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Editorial Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Isaacson is the modern master of the biography, so it was only natural that he turn his pen to Einstein. And more than any biography of the past, Isaacson's account unravels the life behind the brain and provides a full picture of the man who embodied the scientific spirit of the 20th century. Edward Herrmann is stirring and moves effortlessly from humorous anecdotes to scientific theories. — Chris Doheny

Publisher's Summary

How did Einstein's mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson's biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom.

Based on the newly released personal letters of Albert Einstein, Walter Isaacson explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk, a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn't get a teaching job or a doctorate, became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals.

These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.

It's all relative: listen to more about Albert Einstein.
©2007 Walter Isaacson. All rights reserved (P)2007 Simon and Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

  • Audie Award Winner, Biography/Memoir, 2008

"[A] lucid account." (Publishers Weekly) "Isaacson has admirably succeeded in weaving together the complex threads of Einstein's personal and scientific life to paint a superb portrait." (Arthur I. Miller, author of Einstein, Picasso) "Isaacson has written a crisp, engaging, and refreshing biography, one that beautifully masters the historical literature and offers many new insights into Einstein's work and life." (Diana Kormos Buchwald, General Editor of the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Henrik
  • Herndon, VA, United States
  • 04-20-07

Surprise: Two books in one!

This is truly a great audio book – and a steal at 1 credit. The author not only describes Einstein’s life in fantastic details – he also dedicates a fair amount of pages to the explanation of the theory of relativity. He does this surprisingly well – and in a way that makes you understand what it is all about. To this end, you can regard this title as both an Einstein biography and a “Relativity Theories for Dummies”. The narrator Edward Herrmann (as always) was a really good choice for this book. I enjoyed this book immensely – and can only urge others to download it and learn more about this incredible human being that Albert Einstein really was.

224 of 225 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

This is the kind of book that deserves a Pulitzer

In combining the personal and scientific story of Einstein Walter Isaacson has truly created a moving and highly entertaining biography. From his early triumphs as a Swiss patent examiner when he made his earliest breakthroughs to his quixotic quest for a "unified field theory" and his connection to the Jewish people I loved this book. If I were a Pulitzer voter I would give it a Pulitzer for biography. Edward Herrmann narrates with great care and I was able to follow the complex scientific parts with ease. If you download this book you will not be disappointed.

83 of 83 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michael
  • Fernandina Beach, FL, USA
  • 04-16-08

Amazing Story and Well Read

Although extremely long, at over 21 hours, this audio book is well written and well read. With all of the time I invested in listening, when the end came I felt as if I was saying goodbye to an old friend. Very much worth the time and effort to listen.

49 of 50 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

20 hours was not enough....

Absolutely great. There were so many details that history did not seem to detail well enough, but look no further than here. You don't need to know physics to enjoy this book, but you can learn. What an incredible journey of one of the greatest minds in history.

33 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Worth the Effort Required to Read it.

I feel like I just finished a minimester crash course in Physics. Not an easy read but worth the effort for the history alone. I learned a great deal about the 1st half of the 20th century, World War 1 & 2, European Universities, political climates, Nobel politics and more. It took me a while to get through it all and I may listen to some setions again to be sure I got it all. Really interesting in the personal aspects of Einstein and the level of fame and celebrity he enjoyed while alive.

42 of 44 people found this review helpful

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Einstein the Impudent

Einstein was impudent. Did not respect convention. He didn't wear socks. He considered himself a human more than he was a German, a Swiss, a Jew or an American. These qualities I deeply respect about him. He was a pacifist until confronted with Hitler's extremism, who beat out Einstein as the greatest living person according to incoming Princeton freshmen in 1938 and 1939 by the way.

The way he interacted with the women in his life is not something I want to emulate. He fell in love with one of the few women scientists early on, had a few kids with her, but their relationship deteriorated. His next relationship wasn't much different. He had a lot of acquaintances with other women. Sadly I think his relationships are kind of a prototype of what seems common to many of the men and women I have interacted with in our day.

He played violin. Despite trying, he didn't get a job as a professor until 9 years after his graduation. He started out without favor from the scientific community, then became their celebrity, and then again moved out of their favor. I like that about him as well. He was his own person. He was a man of thought experiments. A theoretical Physicist. He was offered the job of being the president of Israel.

I learned a bit about science from the book as well. At least, some terms perhaps. If I had my education to live over again I might be interested in being on the cutting edge of human progress... The sentiment that Einstein had about his science reminded me of Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" emphasis on the romantic and the practical coming to meet in one person. Einstein did that. He was a romantic, feelings driven person who happened to understand the practical, technical in such a way that he could not only define it, but interact with it on a feelings level. A curiosity. He said he was not particularly talented he only possessed an insatiable curiosity.

After being caught in a storm in his sailboat he said "one feels the insignificance of the individual, and it makes one happy."

He was convinced God would not play dice as it seemed (and still seems) in quantum physics. He believed in Baruch Spinoza's conception of God...mostly as revealed in the natural world, not personal.

"Einstein’s brilliance sprang from being a rebel and nonconformist who recoiled at any attempt to restrain his free expression."

This book has got me interested again in World War 2 affairs. It is so astonishing to me that Hitler was so popular. In addition to the Princeton Freshmen, Time Magazine called him the person of the year in 1938. The story that the victors tell history is very true here. I realized that I have no idea why the world fought that war. It is my impression that people have to be really mad and really frustrated to go to war. And I think the perception of Hitler I was given was one that was told by the victors. The victors who had previously thought he was one of the best people ever. There is something missing in my understanding.

25 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

More than an equation

As a PhD scientist I found that the book was a tremendous blend of not only the facts of his life but also a glimpse of how different the scientific world was in the early 1900's, how the public perceived science and the breadth of Einstein's life, accomplisments and goals.

First this book gives a perspective about the man who may be the greatest scientific contributor. Brlliant in science and so human away from his theories. His intellect did not spare him from issues with women and family. He generated great loyalty from some and created life long enemies with others. His passion for sociological issues was as deep as his passion for science.

For the non physicists, this book provides the best explanation of his theories I've ever read. It very succinctly provides the principles and their applications accurately without watering it down to be meaningless.

The book tells of the comraderie amongst the most famous scientists of the day. I marvel that the interaction between Einstein and such notables as Marie Curie, Max Planck, Schroedinger (to name drop a few) communicated in such a meaningful way in a time when electricity was new! Imagine Einstein and Marie Curie's family going on vacations together!

The other fascinating thing is the interest the general public had in science at that time. Imagine that the theory of relativity was front page news in the NY Times - or that people would gather in auditoriums not for a rock concert, but to hear the results of a research project that would confirm the relativity theory!

54 of 58 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Pita
  • Miami
  • 02-01-15

Entertaining, illustrating, great listen!

Would you consider the audio edition of Einstein to be better than the print version?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although I listened to it and did not read it, I am quite sure that the excellent narration added to the great experience that this book turned out to be.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Without a doubt, the subject of the biography, who was quite a special being although quite human and imperfect. We get to make the acquientance of some of the other luminaries of the world of science and politics through the book. We also meet the women in his life whom he did not always treat as well as he could have. I was very surprised to learn that regardless of his eccentricities, Einstein was quite a magnet to the opposite sex.

Which scene was your favorite?

There are many memorable scenes in Einstein's remarkable life. This was a book of "great thoughts" rather than scenes. Einstein's way of seeing the world and how it was central to his contributions to humanity was what interested me most going into this book and the biographer did an excellent job in describing something so elusive.

Any additional comments?

Be prepared for passages on relativity and quantum physics that are perhaps a bit more detailed than some would prefer. One must say that the author did a superlative job at explaining both, at least at a level that would help the reader appreciate the complexity of both principles and how they remain revolutionary today.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant scientist struggling with world events

A beautiful read into the life and intellectual struggles of Einstein as he dealt with personal issues and world events. Isaacson truly does a brilliant job of pulling no punches and pulling the reader into the struggles Einstein went through as a Jewish intellectual in Nazi Germany and then the patriotic vigor of pushing the US to invest the time and energy to build the bomb to beat the German's to it and then the moral struggling he dealt with living with the realization that helped in the slaughter of millions of people. One of the best biographies I have ever read.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Peter
  • asheville, NC, USA
  • 04-15-08

Warmed Up to It

It took me quite a while to be engaged by this book. I almost quit it a number of times but kept plodding thru it until it finally captured my interest. The problem is the first 1/3 of the book is primarily the text of letters written to and by Einstein. I did not find there to be much insight into Einstein's life or any deduction by the author as to why or why not Einstein made certain choices in his science or personal life. However, once the book reaches the "miracle year" and more science is involved I found the book much more interesting. I also enjoyed the last part of the book immensely when Einstein's science is not as prevelant but his celebrity and social ideals become a major part of his character.

35 of 39 people found this review helpful