The first thing you should know if you are thinking about buying Classic Feynman: All the Adventures of A Curious Character is that tit is two books, and a compact disc.
It’s a combination of all the stories from Feynman’s bestselling books, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think? The CD is a recording of Feynman telling stories about his days working on the atomic bomb in Los Alamos.
The second thing you should know about this book is that Richard Feynman is hilarious! Feynman worked on many important things in his lifetime and went through many different phases, but one constant, unchanging feature was his ability to tell jokes and make people laugh.
Ultimately, this books attempts to do more than just make the reader laugh.They try to answer a question: who was Richard Feynman?
The stories show that Feynman was many things. He was a scientist, a teacher, and a philosopher. He was a comedian, an artist, a musician, and a safe-cracker. He was a romantic who lost his true love and first wife at a tragically young age. Most of all, however, he was a learner. He was constantly challenging himself and always stepping out of his comfort zone.
By far, the most poignant story in the books is entitled, “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” It is the story of how Feynman met, fell in love, and lost his first wife, Arlene to tuberculosis. Even in this story, Feynman’s (as well as Arlene’s) humor comes out as he recounts different jokes Arlene would play on him and things she taught him.
As amazing as the stories in the book are, the recording of Feynman on the CD might be even better. When listening to his speech, you can really get an idea of how Feynman simply enjoyed life and how he loved to tell a story to anyone who would listen.
One particularly funny story involvesthe time period when incoming and outgoing mail from Los Alamos was willingly censored while they worked on the atomic bomb. This was to prevent any secrets from leaking out. One of the caveats of the censorship was that they would not censor anything which you would normally write in a letter.
So when Feynman began getting secret codes from family members, the censors were upset.
But they became more upset when they found out that this was something Feynman and his family normally did. He would challenge them to send a code that he could not crack!
This put the censors in quite a pickle. That is just one example of the stories Feynman tells in this book and of course, he tells it much better than it was told here.
The reason why Classic Feynman is such an entertaining read is because the reader forms a connection with Feynman. The reader is there with him as a child while his father read to him from the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The reader is there through the death of his first love. The reader is there with him as he works on the atomic bomb and as he investigates the Challenger Disaster.
Through it all, Feynman provides laughter. But after the reader listens to Feynman speak and after the last page is turned, they will realize that the question they wanted an answer to will still be unanswered.
They still will not know who Richard Feynman was because he was and still is a mystery.
He was unimaginably intelligent, yet at the same time, he was just a normal person. And that is probably the most impressive thing about him.