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Classic Feynman: All the Adventures of a Curious Character

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  850 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Richard Feynman (1918-1988) thrived on outrageous adventures. In the phenomenal national bestsellers and the Nobel Prize-winning physicist recounted in an inimitable voice his adventures trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and Bohr and ideas on gambling with Nick the Greek, painting a naked female toreador, accompanying a ballet on his bongo drums, solving the my ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published November 17th 2005 by W. W. Norton (first published 1991)
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Behrooz Parhami
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This 500-plus-page volume contains all the material from the 1985 book, "Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)," and its 1988 sequel, "What Do You Care What Other People Think? Further Adventures of a Curious Character." The two books are not simply juxtaposed but their essays and chapters are merged to form a new arrangement of the material.

The nine parts of the book, each containing 1-18 chapters/essays, are:
Prologues [pp. 1-9]: Ralph Leighton’s “To the Reader”
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read as part of my ongoing shelf audit. Verdict: Oh yeah, this is a keeper.

My first encounter with Richard Feynman's work was in the mid 2000s, when my family was moving about halfway across the U.S. and my dad checked out the audiobook of "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character for the drive. I don't remember a lot of particulars, except for 'A Map of the Cat' and Feynman's story about lighting the back of his hand on fire in college, but I remember enjoying the
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A collection of life anecdotes from one of history's most over-the-top characters. Classic Feynman is the autobiographical retelling of various vignettes from Feynman's life,. The vignettes themselves are interesting and often hilarious as Feynman is a keen wit and unfailingly curious about the world and its inhabitants. While the stories themselves make for an entertaining read the final essays of the collection elevate the book to required reading. The final story details his time spent as a m ...more
Nov 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"There are the rushing waves
mountains of molecules
each stupidly minding its own business
trillions apart
yet forming white surf in unison.

Ages on ages
before any eyes could see
year after year
thunderously pounding the shore as now.
For whom, for what?
On a dead planet
with no life to entertain.

Never at rest
tortured by energy
wasted prodigiously by the sun
poured into space.
A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea
all molecules repeat
the patterns of one another
till complex new ones are formed.
They make
Jamie Wong
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is incredible, though not for the reasons I had really anticipated.

The portions of the book I really thoroughly enjoyed had nothing to do with physics. The parts I'll remember from this book are his exploits as a lockpick, a safecracker, a figure artist, a bongo player, a prankster, a polyglot, and a traveler. I'll remember his determination in working on only things that interest him, even if they don't appear to be useful (the wobbling plate). I'll remember his hours observing ants f
Ruzan Hovhannisyan
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! One of my favorite scientist autobiographies, the interesting stories from Feynman's life, and they show how fascinating a character he was. ...more
Matthew Zhang
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Richard Feynman is da shit. The end.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars. I will go back and list the chapters I liked.

I imagine Feynman is the kind of person that comes to mind when people think all science majors are pompous assholes.

I was entertained, for the most part. I was encouraged to not be a lazy scientist (my whole reason for reading this, and the reason it gets at least 3 stars. It achieved its purpose for me).

I was annoyed though. And I can’t explain how without me seeming envious. I think there’s a way to exemplify how genius you are withou
Jennifer Jang
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
p. 223 "It's not science, but memorizing, in every circumstance... Triboluminescence is the light emitted when crystals are crushed..." I said, "And there, have you got science? No - you have only told what a word means in terms of other words. You haven't told anything about nature - which crystals produce light when you crush them, why they produce light. Did you see any student go home and try it? He can't. But if, instead, you were to write, 'When you take a lump of sugar and crush it with a ...more
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
I don't usually read biographies. This isn't really a tradition biography, but it is a sort of memoir, one of stories recounted over the years by Richard Feynman. As I read, I got a good sense of him as a person, I think. Extremely smart, with a sense of humor tilted towards practical jokes. He was deeply invested in his work, had a deep curiosity and love of learning. But he was a man of his time, even if he tried not to be. I was caught off guard by his opinions on women and his treatment of t ...more
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"From bongoing to biology, from painting to poetry, from computing to cracking safes; Feynmans facination with the world knew no bounds." (BBC)

As mine with him; his magnificent worldview, love and of science, humor and pedagogic skills is awesome. The pleasure of finding Feynman is immense - and neverending!

This book is a collection of all the stories from "Surley You're joking, Mr. Feynman" and "What do you care what other people think", along with some new entries and a CD(!).

It is hilarious,
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Super engaging, interesting, and educational wrt history and science. Philosophy of science was fascinating - some of which I agreed with (the importance of acknowledging ignorance) and others not as much (the falsity and non-necessity of espousing broader impacts). It's surprising that with someone as outspoken as Feinman, I was never offended at all, even in his discussions of women (some with adjacent editorial apology). ...more
Ethan Hulbert
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Classic book, classic character. Very, very good.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Collates Surely You're Joking and What Do You Care What Other People Think. My copy came with a CD recording of Feynman, but I think you can find that content on youtube now. ...more
Stephanie Ma
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reread as many times needed. Feynman rocks 👀
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very inspiring stories. I enjoyed sneaking into the way he thought about both small things and those big huge topics. I read and burst into laugh from time to time.
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
One of a kind!
Christian Barber
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Proves Richard is a Feynman
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Feynman was a great story teller. This book isn't a biography or an in depth look at his physics research. Instead it is a collection of stories from his like that happen to give some biographical or physics research details. The book came with a cd which is the audio from one of the talks in the book. If you're a first time reader of the book, listen to the cd first. As I listened, the stories in the book suddenly had his voice and became more interesting purely because I could hear his deliver ...more
David Dahl
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyable read. I especially liked the Los Alamos stories and the chapter on the Shuttle explosion.
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Classic Feynman is a collection of stories, lectures, and anecdotes taken from his two most popular books, Surely Your Joking and What Do You Care What Other People Think to form an entertaining autobiography of this endlessly fascinating and fiercely independent man. The book is divided into two distinct parts. The first and largest chunk of the book is dedicated to Feynman's childhood, time as a student, his work at Los Alamos, his adventures in Brazil and Japan, and his time as a professor at ...more
Jun 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
There are certain books which, if read at the correct time in a person's development, can drastically alter their life for the better. This is the best example of such a book.

Feynman's stories distill a lifetime of lessons into a light-hearted, pleasantly disjoint narrative. Each chapter is a separate story, but Feynman's life is so intensely interesting that it will keep you glued to this book until the very end.

Feynman was a brilliant and incredibly luck individual. Many of the stories in this
Jul 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
I find Feynman irresistible. He's got a clear worldview that he likes to question and explore, using the imaginary audience as a platform. Plus, his stories are just wacked out crazyville. For instance, Feynman worked at Los Alamos on the nuclear bomb, but that's not at all the focus of his story: rather, the coded letters his dying wife sent, and his growing safecracking/lockpicking skills while at the secure facility are his emphasis.

And that's just the tip of the Feynman iceberg. This set of
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Richard Feynman is just about the closest thing I have to an idol: he was incredibly smart and inventive, but was always open to trying new things and just a fun guy to hang out with. Reading this book hasn't really changed my view of the man much. The only tarnish is that in his younger years, he could be kind of an asshole with his (in)famous pranks, and often comes across as uncomfortably sexist (I guess it was the '50s, though).

This is a fairly accessible book, though if you don't understand
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I actually had this book read to me by someone who truly appreciates Feynman; it was a treat! It also came with a disc, so I could plug Feynman's stories into my car and get a whole spectrum of auditory experience.

This was one of the great men of history, IMHO, an obvious genius, but a humble one. I love that he taught himself to draw. I love that he loved his wife more than anything, and that when she became ill, they sent each other encrypted messages and love notes and puzzles to each other.
Wilson Lanue
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Here are all the anecdotes previously published in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think?, rearranged into chronological order.

As such, it's a great read, but given a choice I'll take them in the order of first printing. The advantage here, though, is the included CD of Feynman telling some of his grand Los Alamos stories for himself.
Rebekah Thomas
Jan 01, 2015 marked it as to-read
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
Me not finishing this book is in NO WAY Richard Feynman's fault. This book is a collection of his essays, set in chronological order, and he's fascinating. Definitely one of my favorite-of-life scientists (besides Neil deGrasse Tyson, who's my secret boyfriend. Secret because he has no idea I'm alive) - teaching this year has just made my brain tired and capable (barely) of following Netflix sitcom reruns only (MASH, Friends and 3rd Rock from the Sun lately). So. I'll be back when my attention s ...more
Jul 28, 2008 rated it liked it
I could just have easily given this book four stars. It reads like a transcript of a lecture, which in many cases it probably is.

Many parts were fascinating, but I could have done w/out some of the chapters. However he comes across as an intellectually honest author, with a willingness to give you access to his raw emotions and hunger to learn everything about everything. If a person is the sum of his experiences, then you can argue that nothing in the book was superfluous.
Oct 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Had to return to the library before I finished, but really good! Very humorous -- laugh out loud at a couple points --basically delivered as (edited)transcripts of Feynman talking, so a little overlap in some story lines here & there, but overall very entertaining anecdotes from a brilliant mind. He stays fairly well balanced between self deprecating humor and knowing he is in fact very intelligent.
May 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008, memoir
I knew nothing about Richard Feynman before reading this book. For the newbie like me, Classic Feynman provided a wonderful glimpse into the life of this hilarious scientist. This collection of stories did seem to drag on at times, but I enjoyed Feynman's stories so much. He is a natural storyteller. I wish an audiobook version existed so I could hear Feynman recount these adventures himself.

Worth reading. You do not have to know/enjoy physics to love Feynman.
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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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