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Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) Paperback – April 17, 1997
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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. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I have started this translation method with my 7 year old and its now become this fun(ny) exercise. Easier to remember facts and provides a perspective that is relatable.
Do yourself a favour and get to know this man!
The book consist of 5 parts, which are roughly equal to five important periods in Feynman's life. These are: 1) His early pre-university life, 2) His university life, 3) Involvement in the Manhattan project, 4) Early years as a professor, and 5) Later years as a physicist and professor. Each of these parts consist of small chapters that tell a situation (usually funny or weird) in which he got himself and his usually odd reactions in that situation.
Throughout the book, there is this honest, smart, jokingly view on life. Feynman did experiments. Not just experiments in physics but experiments in life. He would try out things to see if he could do it or to see how people would react. That attitude of experimenting and learning always got him in weird situations and this book is full of those. Example? As a boy trying to imitate Italian (and getting away with it). Removing doors from classmates and so honestly admitting that he did it that nobody believed him (hilarious!). Pick-locking safes. Playing Brazilian instruments. Doing out to Vegas to hand out with gamblers and show women. Proof reading secondary school science books and actually reading them :)
This was one of these books which I found myself laughing out loud quite often. Many of the stories made such an impression that I went off to tell other people about it as they stuck with me (especially the genius experiment with water, a glass and a tip). Everytime when I read more of it, I got more excited about the book and I was actually very sad when I finished the book. It is a book I'll probably re-read (and enjoy as much the second time). It isn't a book about physics or about a specific topic, it is purely a book about Richard Feynman... a curious character... indeed. Five stars, recommended for people who want to read an interesting and fun book.
I think Feynman sounds like "one hell of a great guy." He isn't a great author, but the book is immensely readable and a lot of fun. Plus, for me anyway, I learned a lot about myself. He definitely had me beat in the IQ department, but I think we had a lot in common...Namely intense curiosity from an early age. I enjoyed reading how that manifested itself in a genius.
When I finished this book, I immediately bought Feynman's "What Do You Care....", and after that "Six Not So Easy Pieces....". Think I'm finally Feynman-ed out, but I'm glad I read his books.
Richard Feynman was one of the truly great minds of the twentieth century, and his lectures are considered some of the most important works of hard science to date by the overwhelming number of physical scientists in the world. This book discusses physics in language accessible to most anyone, yet has an urbane sophistication and sense of humor about it that is able to entertain a wide variety of readers. I recommend it to anyone who wants to look inside the world of a genuine genius. Inside that world they will discover insights about science, music, societal values, the educational system, and much more, while simultaneously skewering pompous blowhards who feel superior to others due to education or upbringing.
Truly Feynman was a genius for the masses; this is my favorite of his books, but I recommend them all.