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Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! | [Richard P. Feynman]

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

With his characteristic eyebrow-raising behavior, Richard P. Feynman once provoked the wife of a Princeton dean to remark, "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!" But the many scientific and personal achievements of this Nobel Prize-winning physicist are no laughing matter. Here, woven with his scintillating views on modern science, Feynman relates the defining moments of his accomplished life.
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Publisher's Summary

With his characteristic eyebrow-raising behavior, Richard P. Feynman once provoked the wife of a Princeton dean to remark, "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!" But the many scientific and personal achievements of this Nobel Prize-winning physicist are no laughing matter. In addition to solving the mystery of liquid helium, Feynman has been commissioned to paint a naked female toreador and asked to crack the uncrackable safes guarding the atomic bomb's most critical secrets. He has traded ideas with Einstein and Bohr, discussed gambling odds with Nick the Greek, and accompanied a ballet on the bongo drums. Here, woven with his scintillating views on modern science, Feynman relates the defining moments of his accomplished life.

©1985 by Richard P. Feynman; (P)1997 by Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"A chain reaction is not a bad analogy for Feynman's life. From a critical mass of gray matter it goes off in all directions, producing both heat and light." (Time)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (1727 )
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4.4 (744 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Steven Petersen Portland, OR United States 08-19-06
    Steven Petersen Portland, OR United States 08-19-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    40
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    "My favorite audio book"

    I love this book - I'm actually listening to it for the second time, which I almost never do. I think the narrator takes the perfect tone for the material, and I found Feynman's stories to be fascinating and quite amusing - especially the parts about Los Alamos. I don't read or listen to many autobiographies, but by the end of this one I found myself regretting that I never met him.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew London, N/A, United Kingdom 06-27-03
    Andrew London, N/A, United Kingdom 06-27-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
    42
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    2
    1
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    "A wonderful book..."

    I'd heard of this guy but had never got around to actually reading any of his books. This is a great way to get to know Mr Feynman without getting into physics, maths, etc. The narrator does an amazing job. By far the best book I have read/listened in a long time. And yes, I did laugh out loud in public a couple of times.

    42 of 46 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Brown Deer, WI, United States 10-16-07
    Charles Brown Deer, WI, United States 10-16-07 Member Since 2005

    I make my living as a truck driver. I fill the space between deliveries with audio books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    113
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    "Inspiring book, HORRIBLE reader."

    It's a testament to Feynman's interesting life and perspective that I was able to sit through a reading by what I consider the absolute worst reader ever. Listen to a sample of this one before buying it. The reader uses the same limited cadence and inflection for everything! From a funny story about a cocktail party to a death in the family, the reader's delivery is static. To make things worse, he reads everything with what sounds to me like a haughty, almost concieted tone. Feynman was well known for his self confidence, but not for arrogance.

    As for the content of the book, only a small percentage is directly related to physics. This book has more insights on how to live life than anything.

    31 of 34 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cher Hartford, KY, USA 10-07-07
    Cher Hartford, KY, USA 10-07-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
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    81
    14
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    "Endearing"

    This book demonstrates that the most brilliant teacher of the 20th century was also a dear man. No lukewarm list of achievements, this spyglass peeks in on the daily life of genius as child through his extraordinary and colorful life.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Wichita, KS, USA 05-25-05
    Joe Wichita, KS, USA 05-25-05 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    3
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    "Great story about an interesting man..."

    I've known about Feynman for more than 10 years, but never taken the time to read his work. I selected this book as an intro to the man and as a test to determine if I wanted to read/listen to more of his work. IT WAS EXCELLENT! A fantastic glimpse into the great scientific minds of the 20th century. Feynman was an incredibly observant and witty fella, and this book displays these attributes admirably. FYI, the narrator took a little getting used to, but after the first chapter or two I actually began enjoying his voice and intonations.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Blaine Los Angeles CA 03-03-03
    S. Blaine Los Angeles CA 03-03-03 Member Since 2001

    sblaine

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Well Worth the Read"

    If you don't openly smile while listening to this book (particularly the first 60% of it) then you've passed on. A physicist with a sense of humor should not be missed.

    33 of 38 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Miriam Lawrence 09-15-04 Member Since 2000
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Terrible narration"

    I bought this title with great anticipation -- my husband has read all of Feynman's books and raved about them. And the book itself did seem promising. But for the first time in the many years now that I've been using Audible, I had to stop listening to this one just a chapter or so in, because the reader was so awful. He read every sentence in this strange, sing-songy voice that made me insane and had no relevance to the words he was reading. I just couldn't stand it anymore. I'll have to try to find the time to read Feynman's books in print. I strongly suggest listening to a sample before you purchase this one--maybe my reaction to the reader was a fluke, but better safe than sorry.

    40 of 47 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen Raleigh, NC, USA 02-17-04
    Ellen Raleigh, NC, USA 02-17-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    "What was Mr. Feynman like?"

    If you have any idea of the influence this scientist on the world of physics you should love hearing how he came up with his ideas. If you don't all the more reason to learn about this unique and fastinating man. I had a great deal of trouble with the tone of the narrator and found it distracting. I prefer a straight read without an attempt to mimic the speach of the author. This is subjective, but you might want to check it out to see if you would prefer to read than listen to this fastinating book. A look into the thought processes of a genius. Check it out!

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Mystic, CT 01-14-11
    Ted Mystic, CT 01-14-11 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a character"

    The personal side of Richard Feynman is very unexpected for a brilliant physicist, he was fun, almost goofy, and open about it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brad Grimm SANDY, UT, US 11-09-09
    Brad Grimm SANDY, UT, US 11-09-09 Listener Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    34
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    "Hilarious and inspiring"

    I didn't know quite what to expect with this book. But I found Feynman's life to be quite inspiring, and hilarious every step of the way. I didn't know his name before, but he's an instant idol of mine.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 86 results PREVIOUS129NEXT
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  • Simon
    BristolUnited Kingdom
    8/6/09
    Overall
    "Endlessly interesting"

    This is a fantastic book, and you urge it to continue as Feynman leads us through his life, from the mundane to the truly extra-ordinary. What really sets this book apart is the complete, unashamed honesty with which he approaches every situation. That one man could have won the Nobel Prize (that "damn" prize), worked on the atomic bomb, become a paid musician and paid artist and given evidence in a trial supporting a strip club just sums up the sort of character Feynman was. Someone who loved life and embraced every opportunity. That enthusiasm comes through in his breathless-at-times writing style and unstructured format, but you really don't care. It's like listening to the world's most interesting person talk in a bar.

    The only slight downside is the variable audio quality and the narrator's penchant for doing voices and accents, which can be jarring at times. It certainly doesn't ruin this fantastic book though.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Chris
    BILLERICAY, United Kingdom
    7/4/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wish I'd known him!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, I would, particularly to somebody who understood some maths & physics.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!?

    People thought he was being pretentious because he learned Portuguese when living in Brazil. They set out to tease him by introducing him to a lady who had been brought up in China and greeted him in Chinese. He boldly replied with a bit of nonsense which sounded Chinese and she said "Wouldn't you just know it, I speak Mandarin and he speaks Cantonese?!"


    What does Raymond Todd bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    I actually have the book, but he makes some wonderful sound effects and noises which you don't get from the printed page.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Mainly it made me laugh, but the chapter when he witnessed the first A-bomb test made me sad - particularly when he went on to like, admire and work with Japanese colleagues.


    Any additional comments?

    If you're not sure and think this might be a bit stuffy and erudite, take a chance on it - you'll be glad you did.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Chris
    London, United Kingdom
    10/20/11
    Overall
    "An absolute joy to read"

    I was expecting heavy going, well you would wouldn't you? But this was a pleasure to read; stories from theoretical physics through to picking up girls in a bar, all told by a 20th Century genius.

    I couldn't recommend this highly enough.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Pratima
    Waltham cross, United Kingdom
    8/21/11
    Overall
    "Excellent - interesting, witty and insightful!"

    One of the best audiobooks I listened to. Extremely enjoyable and some lovely insights to life:)

    Well worth a listen!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • mollyeyre
    Leicestershire UK
    11/15/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating man"

    I have read in one review that the reviewer considered Mr F to be self centred and a womaniser. I disagree very strongly, in all his brilliance he has a certain naivety and sees things in a straight uncomplicated manor. I found this book fascinating and read well. My only complaint is that the editing wasn't up to Audible's usual standards, there were a few passages that were repeated - as in - for the recording process to be able to be picked up accurately. There was also one spot where the words 'jumped', even when I backtracked and played it again in case I had done something accidentally .

    All in all an excellent read

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sue McW
    UK
    8/18/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting Insight"

    This is an interesting insight into the life of a scientist with a very unusual mind and outlook on life. The narrator's tone suits the piece. It also gives a good picture of life in America in the 50's and 60's. Although the book seems quite long, and the tone can be a little monotonous in places. I would suggest reading in stages - not all at once.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mark
    Sutton, United Kingdom
    7/28/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Disappointing"

    I loved the paper book, so looked forward to this. However the quality let it down. it's not a dreadful recording, but the presenter's voice came across as too childish which seemed to change the tone of some parts of the book and there were a few repeated sentences. Somehow the excitement of a genius that played with science felt more like a blundering amateur.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Megan
    TONBRIDGE, United Kingdom
    1/5/13
    Overall
    "Great book well read"

    A collection of autobiographical stories the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman. Some funny, others fascinating and others awe inspiring. Expressively read by someone whose voice I could imagine to sound very similar to Richard Feynman.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • J
    7/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "biographical stories chronicling his life"
    Where does Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It was a load lighter than the factual books that i normally listen to. I will listen to it again one day.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It was fun, packed with the sort of stories where he looks good, the author is concentrating on the little things while the historic events which he played a part in rattle by almost unnoticed. it is a good listen and peels back a few layers of the onion. I would be interested in hearing a independent biography that is more critical to give me balance.


    What about Raymond Todd’s performance did you like?

    easy to understand, sounds good.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    laugh a few times and appreciate him as a person just doing his things


    Any additional comments?

    A few of the stories are a bit dated when it come to gender roles and attitudes to women today, it is not meant to annoy or anger anyone, but i fear it will.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Miss M Pajak
    Glasgow, UK
    7/2/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "hillarious!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Richard P. Feynmann is a figure every physics student has heard of, but relatively unknown to general public. In this autobiography he discusses a series of anecdotes from his life. He does it with an extraordinary humility and such an amazing sense of humor that one can hardly refrain from laughing when listening about his various mischieves! It allows a glimpse into workings of a great mind, yet showing us also his human side. The best autobiography I've read (listened to) to date!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!?

    A scientist giving tips about picking up women. Priceless!


    What about Raymond Todd’s performance did you like?

    The performance is smooth, yet dynamic.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    A story of a physicist, who liked picking locks and breaking into safes.


    Any additional comments?

    It's one of those books I will return to periodically. Very enjoyable!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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