Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Einstein's Dreams” as Want to Read:
Einstein's Dreams
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Einstein's Dreams

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  37,245 ratings  ·  3,778 reviews
A modern classic, Einstein’s Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, when he worked in a patent office in Switzerland. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failu ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Vintage (first published 1992)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Einstein's Dreams, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Audrey Sikora I am a teenager who thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, however, it is written in vignettes and is less about the "story" and more about the feeling…moreI am a teenager who thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, however, it is written in vignettes and is less about the "story" and more about the feeling the book evokes. (less)
Wit I’m not even sure if this is a real question, but I’ll answer it anyway. Considering that it’s called Einstein’s Dreams I don’t think Einstein went th…moreI’m not even sure if this is a real question, but I’ll answer it anyway. Considering that it’s called Einstein’s Dreams I don’t think Einstein went there. The premise of the book is that this is what Einstein was dreaming about as he theorized on the nature of time. Whether or not they’re real is irrelevant where fantasy is concerned.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  37,245 ratings  ·  3,778 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Einstein's Dreams
Ahmad Sharabiani
Einstein's Dreams, Alan Lightman

Einstein's Dreams is a 1992 novel by Alan Lightman that was an international bestseller and has been translated into thirty languages.

The novel fictionalizes Albert Einstein as a young scientist who is troubled by dreams as he works on his theory of relativity in 1905. The book consists of 30 chapters, each exploring one dream about time that Einstein had during this period.

The framework of the book consists of a prelude, three interludes, and an epilogue. Eins
Riku Sayuj
Dec 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing

Some of the best fun I have had in recent years of reading came in the two hours it took me to read this (including frantic back-tracks and hop-skips) fantastic book. Time is the hero of this collection and comes veiled in every twisted garb we can conceive, or rather, that Einstein can dream up. Einstein in his mad canter towards discovering the most revolutionary idea in science tumbles right down an imaginary wonderland in this book.

What comes out of the recesses of Einstein's brooding on the
Poetic twists on the paradoxes of time.
The quotidian becomes extraordinary and unsettling.

Time travel needn't involve machines or blue boxes (sorry, Apatt!): Lightman makes it leap off the page and into your mind, leaving you questioning the very root of reality.

Now that I am reading Borges, I assume Lightman was influenced by him (and maybe others), in particular, the short story, Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius


There are about 30 very short chapters (typically, three pages of well-spaced tex
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Value of Time

Time is the skeleton in the intellectual closet, the elephant in the scientific room, and the rogue gene of rationality. Time presents a series of paradoxes which Lightman presents as if they were dreams to be analysed - not to be resolved but merely to be appreciated. Perhaps that’s the limit of human capability, that is, merely to appreciate time as something unknowable. If so, then the purpose of time may well be to keep human beings humble, an unexpected consequence of eatin
How do you check the time?
If you spend a lot of time on your computer, you may simply swivel your eyes to the top right-hand corner of the screen. Or perhaps you wear a wrist watch so all you have to do is move your head slightly to check the time. Maybe you rely on your phone and then you have to make more of an effort, you have to put your hand in your pocket, pull out the phone and switch it on. No? You carry your phone in your hand at all times? Then checking the time has never been easier.
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
I had an awful Physics teacher at University, but one thing he was good at was getting the class to understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which has always fascinated me.

This book was brilliant. Imagine a world where time is a circle.Or a world where cause and effect are erratic. Or a world where time is not continuous. These are a few of the worlds Einstein dreams up while he's working on his Theory. Time is definitely a central theme in this book and few will be able to look at time (or l
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthias by: Fionnuala
Shelves: my-reviews
Time has always fascinated me. Well, I say always, but that's not true. In fact, I'm almost never fascinated by time. Only very occasionally, in short bouts, whenever I happen to think about it. If I'd have to add up all the time during which I was fascinated by time, I don't think it would add up to much more than a week, if that. And yet, during my fascination with time, it feels like an endless, enduring fascination that I always carry around with me, and that I've been subconsciously ponderi ...more
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, kindle
Consisting of two- and three-page bits that represent Einstein's dreams about time when he's still a clerk in a patent office, when he's just finished sending off the theory of relativity, in "Einstein's Dreams" Lightman writes beautiful prose. Same place, same people, same landmarks and balconies and lovers, each one with a different twist. Some are more creative than others but it's the writing that made the book for me.

"At some time in the past, scientists discovered that time flows more slow
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, favorites
One cannot walk down an avenue, converse with a friend, enter a building, browse beneath the sandstone arches of an old arcade without meeting an instrument of time. Time is visible in all places. Clock towers, wristwatches, church bells divide years into months, months into days, days into hours, hours into seconds, each increment of time marching after the other in perfect succession. And beyond any particular clock, a vast scaffold of time, stretching across the universe, lays down the law o ...more
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Manny by: Everyone
In this world, a scientific theory is a game. Scientific gamers spend their lives investigating new strategies, tactics, opening variations. Most gamers work on established games - chess, whist, electromagnetism - but every now and then someone invents a new game.

The Institut für Spielforschung on Hochschulstrasse in Bern is in the middle of hosting an international games conference. Gamers have come from a dozen countries to present the results of their latest researches. In the main auditoriu
Dr. Appu Sasidharan
May 02, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of 30 chapters dealing with the paradox of time through dreams. Albert Einstein was working in a patent office in 1905. Einstein's brain was working on relativity during that time before the theory of special relativity was published in June 1905. This book deals with his imagination dealing with multiple parallel worlds with different people and times just before publishing it. Each chapter deals with his dreams. Some may fascinate you while you might find some others borin ...more
Paul Bryant
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
Maybe time isn’t really made of rhubarb and custard after all, as scientists believe. Maybe it floweth in multifarious directions. Perhaps it floweth upside down. You never know. In such a world things happen with precise but inverted logic. Authors discover the books they will write by reading the reviews of their unwritten books on Goodreads. They are very grateful for the reviews which merely recapitulate the plot, this is very valuable information. They don’t mind too much if one review is a ...more
Apr 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, physics, sci-fi
I didn't quite get this book. I am sure it simply went over my head. I'm no stranger to physics and what-not so I figured this would be a good read. My review below is evidence of my frustration with this book.

I don't understand how people not only rated this book so highly, but also claim to have had some kind of enlightening experience from having read it. I thought this book was incredibly kitchy. Each chapter is a vignette of a world with some perturbation in the way time itself works, and b
Apr 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Every Single person on the planet and beyond
Exquisite, Everyone should read this book, everyone should give this book away, it should be thrown from rooftops and forced upon youngsters. I will not venture to commingle a necessarily clunky and didactic summary with the poetic prose that is as much about the feeling stirred from reading each individual word than anything a summary could attempt. Suffice it to say that this book is excellent, beautiful and amazing, if a book is universally capable of changing your life... if only for a momen ...more
J.G. Keely
There are few things more disappointing than seeing an author take an idea that should fascinate and surprise us, and reducing it until it is little more than a dull blip. In the process of trying to render them accessible to his audience, he stripped from them anything that might be really challenging or thought-provoking. In the end, his writing simply lacked the subtlety and power required.

The work is structured like that of other authors seeking aphoristic profundity, like Borges, Calvino, w
Jul 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: bern, fiction, switzerland
Bern is a good setting for a book about the potential malleability of time, since it's one of those places that seems to exist in a chronology all its own. I've spent a lot of time there recently, for reasons connected to a big motorsports event earlier in the summer, and the locals were not very happy about being disturbed. Not for them the excitement of global attention or gawking tourists; they prefer to be left to their own devices, pottering around their pristine medieval town, looped by th ...more
This was for me a refreshing and delightful read on alternative conceptions of time, borne out of playful thought experiments set among the residents of the city of Berne Switzerland in 1908. These permutations are alternated with interludes from the daily life of Einstein, who was then using his free time as a patent office worker to develop his Special Theory of Relativity, which demands of us to conceive of time as just another dimension in the space-time continuum. Most will have heard of hi ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lightman -- interesting that his surname evokes Einstein -- has written a seemingly innocuous but profound little book. As I went through my daily chores today, any words rising to the surface of my consciousness as I thought of the review I would be writing later (which is now; though that 'now' exists no longer) sounded like cliches, easy to speak of Time in that way, as everything we say, think and do is full of references to Time and can be done only in Time.

Lightman's dream about the world
Jan 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
What a fun, fast (relatively..pun intended) and thought-provoking read! Lightman presents easily over 20+ depictions of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Each little vignette unveils a different world of how to perceive time. If time were crystal ball, Lightman looks at this crystal ball from above, below, upside down, inside out, backwards, forward etc. Although some of the stories weren’t incredibly captivating — most were and I would suggest this book to any artist visual/musical/literary or p ...more
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
This beautiful book is a gift from my dear, sweet friend, Rochelle. ❤️ Thank you, sweetheart.

This is a very unusual book, not really about Einstein at all, but perhaps he had some of these "dreams". Each chapter is an imagining of a possible, unusual perception of time, and how that might affect the people of Berne.

Some of the chapters are quite wonderful, others just strange, most are poignant in some way.

Chapter "8 May 1905" - the end of the world...
Exquisite. In a world with only one day lef
Sep 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I don't remember this book well enough to write a full review. But over a decade after reading it, one of the ideas presented in it has stayed with me. That idea was that there are people who function according to the rhythms of their bodies, and those who function according to the rhythms of the clock. The book suggested that a person can be one or the other, but not both. At the time I read it, I was in the process of shifting away from my clock-based life, and things have never quite been the ...more
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This 179 page book took me four days to read. Not because it was difficult. In fact, the prose was exquisite and effortless in its beauty. It was because I wanted to read and cherish all of the novel's short vignettes rather than rush through. The book is a series of dreams, close to 30 in all, that Albert Einstein is dreaming as he struggles with his theory of relativity. Alan Lightman, a physicist himself, describes aspects of the theory and time itself through these descriptive "stories". Thi ...more
Olivia (Stories For Coffee)
A very interesting exploration into the concept of time and how it would drastically change our lives if it were to function in various different ways. While I was gripped by the beginning of this short story collection, it meandered a bit and felt sluggish, towards the end.
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Today I had some time on my hands to provide you with the thoughts I have on this book.

Developing a scientific theory surly takes time. I won't happen over night. I always wondered what goes around in the minds of great minds when they are "in the zone", totally immersed in their respective thoughts. What are their dreams at night after a full day of theorizing? This book gives an answer, albeit a fictional one.

Author Alan Lightman (what an aptly name for a physicist) provides a dream diary of A
Scientists are brilliant writers. Their ideas, the coherence of phrases, the flowing writing, the logic, the meaning behind the allegories have no match in literature. And when the book is mostly philosophical but based on a physics component, is even more outstanding.

And this book is all that. It is not sci-fi or scientific, as the title may mislead and it has no plot whatsoever. It is a book about you, me, us and humanity’s most fearful enemy: Time.

Is time really flowing only onward? Nobody kn
Mar 24, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Lyrical meditations on the potentially variegated strands of time.
K.D. Absolutely
I bought this book at its regular price (P599=$14) in 1993. I tried reading it right away but after a few pages, I lost interest. Then last Good Friday, when I was dusting my tbr books, I saw this and it looked like a quick read so I put it on top of my stacks of books and yesterday I finished it in a couple of hours.

It is about various scenarios (or Einstein's or Lightman's dreams) where time is different from what we have and know it now. There are 13 of those and most of them are fascinating
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunatelly 5 stars are the maximum. This book deserves more.
This is a perfect example of writing a jem in only 140 pages or so. (Paul Auster could read this one and take example).
Each story is a perfectly written dystopy on time.
What a marvelous book. i had goosebumps while reading it. i had tears in my eyes also.
I read it on the Bucharest - Hamburg 2h20min flight while I actually travelled back in time 1h.
There are two „times“ in the history of most humans, times which are akribically pa
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Einstein's Dreams is a very light, slight novel. The tone and structure are almost exactly those of Calvino's Invisible Cities, and the spirit is pure Borges. Each story is a variation on the theme of time, and each world is so lightly sketched as to represent nothing more than a passing thought; one cannot dwell too much on the implications of each of these thought-experiments. Instead the novel (like Calvino's) leads us to recognise the Venice of our own experience, refracted in these many wor ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Back To You
  • Quantum Time (Quantum, #3)
  • Now, Then, and Everywhen (Chronos Origins #1)
  • A Pivot In Time (Alien Artifact, #2)
  • Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #1)
  • Kindred
  • The Time Machine
  • How to Stop Time
  • 11/22/63
  • Oona Out of Order
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War
  • How to Speak Science: Gravity, Relativity, and Other Ideas That Were Crazy Until Proven Brilliant
  • Hometown Girl at Heart (Hometown #1)
  • Motherland
  • Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
  • Karolina Dalca, Dark Eyes
  • Gravity's Century: From Einstein's Eclipse to Images of Black Holes
  • Έρωτες στη Μεταπολίτευση
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Alan Lightman is an American writer, physicist, and social entrepreneur. Born in 1948, he was educated at Princeton and at the California Institute of Technology, where he received a PhD in theoretical physics. He has received five honorary doctoral degrees. Lightman has served on the faculties of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was the first person at MIT to receiv ...more

Related Articles

The American South has produced some Hall of Fame literary superstars: William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, Wendell Berry. And...
50 likes · 21 comments
“Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly.” 1281 likes
“The tragedy of this world is that no one is happy, whether stuck in a time of pain or of joy. The tragedy of this world is that everyone is alone. For a life in the past cannot be shared with the present. Each person who gets stuck in time gets stuck alone.” 320 likes
More quotes…