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Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein's Brain

3.34  ·  Rating Details ·  1,882 Ratings  ·  256 Reviews
A brilliant young writer, an 84-year-old pathologist, and Albert Einstein's brain rocket across the country through the palpable zeitgeist of contemporary America. Part travelogue, part memoir, part history, part biography, "Driving Mr. Albert" is one of the most unique road trips in modern literature.
Hardcover, 211 pages
Published July 11th 2000 by Dial Press (first published 2000)
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Sep 15, 2010 Peter rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: awful
This book should have a lot going for it; a cross country journey, a potentially nutty doctor as a passenger, and the brain of one of the most important people of the 20th century. Instead this book is tedious, ponderous, repetitive, boring, often nauseating as well. If I cared enough about this book I'd go get my dictionary to find more words to describe how boring it is. Boring writer (BW) takes a trip with an elderly doctor with questionable standards of morality and has a tedious trip cross ...more
David Glenn Dixon
Washington City Paper
Arts & Entertainment : Book Review

By Glenn Dixon • October 6, 2000

Sometimes America is simply too big for its own good. It can make an epic out of an anecdote. If the Twentieth Century's Blue Ribbon Kitsch Icon, Intellectual Division, had had his gray matter snipped out of his brainpan and carted cross-country 40-odd years later, and the country in question were Liechtenstein, you'd have to be naked and dragging the thing by its medulla with your teeth for
Jul 06, 2012 Jennuineglass rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: andy lake, ryan burgess
The oddest little book I've read in quite some time. I think many would find this book enjoyable as long as they come to it with no expectations. At 200 pages that should be easy enough, you aren't locked into much.

The premise is that a journalist, questioning his own place in life, offers to drive Dr Harvey across America, from coast to coast, so that he may meet the granddaughter of Albert Einstein. And oh, Dr. Harvey is the man who "stole" Einstein's brain during an autoposy where for the las
Mar 01, 2014 Alec rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can't actually remember whether I thought this book deserved 2 or 3 stars when I finished it a few months ago, but since my main memory of the book is what a listless bore it was, I suppose that's a good sign I should go with the lesser. Driving Mr. Albert is another of the dreaded "road trip" novels, to which self-indulgent authors are so hopelessly drawn...and for some unknown reason appeal to me in the aisles of the book store, despite the way they continue to disappoint. In this installmen ...more
Sep 04, 2012 Mac rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has two bad stinks wafting around it. First, it has the stink of a puffed-up magazine article that an editor somewhere decided could be a book. (I checked, and it was originally in “Harper’s” in 1997).

Second, and worse, it has the stink of a writer finding something unusual to do in order to write a book about it. Horse/cart problems.

But both of these are, at times, forgivable – good magazine articles can indeed become great books, particularly when the subject is far from exhausted a
Robert Isenberg
For years, I eagerly waited to read "Driving Mr. Albert." I loved the idea of a road trip with Einstein's brain, and my enthusiasm psyched me out. By the time I actually tackled it, the book was destined to disappoint me -- but it was not for any reason I could have anticipated. The problem is not the book itself, which is a perfectly decent read. The problem is the time it was published, the year 2000.

Michael Paterniti was clearly writing as a late-90s author, and a straight male one to boot. Y
Mar 02, 2014 Mitch rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, biographical
The weird premise of this book- that there are two guys traveling across America with the brain of Einstein in the trunk- is what drew me in in the first place. It would be difficult to find something quirkier; how could it not be interesting?

What you actually get is a view into the lives of the two living and one long-dead passenger.

It was a plus to learn something of the life of Albert Einstein. Like everyone else, I associate him with genius, know he E=MC 2'ed, and that's about it.

It turns o
Nov 02, 2008 bookyeti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, reviewed, memoir
Driving Mr. Albert one is one of those unique works that elude interpretive hyperboles a ‘magnum opus’. You don’t describe it you experience it.

The weighty equation E=mc2 and the theory of relativity, conjure up images of a wiry-haired wrinkled genius known to the world as Albert Einstein. The author, Paterniti, mixes his own equation with words. The result? More than just a relative success, Driving Mr. Albert is a light and amiable concoction of humor, eccentricity, wit, poignancy, as well as
Joe Cummings
When I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Albert Einstein was one of the two dead celebrities/ heroes that we all knew. He was the guy who looks like a eccentric but lovable great uncle who was super-intelligent because he used a greater percentage of his brain than the rest of us mortals. Everyone admired Albert Einstein.

Michael Paterniti's "Driving Mr. Albert" [2000] is an examination of the cost and curse of celebrity. The book focuses around Professor Albert Einstein and Doctor Thomas Harv
Jan 08, 2009 Stef rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-books
This book has been on my radar for a long time, so I picked it when I hosted my book club. The subject matter is fascinating - I had no idea of the background story, nor did I believe it was true. And while the author taking a road trip with Einstein's brain and the man that may or may not have stolen it so many years ago piqued my interest, the book was kind of all over the map (no pun intended). There are some great facts about Einstein and his inner circle, and it definitely made me want to r ...more
Dec 12, 2008 Eve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did you ever read a book that started off really well and then at about page 75 you realize that you can reasonably enjoy about 25 more pages only to discover that you're reading a 211 page book!?
So disappointing.
It's an interesting book but I think maybe the author found himself with less material than he'd been hoping for and tried to beef up the book with extra, un-necessary story lines?
This book is, for the author, a love-story and a book about finding himself.
For the reader, it would be mu
Jul 23, 2016 Mariam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about two men driving Einstein's brain across the United States. It sounds like it is going to be a legendary story, only it is a very simple roadtrip story. But I really liked how simple and humorous it sounded, I cracked up at several points during the book. and I liked the weirdness of Thomas Harvey, the guy who supposedly stole Einstein's brain after doing the autopsy.
But there's nothing grand there about Einstein's life... This is not a biography of him. But it was fun reading it.
Mar 03, 2015 Chelsea marked it as 50pagerule  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Boring and self indulgent. I fell asleep reading this one - and since (as my mother would gladly tell you), I've been a borderline insomniac since before I could talk, that's even worse than you might think.

More specifically - I'm much more interested in Albert Einstein (and his brain) than I the relationship woes of the author. So guess which one was dissected in more detail?
Jason Evans
I love a good road trip. And, Einstein is an interesting character; that is not up for debate. Unfortunately, this book and it's adventures feel suspiciously bit contrived, especially the meeting with William S. Burroughs. Don't be taken in by the cool title like I was.
May 26, 2010 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
is nothing sacred in this country? Who knew Einstein's brain took a voyage without his torso.
Jan 10, 2012 Ted rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine, memoirs
Really weird book. If it sounds appealing to you, take it to the beach or somewhere relaxing, it will provide an easy read and a topic for discussion.
Nov 24, 2016 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How do you not check out a book about a road trip across the country in a Buick Skylark with Albert Einstein's brain in a Tupperware container as a passenger? I was hooked after reading a description of the book and I'm glad that I threw it into the pile that I hauled to the checkout desk. This is the situation in which Michael Paterniti, a journalist, found himself. It seems that Thomas Harvey, a pathologist who was 84 years old at the time of the cross-country odyssey, performed the autopsy on ...more
Anna Sinclair
Mar 15, 2017 Anna Sinclair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book would recommend to one and all. I heard that a movie was made based on it but the movie supposedly sucked - so skip the film and READ. Very clever.l
John Alt
Steven Levy said that he had an almost religious experience when he found it in Wichita, Kansas. A journalist for a magazine, New Jersey Monthly, he knew it had been missing since Einstein's death. Yes, missing. The most brilliant mind of all time was buried without his head intact when he died in 1955. By 1978, when Levy's editor told him to find it, the trail had gone cold. People speculated as to where it might be, but nobody had found it. After some investigation, Levy concluded rather logic ...more
Nov 28, 2010 Jen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody

Summary from the back of the book: "Albert Einstein's brain floats in a Tupperware bowl in a gray duffel bag in in the trunk of a Buick Skylark barreling across America. Driving the car is journalist Michael Paterniti. Sitting next to him is an eighty-four-year-old pathologist named Thomas Harvey, who performed the autopsy on Einstein in 1955 - then simply removed the brain and took it home. And kept it for over forty years."

So, here we go: my first negative rev
Jun 01, 2010 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book works on so many levels. At the very base of it, it's the story of a journey undertaken by the author with eighty-four year old Thomas Harvey, the pathologist whose autopsy of Albert Einstein resulted in his controversial possession of the genius's brain for the next several decades. The trip takes the pair completely across the country, from Harvey's home in New Jersey all the way to Berkeley, California. The given reason for the trip is twofold... Harvey wants to make contact with a ...more
Feb 11, 2017 Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps one of the strangest books I've ever read. Part history, part drama, part crime novel, part comedy. Sometime truth is much stranger than fiction. Albert Einstein who did not want any memorial for himself is cremated and left instructions that the house he lived in Princeton, NJ not be turned into a museum or shrine in his honor. However before he is cremated, the pathologist, Dr. Thomas Harvey, that does his autopsy takes his brains. Decades later, the author and Dr. Harvey takes a stran ...more
Ken Heard
Michael Paterniti is a good writer — if he has a subject to write about. Check out his book Love and Other Ways of Dying for well-written essays. And that's the key. They are essays, not long, drawn-out tomes like Driving Mr. Albert.

This is a 200-page plus book that would have worked well as an Esquire feature. The premise is simple: Drive the aging former medical examiner who kept Albert Einstein's brain in a jar for some 45 years after conducting an autopsy across the country. It has the poten
May 12, 2010 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: journalism, history
What surprised me the most is that Paterniti’s a really good writer. He knows how to do that thing where he makes small details significant. Like maybe a town he drove through or a house he passed, a stranger he met, a gift he was given. And in a book about a road trip, where most experiences happen at 60 mph and last all of two seconds, that thing is necessary. As he catches sight of a train he writes, “In the vast nothingness of Arizona, running parallel to the highway, a train slivers West in ...more
The Story:
Paterniti is a journalist who hears a rumor/urban legend that some guy in Kansas has Albert Einstein's brain floating in a jar in his basement. One thing leads to another and he winds up meeting the man who does in fact, keep Einstein's brain in a jar. Again, one thing leads to another, and Paterniti offers to drive Thomas Harvey across the country to California, so he can meet with Evelyn Einstein -- Albert's granddaughter. The book is the true story of their trip.

The review:
The idea
Jan 02, 2009 julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i_own
Not exactly what I was expecting--from the characters or the storyline. This book had been on my reading list for what seemed like ages and I suppose I was expecting a more cerebral experience. Having just finished Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, I was hoping to continue with a read that was teeming with facts. Although I did discover one surprising detail about Einstein, the remainder of the background regarding his life wa ...more
Phil Clymer
Jan 27, 2014 Phil Clymer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The idea of this book is much more interesting than the book itself. It includes way more information on brain matter than any normal person needs or even wants to know. The human passenger on this excursion is an elderly former doctor who is presented in a kindly light but the fact of the matter is he is a thief, a former pathologist who stole the brain of a cadaver who happened to be Einstein. The motive was lofty perhaps, the intent to scientifically study the brain of one of the 20th century ...more
Matthew Timion
May 09, 2013 Matthew Timion rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I'll echo what most people said about this book... it was a bit odd.

The premise is great. Driving Einstein's brain across the country to meet up with Einstein's granddaughter. It's one of those stories you can tell at a party and everyone will be around you as you give the details; making you the most popular person at the party.

The actual story, however, seemed to get a bit jumbled.

It was part personal memoir, part biographical (Dr. Havey - the keeper of the brain, and Einstein). Those parts w
Nov 10, 2015 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: WPL Tues Book Discussion
I'm willing to bet this was better as a magazine article. In my opinion, the author just isn't skilled at getting the reader into the scene and if there's anything more dull than driving across the country, it's reading about driving across the country with what appears to be a nearly mute man and a lovesick author.

There is very little by way of actual information about Einstein's brain and only about half a dozen vignettes of interesting facts or anecdotes that tie in well. Paternitti manages
Jul 16, 2012 Lemar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Michael Paterniti gives us an account of traveling across country with Einstein's brain in the trunk and the man who became Keeper of the Brain in the passenger seat. Along the way he explores the psychology of fetishism, of relic worshiping and of the collector. From the Romans who ran forward to dip their hands in the blood of the assassinated Julius Caesar to those that make pilgrimages to worship at an altar containing a finger bone of a revered Saint, this psychology has been with us in man ...more
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Michael Paterniti won the 1998 National Magazine Award for his article "Driving Mr. Albert," which was first published in Harper's Magazine. A former executive editor of Outside, his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, Details, and Esquire, where he is writer-at-large. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife and son.
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