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

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,712 Ratings  ·  112 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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Nov 17, 2010 Weinz rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
Jan 31, 2009 David rated it really liked it
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
Apr 19, 2008 Kristin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 11, 2016 Ari rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
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
Nov 16, 2008 Christina rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
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
May 17, 2015 Arjun Balaji rated it really liked it
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
Jul 07, 2011 Aram Sohigian rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 04, 2011 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
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.
Sarah Kelleher
Aug 03, 2011 Sarah Kelleher rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 05, 2016 Kadri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable (if reading someone else's letters is appropriate :) )
Dec 23, 2010 Isis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, audiobook
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
Nov 02, 2011 James Swenson rated it liked it
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
Dec 06, 2012 Ugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 11, 2015 Shashank rated it really liked it
A brilliant perspective of one of the most popular person in the field of science. He had an appetite for life, an insatiable appetite for knowing things.All these is well shown through all the letters inside. You will know him better as you read all of them.
Priyanka -
May 17, 2016 Priyanka - rated it it was amazing
There is so much love,modesty,grace,intellect,humour,optimism,clarity of thoughts in Feynman's letters that you can simply admire and appreciate each of them.Some of them overwhelmed me and some of them kept me in awe.How wonderfully he would break difficult problems into small and comprehendible questions and answers.Feynman never failed to call himself a fool when he found out his mistake.The quest in him to find answers about the world about where we have come from is simply brilliant and pra ...more
Anshul Thakur
Mar 28, 2015 Anshul Thakur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 06, 2014 Maria Menozzi rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 13, 2008 Nick Black rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 10, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 07, 2011 Wit UnWit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 23, 2015 Ye Lin Aung rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2015
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.
Jan 16, 2012 Reenie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
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.
Aug 11, 2015 Lorena rated it liked it
Shelves: life-of-the-mind
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
Apr 05, 2014 Michael Anderson rated it liked it
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
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
Jan 30, 2013 Matt Comstock rated it really liked it
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
Dec 25, 2012 Vorbis rated it it was ok
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
Mar 07, 2009 Irwan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished, 2009
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
Nov 23, 2013 Noreen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics-feynmann
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
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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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