Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
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Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  48,077 ratings  ·  1,783 reviews
Richard Feynman (1918-1988), winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, thrived on outrageous adventures. Here he recounts in his inimitable voice his experience trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and Bohr and ideas on gambling with Nick the Greek; cracking the uncrackable safes guarding the most deeply held nuclear secrets; painting a naked female toreador - and muc...more
Paperback, 350 pages
Published April 12th 1997 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1985)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Emily
This book of anecdotes is written in a very casual, fun way that makes it easy to read. The problem is that the author, Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Dick Feynman, is annoying. All the anecdotes involve him discovering a hidden talent, using it, delighting others (or himself if that's his real goal) and then being applauded for it (sometimes only by himself). For example, he discovers that he's a great artist, musician, safecracker, and critic. Everything revolves around him showing off and bein...more
Penny
Actually I originally read this book when I worked at Scribners in 1989, but remembered how great it is and reread it a few months ago.

Feynman is a physicist who taught at Cornell and Princeton, worked on the Manhattan Project and won the Nobel Prize. He's also a complete hoot. The book is a series of autobiographical stories -- pranks pulled as a student at MIT and at Los Alamos, teaching himself to paint, scientific discoveries he made, his three marriages, how he was rejected by the draft boa...more
Otis Chandler
Jun 01, 2008 Otis Chandler rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Curious cats
Recommended to Otis by: Adrian
Shelves: nonfiction, science
This book was a pure delight. The subtitle "Adventures of a Curious Character" is spot-on. Feynman gave an amazingly human and honest view into his philosophy and take on life, thought a series of stories.

One thing that struck me most deeply was his passion for learning new things. You would think a world-famous Physicist would just be passionate for Physics - but Feynman was curious about everything he saw. He dabbled in art and was successful enough to have a show, he joined a Brazilian Bongo...more
Manny
Everyone has a collection of favorite stories that they enjoy telling; but it's unusual for the stories to be so good that a friend insists on writing them down, so that other people can appreciate them too. When I read this book, I almost feel that Feynman's telling the stories himself. Well, when that happens in real life, you always want to join in; here's my personal best effort at a Feynman-type anecdote. I hope it's now far enough in the past that the people concerned will see the funny si...more
Peter Frazier
This amusing little book of anecdotes had an alarmingly influential role in my life. It convinced me of the odd notion that it would be a good idea to go to Caltech and major in physics. In retrospect, this would have been a better idea had I been born around 1930 and was starting my scientific career around 1940, but nowadays it's a tough slog in physics, both money-wise and also discovery-wise. I think that people like Bohr and Planck and Einstein and Feynman discovered all the good stuff in p...more
Inder
Apr 15, 2008 Inder rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Inder by: Dad
Laugh out loud funny. My dad read this outloud to us when we were kids - I'm guessing at the exact year - and the whole family literally cried with laughter many times during the performance.

Feyman's other memoirs are good too, but this is the funniest. I still think of it often. For instance, every time I use a combination lock, I think of his safe-cracking phase, and how it's every child's dream to learn how to crack safes and get at all that secret and valuable stuff. Which really sums up th...more
Steve
There’s presumably a rule where only smart people are awarded Nobel Prizes in Physics. Richard Feynman was no exception. This memoir is filled with anecdotes from his childhood spent fixing radios, his experiences as a young man doing bomb research at Los Alamos up through his days as a renowned professor at Cal Tech. The central theme was always that this is one smart cookie. It was interesting to pick up on his thought processes. It probably didn’t feature as much pure science as most of his o...more
Tess J
Listen, I read this a long time ago but here's the thing about it. I'm a big sience fan, and I've always heard how brilliant and funny Richard Feynman was, especially because of his connection to the UofC. But I loathed this book. I suppose it's a memoir, and I don't know if it's ghost written or not, but what was supposed to endear me to Mr Feynman made him revolting to me. According to this book, he treated other people like dirt and thought it was hilarious, he correlated pure intelligence wi...more
Irena
This book's been recommended to me by my boyfriend and after giving it a 5-page trial, I got sucked right into it!

I partially read it, partially listened to the audiobook (which was, imho, done really well and was so pleasant to listen to while doing puzzle or gaming or whatnot).

I loved the very beginning, his childhood, where he was so curious and so sweet about his early discoveries. The rest of his science-related work as well as hobbies (drumming, painting, lock-picking, math duels, pranks,...more
Leippya
Oct 24, 2008 Leippya rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Everybody
Shelves: real-people
A fascinating read, and also surprisingly hilarious! I didn't expect to burst out laughing while reading the autobiography of a physicist but that's what ended up happening -- Feynman definitely was a first class prankster! Although physics are often mentioned, you don't need to really know about it to be able to enjoy the book; this is more about his life than his work. It's a joy to read about how much this man enjoys learning, not only physics but also music (bongo player!), painting and so o...more
Lance Greenfield
Brilliant, inspirational and very funny!

There can be no argument that Richard P Feynman was a genius. He has been a hero of mine since I was very young, probably because my father also greatly admires him and spoke to me about Feynman and his unique personality from time to time.

There are some great stories in this book and they will make you laugh out loud. Feynman was always so full of life and he was curious about absolutely everything from a very early age. He would always want to know, "How...more
Nick
One of the problems with reading a book written by a genius is that you have to ask yourself whether any perceived deficiencies in the text are due to the author, or due to your own failure to comprehend his brilliance. That said, I wasn't thrilled by this book. On a purely technical level, it would have benefited from a stronger editor. While there's a rough chronological order to the material, there tends to be a lot of jumping around both within and between the chapters. A few times, Feynman...more
Michael
I did like some of the book. I found it to be rather rambling and disjointed. Mr. Feynman was far more intelligent than me and most other men or women. A result of that superiority was that his many little stories just went over my head. I have a background in electronics which enabled me to understand a few of the memories he put in this book. If I had more physics or mathematics in my education, like my friend Andrew, possibly I would have enjoyed the book more and rated it maybe with four sta...more
BetseaK
This audiobook is both informative and very entertaining. It feels like you're listening to Mr. Feynman telling a series of anecdotes from his life to a friend. The book gives the reader/listener a marvellous insight into Mr. Feynman's scientific mind and I would recommend this book to anyone interested to learn more about his curious and playful personality.
Only a small part is about physics, told in a bit humorous conversational style. My favourite parts were the sketches from Mr. Feynman's P...more
Asails F
I found myself unable to make fair judgement about: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character. One day I gave it three stars and another five. I should think that it certainly deserves five stars in that it is one of the few books that delve into the mind of a genius and gives some idea to their thought process's. My desire to write a review of this book are threefold:

I was stationed in Orlando Florida and it was mandatory that we watch the liftoff's.

After the Challeng...more
Elizabeth K.
This was disappointing, because I've been wanting to read this for a while because he is so renown for being quite the hilarious character as well as a Nobel prize-winning physicist. This is a collection of essays that serves as a memoir; many are not directly related to physics, but that's definitely the theme. After reading this, my conclusion is that Feynman was mostly a world class knob. He lost me fairly early into it, when he described how you could see physics in action in the everyday wo...more
Ensiform
The Nobel prize winning physicist, acclaimed drummer, artist, expert on Mayan astronomy, safecracker, prankster, etc, etc, tells “crazy adventures” of his life. They’re really not “crazy adventures,” these anecdotes; my own father's are easily just as rich and bizarre. Feynman came off to me as a somewhat unpleasant character: he was full to the brim of himself; his false modesty (“I’m too dim to realize when to keep my mouth shut, I just say what I think”) was cloying and annoying, as were his...more
Kururu
I feel that Feynman's character is sort of a mythos or legend of science and physicists because he was so peculiar. From what I've noticed this peculiarity has transfigured into some demi-god aura or status.
The book definitely helps substantiate that aura but it also cuts away from it. First off, we can tell that he is intensely curious, like all great scientists, and that leads to awkward situations. My favourite story, or rather factoid, is the one where he proves that urination doesn't use gr...more
Chris
A while back, I read another book by Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, and I wasn't all that thrilled with it. It was kind of disappointing at the time. I knew that Feynman's fame came not only from his scientific brilliance, but from the fact that he was a genuinely interesting, funny and mischievous person. I had hoped that I could find some of that in the book, but to no avail. And so I gave it away so that someone else could get the pleasure from it that I could not.

Still, I was n...more
Janice
i didn't really read this, but goodreads won't let you choose "read some of this and decided to throw it against a wall but then realized i was in a library and it's not cool to throw library books against a wall ..." i only got through one essay, chosen at random, because i've been curious about this book for a while. i had some time in the library one day and decided to attend to that curiosity. here's my re-enactment of said essay:

people don't think because they don't think the same way i do!...more
Roger
This is not an autobiography of Richard Feynman, but rather a collection of many anecdotes and reflections told by the Nobel Prize winning physicist to his close friend, Ralph Leighton. As such, it is rather disjointed and no attempt appears to have been made to join sections together in a seamless manner. Another consequence of this format is that it is not the complete story of his life. Nevertheless, it is a very entertaining, and somewhat amusing, work which provides a remarkable insight int...more
Jack
I found myself unable to make fair judgement about: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character. One day I gave it three stars and another five. I should think that it certainly deserves five stars in that it is one of the few books that delve into the mind of a genius and gives some idea to their thought process's. My desire to write a review of this book are threefold:

I was stationed in Orlando Florida and it was mandatory that we watch the liftoff's.

After the Challeng...more
Aasem Bakhshi
There ain't any books about stubborn men who are among the most curious creatures in the universe, love to play bongos and paint nude models, jump every now and then into sense-deprivation-hallucination-trigger capsules and master the art of moving their egos out of their bodies so that they can watch themselves from outside, can crack any damn safe in the world, steal people's doors, make an atom bomb, experiment with their own dreaming and ant psychology, study at MIT and Princeton, teach at C...more
Stephen
This is an excellent book that should be on anyone's top 50 books on Science. It captures the texture and spirit of the scientific community in an authentic voice of an important physicist who witnessed some of the most important science of the 20th Century, including the development of the atomic bomb. It is funny, personal and (sometimes brutally) honest. It makes scientific thinking transparent, allowing the reader to participate in science as a process or a mode of thinking. It allows outsid...more
David Boyce
This book has an unusual style. The book begins with a sickeningly smug nostalgic journey through the childhood of a genius. Feynman was clever, he knew it and he wanted to prove it to everyone he met with endless smug anecdotes from his childhood! He seemed forever uneasy, and so overcompensated by trying to be the life and sole of every party. He always attempting to get into situations that would make good stories later, probably so that he could hide behind this flamboyant image and keep peo...more
Suzanne
Without a doubt, this book will be on my list of all-time favorites, and definitely the best book I’ve read this year. In his autobiography – and I use that term loosely – Richard P. Feynman gives you an opportunity to not just learn a little about his life, but to get to know him. Reading his book is like sitting down with him and listening to him relate story after marvelous story.

Feynman was born in Queens, NY in 1918 (actually, I don’t think his date of birth was in the book, but I give it h...more
Anshul Thakur
‘Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman’ are the memoirs of Richard Phillips Feynman, a very interesting man and incidentally a noble laureate in Physics. Ralph Leighton collected these narrations over a span of seven years when the two drummed together. It is hard to believe that a single man can do so much in a lifetime as Feynman did. These are his experiences with the world in general seen from the perspective of a very curious and scientific pair of eyes, told in just the same flamboyant and unin...more
Beth Atwood
What a guy Feynman was! He showed in innate genius at a young age that persisted throughout his life. Just the few things I really admire about him...instead of going on sabbatical he completeley switched disciplines from physics to biology and actually did some pretty interesting experiments! He was incredibly clever and managed to crack several safes with some of the most top secret information about the Los Alamos project and the atomic bomb-which he worked on. He taught in Brazil, played in...more
Liz
Feb 21, 2009 Liz rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone who wonders how a scientist thinks
Recommended to Liz by: Mark--child genius
I found a 16 year old stranded at a coffee shop and gave him a ride home. This child turned out to be some sort of prodigy, who described his passion for physics, time travel and quarks.

I felt like a 3 year old, talking to a physics professor about a subject I have never studied. He was fascinating, inspiring and willing to explain complex theories--at my level of understanding.

When I dropped him off, I asked for a reading list of his favorite "beginner" physics books. The above is the first re...more
Jeremy Howe
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman Review

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" is a curious, well informed book. However it is lacking in many different departments, enough so that it made the book feel lifeless, boring, and empty. The book is basically about Richard Feynman, a pretentious, wise-cracking physics professor, and all of his adventures. He travels around the world, doing physics and stuff, and has an ending. The book has a rather straightforward beginning, sags on and feels clunky in...more
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Richard Phillips Feynman was an American physicist known for the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as work in particle physics (he proposed the parton model). For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman was a joint recipient of the Nobel Pr...more
More about Richard P. Feynman...
What Do You Care What Other People Think? Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics By Its Most Brilliant Teacher QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman The Feynman Lectures on Physics

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“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It's their mistake, not my failing.” 591 likes
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