- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (April 17, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393316041
- ISBN-13: 978-0393316049
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,004 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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.)
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Top customer reviews
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.
Dr. Feynman’s delight with life shines through everything--nothing gets him down for long. The reasons for this attitude are his ever-present compulsion to learn and discover, his urge to follow his insatiable curiosity (about everything!) wherever it might lead, his willingness to simply state whatever he thinks when asked, and his refusal to always take life so seriously. It is evident that Dr. Feynman has achieved what many can only dream of--living a meaningful and accomplished life while still being able to find absolute joy and fun in so much of how we spend that life.
It’s hard to imagine anyone that would not find this an interesting and enjoyable read. Although Dr. Feynman is a physicist, this is not a science book, and the reader really needs nothing in the way of a scientific background to fully enjoy it.
The book is divided into five parts corresponding to different parts of the author’s life. Within each part, the stories themselves are rarely more than half a dozen pages long, and none depend on the others. Although I read it cover-to-cover in order, it would be easy to open to any of the stories and read it independently. It is one of those books one could pick up when there are only a few minutes to read. But your experience may be like mine, and you may not want to put it down again!
Highly recommended for just about anyone!
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.