A review of sorts…
If you already recognised physicist Richard Feynman from his picture, then you’re probably already sold on this post. If you’re not familiar with his life and work at all, then you’re exactly who this post is meant for.
In much the same way as another of my personal heroes Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman has become a hugely iconic figure (putting aside the considerable and numerous achievements and accolades of his working life) as a populariser of not just his own fields of study, but of the appeal of interest, passion and intelligence in general.
To keep a long story short, I’m not particularly fond of review writing. The temptation is too strong to be overly verbose and I nearly always feel like I come across as an egotistical and attention-seeking writer in retrospect.
But once in a while a book, an album or something else that’s just so damn good makes me suspend my self-doubt for long enough to write down just enough words to recommend it to everyone else.
This is a particularly strong example of one of those times.
I find it hard to come upon books (read: authors) which speak to me. This is a particular problem in the field of fiction, so I often find myself reading biographies.
“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” isn’t really a biography. It’s a collection of personally dictated stories from Feynman’s life (as told to author Ralph Leighton). And yet it gives such a good insight into his mind that you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d written it down. Come to that, given the astonishing nature of his life, you’d also be forgiven for thinking it was fiction!
I won’t go on, because it would be too easy. I could rave about this book. I have. If you have a passing interest in anything, you will love this book. Every story is a gem. It speaks of a man’s true passion for understanding everything about the world we find ourselves in, and it’s infectious. And if anybody reading it has an experience in their life which has anything approaching the retelling value of just ONE of those in this book, then that story will surely be told many times, to many people.
There’s not much more to say. Five Stars. Full marks. The best book I’ve ever read that I can call to memory, fiction or otherwise.
And if you’re still umming and ahhhhing, pick a story from the book at random (you can find it online), and read it. You’ll go on to read many more. Or skip to a random point in the following video. You’ll like him. He’s Richard Feynman.