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Tuva or Bust!: Richard Feynman's Last Journey

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,220 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
In 1977, Feynman and his sidekick— fellow drummer and geography enthusiast Ralph Leighton—set out to make arrangements to visit Tuva, doing noble and hilarious battle with Soviet red tape, befriending quite a few Tuvans, and discovering the wonders of Tuvan throat-singing. Their Byzantine attempts to reach Tannu Tuva would span a decade, interrupted by Feynman's appointmen ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 17th 2000 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 1991)
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Community Reviews

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William Blair
Mar 13, 2010 William Blair rated it it was amazing
This one is for the Richard Feynman fans. You know who you are. A real joy to read and brings out the personality of the non-conformist Nobel Prize winner even more so than "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" or "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" If you buy a copy BE SURE that you buy one with the 33rpm plastic mini-record (for those with record players, still), which contains excerpts from Bands 1 and 9, Side A, of MELODII TUVY (GOST 5289-73, 33D-030773): "Reka Alash" and "Artyy Saiyr" ...more
Kay
Aug 24, 2007 Kay rated it really liked it
Life is Beautiful
I'd heard my scientist husband enthuse for years about Richard Feynman, so on a whim I grabbed this book from the shelf before leaving on a multiple-leg plane ride. I was agreeably surprised at how much I enjoyed it, though it wasn't quite the type of book I had expected. (I won't spoil your possible future reading of this book by explaining why, but just let it suffice to say that this is not a straightforward travel account.)

What I particularly liked was the description of Fe
...more
Belarius
Jan 26, 2008 Belarius rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Friends Of Tuva
Ralph Leighton's casually epic description of a decade of obsession with the tiny country of Tannu Tuva in the 1970s and 1980s (now a part of the Russian Federation, and a part of the USSR before that) describes itself as "Richard Feynman's Last Journey." It might perhaps be better described as "The author's obsession, shared in part with Richard Feynman who was a great man, and to whom it provided some comfort in that man's final years."

In practice, I was at once charmed and disappointed in the
...more
Ramiz Qudsi
Jun 09, 2014 Ramiz Qudsi rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
The story ends in a heartbreak. A decade worth of effort and hard work was ultimately futile, as the invitation to visit Tuva came a few weeks too late. Time was but limited for Feynman, yet he hanged on the borrowed time, fighting with the cancer, and winning one battle after another. But that was not a war which could be won.

Ralph Leighton has mesmerized at several places while describing their effort to visit Kyzyl, capital of Tuva. And if you know Feynman one bit, it won't come as shock to y
...more
Heather
Jan 13, 2010 Heather rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Thanks Richard Feynman for refining my love for the Eurasian steppe! It was because of him that I saw my first herdsman in the Rose Parade so many years ago and was introduced to the music of Ondar. This book isn't a travel log of a trip to the nation of Tuva but a story of a different kind of journey; the one where it isn't the destination that really mattered but the adventure it took to get there. It's also interesting in that all the communication between USA and USSR was ...more
Jerzy
Aug 28, 2015 Jerzy rated it liked it
I hadn't realized before that the author, Ralph Leighton, is the guy responsible for Feynman's books of autobiographical stories: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character and What Do You Care What Other People Think?. Those weren't penned by Feynman directly -- Ralph wrote them down after hearing these stories told during drum circle sessions.

Here Ralph steps out into the spotlight and tells about his quest (together with Feynman) to visit, on a whim, the Soviet repu
...more
Hồng Sơn
Cuốn sách kể về nỗ lực để đến thăm Tuva - một đất nước nhỏ bé thuộc Liên bang Nga, nằm gần Mông Cổ - của tác giả và những người bạn của mình. Bị ấn tượng bởi những nét văn hóa độc đáo thể hiện qua các con tem và một số bài viết, tư liệu hiếm hoi về vùng đất này, Ralph Leighton và Richard Feynman (trong đó phần lớn là những nỗ lực của Leighton) đã tìm mọi cách để vượt qua trở ngại về ngôn ngữ, những cấm đoán trong thời kỳ chiến tranh lạnh giữa Liên Xô và Mỹ để có được tấm vé thông hành đến Tuva - ...more
Sam
Jan 24, 2015 Sam rated it liked it
This is a memoir by Ralph Leighton of his Cold War-era struggle to learn as much as he can about Tuva, a little place in the USSR, and go there with Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman.

Tuva is near the intersection of Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, in the middle of Asia, and on the far side of the Iron Curtain from Leighton's native California. It was briefly independent in the early twentieth century, a period during which it issued its own postage stamps, striking the fancy
...more
Elly Sands
Jan 04, 2016 Elly Sands rated it liked it
Richard Feynman is one interesting person! Because he had a stamp from his childhood collection with the name "Tuva" on it he decided to take a trip there. Wherever "there" was! It took ten years of extensive research to try and get to this Outer Mongolian country. The author, his friend, was as determined as Feynman to make this journey. The book gets a bit bogged down with details but the reader pulls for these guys to get to their destination. I certainly learned a lot about Tuva and one has ...more
Jennifer Sowle
Jul 04, 2014 Jennifer Sowle rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating, humorous and sometimes bittersweet tale of Nobel-Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman’s search for the mysterious country of Tannu Tuva. Many years ago I read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, and have seen at least one PBS special on his life and search for Tuva. Reading this book, I am agog at the incredible lengths he and Leighton and others went through to get to a place so far away -- a place Feynman never reached in the end. The journey is sometimes more importan ...more
Linda Riebel
Apr 22, 2012 Linda Riebel rated it really liked it
Tuva or Bust! tells the story of the late Nobel-winning physicist Richard Feynman and his sidekick Ralph Leighton as they plotted (in the later days of the Cold War) to visit the forbidden central Asian Soviet city of Tuva, simply to see if they could do it. The narrative is at first hilarious, full of their creative hijinks and harmless machinations, inspiring me to think, “These guys really know how to live!” By that I mean their endless curiosity and wit in turning setbacks into further oppor ...more
Ann
Feb 03, 2012 Ann rated it really liked it
It all started in thre mid-1970's with an animated dinner-table discussion between friends about obscure geographic locations.

When Richard Feynman produced a postage stamp that had been part of his childhood stamp collection from a country called Tuva, the two friends at once became interested in finding out more. When they discovered that the capital of Tuva is calldd Kyzyl thdy became nearly obsessed with the idea of visiting Tuva.

Unfortunately, getting to Tuva would not be easy. It lay deep i
...more
Quasarion
Apr 11, 2015 Quasarion rated it really liked it
There are some books that aren't on Must Read Classics lists but you end up going back to. Every time you do, there is something new. This is one of those books.

My copy traveled with me through southeast Asia. I thought I lost it on a Japanese train but when I went to the lost and found, it was immediately returned to me. Like Richard I didn't got to Tuva but never say never.

A great book and a timeless book. Highly recommend it.
Jill
Sep 19, 2007 Jill rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The Intellectually Curious Who Are a Little Obsessive Compulsive
This is a memoir of an attempt by two friends to get to Tuva, a tiny country in Asia that was a part of the USSR. The interest starts with stamp collecting (apparently Tuva has some very interesting stamps) and morphs into, Wow, any country that has a capital city spelled without vowels must be interesting! They begin to learn the language, arrange for an art exhibit from Tuva to the US, correspond with random Tuvans and start a quirky organization called Friends of Tuva, while attempting to get ...more
Alberta
Dec 17, 2014 Alberta rated it it was amazing
I have been consumed with the ideas of Richard Feynman. Not knowing anything about physics, I have listened to his lectures, his non-linear way of thinking and the openness which he pursued his life. There are lots of things about Feynman to admire. Ralph Leighton was a close friend of Feynman's who became involved with a quest to visit Tanu Tuva, and has written a wonderful, convoluted story with a lot of humanity. It is a marvelous example of what Feynman defined as "Idiosyncratic Thinking" (t ...more
mingfrommongo
Two friends become enamored with the idea of visiting Tuva, a formerly independent member of the USSR. One of them just happens to be Nobel laureate Richard Feynman. This then is a memoir, not just of a travel adventure, but of the thirst for knowledge of a great man. The attempts to get through the Soviet red tape are humorous, and the book is mostly light-hearted and lightweight. Feynman is a fascinating character, and it is interesting to read about the allure of a city with no proper vowels ...more
Morgan
Jan 09, 2010 Morgan rated it liked it
Recommended to Morgan by: tv documentary
I once saw a TV show on Ricnhard Feynman, his wife and his friends (mr/Mrs Ralph Leighton) coforresponding with the government of Tuva, a tiny country near Mongolia --or part of Mongolia?
They wrote as "friendly ambassadors from the USA", trying to establish good relations with this unknown country (home of the "throat singers"), and get invited as government guests. It was hilarious.
After Feynman died, they wrote up the story of their eventual actual visit, accompanied by a blind New Orleans mu
...more
Daniel
Feb 01, 2015 Daniel rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Flashback to 2005, I was somewhere in the final northern portion of the Appalachian Trail and arrive at a shelter with a telephone. After ordering pizza with friends and settling in for the night, I see a bumper sticker high on the wall: "Tuva or Bust!" At the time, I had no idea what this phrase meant but it would bounce in and out of my consciousness for years until I finally Googled it and learned that it's the title of a book. I was only peripherally aware of who Richard Feynman was, but the ...more
Jeff
Mar 29, 2015 Jeff rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Not a fan of travel writing in the first place, but a good friend recommended it because of my interest in Tuvan "throat singing" and in physics. I categorize this work as biography/hagiography because Leighton attempts to beatify his friend and colleague Richard Feynman as he delineates their attempts to reach Tuva. Lots of dead spots in the "narrative" and way too much kissing-up to The Chief for my taste. And if you're going to talk about the last days of a great man, i'd rather have somethin ...more
Luke
Jan 21, 2009 Luke rated it liked it
Pretty interesting account of Ralph Leighton, Richard Feynman, and a few others' very determined stab at traveling to the remote territory of Tuva in the USSR. Pretty interesting and inspiring to see the hoops they'll jump through and the clever tactics they employ to gain access to Tuva. Overall, although inspiration it's written more as a log/account than something that's created to be interesting to a general audience. Of course, if you pick up this book in the first place or have even heard ...more
Julianne
Feb 06, 2008 Julianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travelaholics
This is nonfiction novel following Richard Feynman (a famous physicist who worked on the A-bomb) and Ralph Leighton (Feynman's friend the geography teacher) as they try to find a way to Tannu Tuva, an obscure province of Russia that used to be an independent country. The reason the two want to journey to Tuva is because of the spelling of the country's capital: Kyzyl. Is that a great reason or what? Anyway, their efforts take place smack dab in the middle of the Cold War, when Soviet-American re ...more
Scott Thomson
Sep 06, 2014 Scott Thomson rated it really liked it
A great book about how an causal interest can lead to a great adventure of life.
Lyg
Nov 19, 2015 Lyg rated it it was amazing
The facts surrounding a great explorer's last adventure. Great read.
Clivemichael
Wonderful storytelling. A real adventure.
Earl Baugh
Good, but sad at the same time.
Ben Schaffer
Nov 30, 2014 Ben Schaffer rated it really liked it
False
Yanni
Jan 09, 2009 Yanni rated it really liked it
I found it fun to hear about these friend's adventures together, presumably a much needed distraction for them since Feynman was dying of cancer. Particularly amusing was the fun and games with the Soviet beurocracy and Feynman's amusing way of insisting that strings cannot be pulled by his influencial scientific colleagues to gain access to the former Soviet Union. He wants to play the system like an ordinary tourist, otherwise it is cheating!
A Cheung
Jun 17, 2013 A Cheung rated it really liked it
I got from this book the spirit of Feynman: curiosity, doesn't mind being silly at times, trying and most importantly enjoy the process of it all. It is always interesting when one press on a silly idea, and found out that its not too silly after all. Although the book has less to do with Feynman than expected, it is nevertheless a very enjoyable, lighthearted read with a "surprise" ending, something of a rarity in a non-fiction.
Barbara
Jul 07, 2012 Barbara rated it liked it
I was enjoying this book, it's circuitous journey, the quirky explorations of intelligent minds... But, SPOILER ALERT! I resented finding out Feynman never got there when the book was advertised as the tale of his last journey. ... Just seemed like a cheap trick which kinda spoiled the theretofore pleasurable read for me.

Svelteassassin
Nov 10, 2010 Svelteassassin rated it it was amazing
During The Cold War, Richard Feynman and his friend Ralph Leighton, a teacher, go on a quest to vist the Tuva region of the then-Soviet Union. Why? Because they had a cool stamp when they were their own country and the capital is called "Kyzyl". A great true story. I promise that i'm going to name my next band "Kyzyl".
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