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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

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  1,523 ratings  ·  102 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
A collection of letters by Richard Feynman, ranging from private things to his loved ones to tips and answers to fans and students from all over the world.

The part with his letters to his wife is extremely beautiful, and there is in particular one I'd like to share. Arline Feynman, the love of Richard's life, died of tuberculosis on the 11th of June 1945. Roughly one year and a half later Richard wrote a letter to her, and sealed it. It was opened after his death in 1988. Here it is:

October 17
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
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
As the subtitle indicates, this is an anthology of Feynman's letters. This is one of the relatively few books that I have read based on a published review -- in this case, Freeman Dyson's review, anthologized in "Scientist as Rebel."

I started browsing in these a few nights ago, on the theory of "I'd just read a few". A few hours later, I realized three things. First, I was utterly absorbed. Second, Feynman had a wonderfully clever and crisp prose style. Third, he was impressively thoughtful, sen
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
Arjun Balaji
Very good, and likely the best I've read of/by/on Feynman. I've always felt that the Feynman depicted in Surely You're Joking and Gleick's Genius felt pained – maybe a bit largely than life, if you will. While it's perfectly understandable, the picture of a fun-loving, quirky, womanizing physicist always felt overly romanticized. Reading his unadulterated communication felt voyeuristic, but my model of Feyman evolved and felt altogether more humanistic.

An absolutely brilliant physicist and a ge
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.
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.
Very enjoyable (if reading someone else's letters is appropriate :) )
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
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
Anshul Thakur
This book is a collection of letters that were written to and by Richard Feynman, a great person, a Nobel laureate in Physics, a great iconoclast, and a beautiful, beautiful man. These letters span his lifetime, from his letters when he first left his parents to study at Princeton and MIT, to his love and wife Arline, and later to Gweneth among the many letters he wrote (and this surprises many that he did, and did so much).

His willingness and excitement to communicate the most complex of proble
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
Nick Black
Very likely the finest book to emerge from the Feynman crap-publishing machine from which a public can't seem to buy enough (only QED The Strange Theory of Light could compare, and that's kind of a apples-and-oranges or, if you'll allow, baryons-and-leptons deal). An incredibly well-edited selection of great intimacy and scope, giving a much more insightful and indeed sympathetic look into the great man than his self-serving, posturing autobiographical releases.
Know those 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. In fact my husband and I both read the book. As I started it, the title was so LONG and different I asked him if he has ever taken this guy in college, and he said that he has some of his books. I'm going to ask to look at them. And it really did make me laugh. And it really did make me cry. And it really did teach me some p ...more
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!
Ye Lin Aung
Only one word : beautiful. Reading the letter conversations between Dr.RPF and his family, friends, strangers, students etc from the beginning till the end makes me appreciate his effort, brilliance and sincere heart. Some letters are fun, some are a bit technical but still very enjoyable to read.
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.
Feynman has become a cult figure for some, though I saw no evidence to support why this might have happened. The book was so thick, and he seemed so ordinary, I couldn't wrap my mind around the attraction.
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
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
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
Great forward by Ferris. "Feynman's appeal resides ... in that his freedom, integrity, and enthusiasm reflected the spirit of science in action."

Personal correspondences were very revealing. I don't think there's anything else that provides a clearer window into his principles and values. The letters covered less science topics than I had hoped and sometimes the book felt long but there's a lot of humanity expressed.

Some that I marked:
p.36-39 - letter to wife about rest bed complications
p.85 - l
Loránd Szakács
This collection of letters has brought me to tears in two separate instances. Once out of sadness, and once out of joy.

The first instance was early in the book, when we are given insight into Richard Feynman's relationship with his first wife, Arlene, who for the adult part of their relationship was suffering from an, ultimately, fatal case of Tuberculosis. The letters to his wife were extremely touching, and outlined the great tragedy of it all.

The second instance was while I read the last pair
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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
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