Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: Letters of Richard P. Feynman
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Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: Letters of Richard P. Feynman

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  1,106 ratings  ·  84 reviews
"One of the towering figures of twentieth-century science, Richard Feynman possessed a curiosity that was the stuff of legend. Even before he won the Nobel Prize in 1965, his unorthodox and spellbinding lectures on physics secured his reputation amongst students and seekers around the world. It was his outsized love for life, however, that earned him the status of an Ameri...more
cloth, 512 pages
Published April 5th 2005 by Basic Books (first published April 5th 2004)
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To my dearest R.P. Feynman:

Our love affair (read: my infatuation with you) started blooming years ago when I happened upon your lectures. Your wit, charm and intelligence was the triple combination that wooed me into bewilderment. For years I devoured anything I could find about you. I swooned over tales of your bongo skills. Your grace and humility when accepting the Nobel made my heart flutter. So when I came across your letters nothing could keep me from them. It has been a rare joy the past...more
This is my favorite of all the various Feynman books, because it's not cluttered up with Feynman playing the lovable, picaresque, eccentric. Instead of the slightly buffoonish public persona (or "curious character") he (or his publishers) seemed to feel compelled to present in his various autobiographical writings, the letters speak for themselves. And, to my mind, the picture they paint is ultimately far more flattering than that which he himself tried to present.

Sure, there are lapses - he is...more
Know those cheesy movie reviews that say "I laughed, I cried" and make you think that the reviewer never bothered to even watch the film? Yeah? Well, I actually did read this book. And it really did make me laugh. And it really did make me cry. And it really did teach me some physics and a few life lessons as well. The book covers about 50 years of Feynman's life from grad school through death via letters to and from him. It's a wonderful, compelling read and one that I'd recommend over and over...more
Yeah, sometimes Feynman's a cocky jerk, but aren't we all? These letters are just so darn lovely and human. For as many (often justified) snotty replies he gives, there are just as many instances of unexpectedness tenderness and support for people in the same quest to figure things out.

About a comment he made in the early '60s about the minds of women, he received loads of letters calling him sexist, an idiot, etc. When, in the more enlightened times of 1987, he was asked permission to reprint t...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
I am addicted to Feynman. Everything about him, everything he writes, anything about his life its a total addiction! Can't get enough. Surely your Joking Mr. Feynman was still the best though.
Well-organized and edited collection of letters, some to, most from Richard P. Feynman. Some of them are fascinating, some a bit dull, although which letters fall into which category probably depends on the reader. I most enjoyed the letters to his mother while in college; the congratulatory letters, and his responses, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize; his sharp responses to requests that he viewed as requiring him to violate his strongly-held principles (for example, asking him to attend a c...more
James Swenson
As you can tell by the title, Perfectly Reasonable Deviations... is a collection of letters written by Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman. To me, it was intriguing, and there are letters here that would appeal to anyone, but I think you'd have to be (like me) a Feynman fan already, anxious to know everything about the man, to enjoy reading the book from cover to cover.

Anyone considering reading this book should first read Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious C...more
I've read very few books of letters, biographies, and autobiographies, so I'm very much in the early stages of calibrating my scales. This is a good book. Not every letter is scintillating or contains a gleaming gem. A minor few seem to be included only for completeness. I would have lost only a little, in one sense, by reading a booklet of the best ten or so.

However, there are certainly gems to be found, some of them very fine, others more like nice shells you find on a beach and then hang ont...more
Maria Menozzi
I have been a fan of Feynman for some years now. I began with the Feynman essays in the collections then bought the lectures which I'm still getting through after several years. So I bought this heavy tome when it arrived a couple years ago and finally got a chance to delve into it this past month. It is really a thorough, well-drawn compilation of Feynman's life in letters and a reminder of what we have lost with our social media age. Letter writing is a lost art and I can't imagine an email co...more
Aram Sohigian
I listened to this on cd. Professor Feynman had a fantastic sense of himself and his strengths, and weaknesses, and it is interesting to hear how he lived his life through his own words. The letters that he wrote, and were wrote to him, are well narrated and given a real life to them. It shows a man who knew exactly who he was and what honor, truth, and scientific research means without becoming egocentric or self-involved. Truly a fantastic audiobook and person.
Wit UnWit
I didn't know who he was
what he did
which religion he professed
but i heard the man talk
and i was fascinated ever since!
i still remember his old face creased with lines
speaking of which
surely came by his constant excited expressions!
He obviously loved what he did
and moreover LOVED sharing it!
His excitement was Contagious!
Some really nice moments in amongst this collection of letters to and from Feynman, particularly the ones where he talks about how you should go about doing science. The answer, apparently, is to do whatever the hell you want, and only what you want. Sweet! I'm in.
Michael Anderson
There are boring sequences here, but the best of these letters, both to and from Feynman, reveal an ethical, courteous, modest, and intelligent man. He refused to accept honorary degrees, because he thought they devalued the degrees one had to work for. He played a big role in determining the technical cause of the '86 Space Shuttle accident. As a young man, during WWII, he was part of the Manhattan Project in New Mexico. He was considered a great teacher. All this is well known. What I liked wa...more
Sarah Kelleher
What a cool dude. I happened upon this book on my dad's shelf and it gave me giggles and chuckles, And it made me cry big dripping tears that landed in fat globs on the page. Feynman was awesome.
Este libro me lo recomendó un amigo que me dijo: “para este libro hacen falta muchos marcapáginas, para ir ponendo uno en cada página memorable”. El libro es soberbio. Es una recopilación de cientos de cartas que Feynman mandó y recibió durante su vida. Siendo como era un hombre ocupado, y más a partir de recibir el premio Nobel (que siempre describió como una lata (a pain in the neck), porque le quitaba tiempo para enseñar e investigar), sorprende el volumen de su correspondencia.

Su hija Michel

Matt Comstock
Intimate, almost too intimate, insights into Feyman's life. The letters to/from his first wife were poignant and painful to read.

I enjoyed Feynman's attitudes toward science: the ultimate 'truth' of which lies in experimentation, and life: find something you love doing, and do what you love.

I find myself wondering about our future. No one writes letters like this anymore. There won't be books like this in our future.

Some comments throughout - a letter from a guy comments that he didn't think muc...more
It was ok. It's a collection of Feynman's letters, which means exactly what it says - his correspondence with various people across his life. I'm not sure what I was looking for, but my feelings were really encapsulated in one of Feynman's own interviews, transcript in the appendix. He said that there were three types of people who asked him questions about his work; those who wanted to know what was in it for them (the new big development, would it make their cars faster etc). Those who wanted...more
I was really fascinated by physics in high school. I saw it as a heroic human endeavor: such a romantic view of it. It certainly was inspired by big names like Einstein, etc, households names people associated with geniuses, groundbreaking and revolutionary theories and so on. Who doesn't want to associate with such grandeur?

I knew Feynman a little later when I frequently visited the library in the Physics department in the University in Oslo in which I was majoring Informatics. I still wanted t...more
Beautiful insights into his personality from his letters. What a wonderful human being. RPF: Sorry to report higher mgmt has not changed.

page 405 RPF to John Young December 8, 1986 On the Challenger accident.
"I was particularly impressed by the careful analysis exhibition in the testimony of Mr Hartsfield, yourself and the other astronauts during one of our public meetings. It seemed that you were the only people thinking about the future, and the causes of things in a clear way. It soon became...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Perfectly Reasonable Deviations is a must-read for admirers of the celebrated physicist. The Manhattan Project-era letters are understandably sparse in their scientific content (thanks to wartime censors) and focus mainly on his terminally ill first wife. These letters suggest how Feynman masked his pain with his jokester image. (He makes no mention of his brief, unsuccessful second marriage.) The letters are mostly non-technical and are readily accessible to anyone with even a passing interest

Being a collection of correspondences, the quality varies throughout the book. Some passages were very touching such as those written to his sick wife (including one addressed to her after her death)and others were highly interesting showing his wonderful approach to the scientific method, receipt of accolades, education and life in general. However there were other sections of the book that I found myself simply skipping over as they were of no real interest such as his in depth analysis of sch...more
Nothing compares to primary sources when it comes to getting a sense of a person. Through the letters and notes of Richard Feynman to family, colleagues, and complete strangers, Michelle Feynman has given a rich trove of material from the man himself. Feynman's was a letter writer who kept everything. Here are his observations on the Nobel awards and his patient replies to the entreaties of ordinary people who make inquiry of him on a variety of issues. Here is his correspondence with government...more
Well, this is my second Feynman book and agian, this book doesn't deal with physics much, other than for providing a backdrop for Feynman's fascinating life. This book is completely made up of a bunch of correspondance between Feynman and others from the time he was a student until the time of his death. Getting an autobiographical portrait of Feynman strictly through letters is pretty interesting.

Richard Feynman had many admirable qualities. Among other things he was super brilliant and he lov...more
Chris Jennings
This is the second Feynman book that I've read and I find myself becoming a bigger and bigger fan. Love the format of this as it chronologically goes through letter sent and received by Feynman himself. Each letter had something insightful that said something about the physicist, humorist, and family man that Feynman was. The letters to and from his first wife were very emotional and heartfelt. As things progressed there were wonderful letters regarding the atomic bomb, evaluating science textbo...more
I really liked this collection of Feynman's letters. Charming, surprising and inspiring - we would expect nothing less of Feynman, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that some were also very moving. There are lots of beautiful moments, but the letter that he wrote to his first wife a year and a half after she died is amazing, heartbreaking, hopeful. The only thing that I would have changed about this collection is that it could have benefitted from being edited down a bit further. Some lette...more
Diego Castañeda
Feynman no solo fue un gran científico, fue una gran persona con una pasión por la vida y curiosidad sin limites. En su correspondencia se puede apreciar como influyo en otros científicos y en toda clase de personas despertando su interés por conocer más sobre el mundo en el que viven.
This book is composed of correspondence to and from Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winning physicist. When he was very young he worked on the Manhattan Project and at the end of his career on the causes of the Challenger Space Shuttle accident, but in between he engaged his mind and curiousity and taught hundreds of students in a very engaging way. During his lifetime he was an excellent correspondent and, clearly, people saved his letters, so that today we are privileged to see the man he was -...more
Thomas Jung
Genuine. Great insight into a brilliant man.
I feel bad giving the book only three stars, because it's not the book's fault that I didn't really like a lot of Feynman's letters. Too many of them were of staid business matters, rather than being filled with the personality of the man who's my all time favorite scientist. I was, however, a little surprised to find out how picky and bitchy he could be at times. Doesn't hurt my opinion of him (since anyone going through my letters could pick out enough material to make me look like a real cock...more
Don Weidinger
“In physics the truth is rarely perfectly clear, and that is certainly universally the case in human affairs, hence what is not surrounded by uncertainty cannot be the truth” and this is perhaps where the mystery and clarity of faith lives—i believe, refer to Faith and Reason for a better understanding. “Cold war was difference between suppression of ideas and free ideas.” Honorary degrees diminish other degrees...more about the feelings of the faculty perhaps. Why the bomb: if Nazis do bomb fir...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...
Surely You're Joking, Mr. 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

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