thoughts more understandable. When it comes to math I often know what Feynman is talking about, as I had several years of nasty math classes in college, but when he is lost in his world of high physics, I am often left scratching my head...)
Unique moments from the life of a unique man. Highly recommended!
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131 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful collection of Feynman's zany adventures! February 13, 2000
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a jewel. One would be hard pressed to find a more comical and enjoyable book to read - anywhere. Feynman is the scientist who breaks (or should I say, shatters?) the stereotype of the lab-coat physicist who wears thick, taped up glasses. The great Richard P. Feynman is a testament to how great we as a race can me. I like to think of him as a cross between Goethe & Robin Williams (and I do NOT mean that in any sort of deragatory way). As a physicist, he was top notch, but as a person he was something even more. He had a marvelous sense of humor & enjoyed playing pranks on people. His love of life spilled over to all the people he met during his sojourn on the planet. I only wish that I had been one of those lucky few to have met & known him personally. Perhaps what is most remarkable about him is that he had friends from all walks of life. Many were scientists, yes, but many more were "ordinary" people off the street. That is rather noteworthy given the fact that so many Ivy league-calibre professors feel that they too "intellectually gifted" to associate with the rest of we mere mortals. Someone once said that Edwin Hubble wasn't a humble man, but then again, Hubble didn't have very much to be humble about. I would argue that one could say the latter of Feynman as well, but not the former. READ THIS BOOK and share the experiences of one of the most extraordinary and yet fun loving personages of the 20th century (if not all time). I guarantee it will make you laugh like few other books you will ever read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius
Yes, he was a genius physicist, but he was also a genius communicator and funny to boot. These anecdotes show what a love of life he had and inspire you to make the most of life. Read more
Published 2 days ago by A. Hallatt
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.
Many laughs and much to take away from this book. A great read.
Published 4 days ago by Brian Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent witty read
Published 6 days ago by MG
4.0 out of 5 stars Cool stories by an interesting guy!
Cool stories by an interesting guy!
Published 7 days ago by Tedric O. Potzka
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Just as described, quick ship!
Published 7 days ago by Kimmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Interesting from beginning to end.
Published 8 days ago by Michael Burlison
5.0 out of 5 stars jonnymagic
Just awesome. Funny, informative. Feynman is a great storyteller. I'm now going to find a bunch more of his books and read them.
Published 8 days ago by Jon Finkel
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
What a great book!
Published 10 days ago by Carole M
5.0 out of 5 stars "Are you kidding me?"
"Are you kidding me"...was my expression throughout this book. Being a scientist, reading about inspirational people like RPF is always a pleasure. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Tuhin Sinha
5.0 out of 5 stars ignoring the nobel prize
what can you expect of an honest human who contributed to the further discovery of human and universal nature?! Read more
Published 16 days ago by Florin Tibre
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Why "You Just Ask Them?" worked for Feynman about getting intimate with...
He's spot on.

It's pretty basic - if a girl believes a guy is lower value than her she loses attraction. Supplicating (ie. "buying" her affection, putting her on a pedestal, etc) is the last thing you want to do as a first impression. The thing is when you first meet someone you know... Read More
Apr 8, 2011 by Beau J. Randall |  See all 2 posts
the paradox of Feynman
I enjoyed his book. Just a few random comments. I found his bongo playing adventures interesting in that such a smart guy found it difficult to be good at it. I especially enjoyed his social error at Princeton regarding the lemon and milk in his tea.

His view of the world shows that the... Read More
Jun 16, 2007 by L. Murray |  See all 5 posts
Albert Einstein's theory of gravity is generally explained in a wrong way Be the first to reply
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