I’ve never written a book review on my blog so far, somehow it has never occurred to me. But after reading the book that totally blew me away, I so wanted to share about it to a larger audience and hence I’m writing this piece.
‘SURELY YOU’RE JOKING, MR. FEYNMAN!” ~ Adventures of a Curious Character is an autobiography written by Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman coauthered by Ralph Leighton, his drumming friend. After finishing the book, the first thing that awed me was how a professor who teaches theoretical physics can interlace complex concepts hilariously in simple English! Whether you’re a student of science or not, you’ll succumb to energy with which Feynman explains the events in his life. From fixing radios as a kid to breaking locks while working on the atom bomb to observing if ants have any sense of geometry when you place sugar around them -what stands out through all his experiences is the childlike curiosity of Dr Feynman. It even makes you wonder can someone be excited about so many things in a lifetime?!
Another thing that greatly struck me while flipping the pages was the anecdotes in the book. Feynman is a master storyteller and with every chapter, it becomes more and more evident. In an interesting chapter, ‘Is electricity fire?’, Feynman discusses the conversations he had with young rabbis. In the Talmud, a Jewish religious text, it prevents people from using fire on Saturdays and when Feynman was in the lift, the young rabbis were hesitant to press the button assuming it to be fire. He then explains to them about electric spark, the chemical process of electricity and fire to finally end the chat with atoms. Throughout, this entire conversation filled with hilarity he indirectly teaches physics to readers in plain English. That to me was the most striking aspect of this book, Simplicity. Back in the office, with my job as Data Scientist, I struggle each day to trivialize the insights I get from data – which made this book all the more interesting, it taught to me the art of storytelling. I also enjoyed reading the part where Feynman starts drumming with bongos. I understood the jokes in ‘The Big Bang Theory’ better after reading the book (which is an added advantage) and started imagining Sheldon playing the bongos which left me with a smile.
Unlike other autobiographies that I’ve read earlier, that usually presents life in an emotional way – a difficult childhood, working hard amidst odds usually ending on a positive note celebrating achievements; Feynman’s record of his life events had none of these. It was an engaging book with many short stories (and uneven chapter sizes – varying from 3 pages to 25 pages) that makes you laugh out loud at the wittiness with which Feynman goes about his life; filled with an insatiable curiosity. As Science Digest review pointed out when you finish the book, ‘ It almost makes you want to be a physicist..’
P.S: Thanks to my ex-flatmate Rajiv for lending the book to me.