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I like big books.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! - Richard P. Feynman Ok. Feynman himself of course gets five stars, and I think my four star rating is mostly a reflection of my own slight disappointment at there being so little science in the anecdotes presented. I think I just had an expectation that any autobiography of Feynman would be centrally focused on his life's work and his passion and what I found out instead is that everything Feynman did he was passionate about! And boy does he have some stories to tell.

The book is mostly anecdotal. There's no real flowing narrative from youth to adulthood and oftentimes the stories skip around based on themes that he's covering. In a way, it adds to the charm of the book rather than detracting from it. It's almost as if you're sitting down with him in his office as he's relating the major chapters of his life to you in a casual and friendly way. (In many ways, I believe this is exactly what it is. The end of the book contains some reference to recorded conversations with friends being consulted for many of the stories related in the book.) The stories flow naturally in a manner that mimics the way that memory works. Different stories lead him to different recollections along the same lines to events spaced throughout his life, which by all accounts, including this one, seemed full, funny, preposterous, and rewarding.

All in all, this book put together a completely different picture of the famous scientist than the one I was accustomed to. His chief concern was living life to its fullest, going on adventures and getting into as much trouble as possible. Encapsulated between are little nuggets of wisdom about life, work and the meaning behind the big issues of his time. The most interesting thing to learn about the man was just how accomplished he was in other fields besides physics, from art to music and back to biology and genetics. Truly a man passionate about learning and committed to doing things right and satisfying every intellectual itch that occurred to him in the most straightforward way possible. The story is tremendously inspiring.

If only there were more recollections of his work! I have the feeling, though, that he probably felt that much of it was so technical that the average reader wouldn't be able to decipher it. Great teacher that he was, he explained what he could, and what he felt would have gone over most of our heads, he limits to his feelings and impressions. A very fun read.