Brief Book Review: Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman

‘I was always dumb in that way. I never knew who I was talking to. I was always worried about the physics. If the idea looked lousy, I said it looked lousy. If it looked good, I said it looked good. Simple proposition.’

Biographies are autopsies. We pick apart a life to discover their faded footsteps through time. However, unlike most biographies, Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman doesn’t focus on what we might find memorable about Richard Feynman, but what Richard Feynman finds memorable about his own life.

Those looking for a blow-by-blow account of science and discovery from the heart of the Manhattan Project should to look elsewhere. Richard Feynman has an extraordinary ability to understand his audience, and despite his many incredible discoveries, he spends the book telling relatable, funny and often trivial stories from his life. We get as much insight into the famous physicist through the rapturous storytelling than the stories themselves. From lock picking his co-worker’s safes, to learning the banjo in Brazil, these stories are fuelled by an unending curiosity and determination to understand how everything works. The most memorable come not from the laboratory, but from spending time with people far outside the realm of science.

Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman is written with a healthy perspective, told honestly and without malice. It’s a joyful read from a man with no regrets.

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