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My Brief History

by Stephen Hawking

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5152546,574 (3.39)15
Biography & Autobiography. Science. Nonfiction. HTML:Stephen Hawking has dazzled readers worldwide with a string of bestsellers exploring the mysteries of the universe. Now, for the first time, perhaps the most brilliant cosmologist of our age turns his gaze inward for a revealing look at his own life and intellectual evolution.

My Brief History recounts Stephen Hawking's improbable journey, from his postwar London boyhood to his years of international acclaim and celebrity. This concise, witty, and candid account introduces listeners to a Hawking rarely glimpsed in previous books: the inquisitive schoolboy whose classmates nicknamed him Einstein; the jokester who once placed a bet with a colleague over the existence of a particular black hole; and the young husband and father struggling to gain a foothold in the world of physics and cosmology.

Writing with characteristic humility and humor, Hawking opens up about the challenges that confronted him following his diagnosis of ALS at age twenty-one. Tracing his development as a thinker, he explains how the prospect of an early death urged him onward through numerous intellectual breakthroughs, and talks about the genesis of his masterpiece A Brief History of Time??one of the iconic books of the twentieth century.

Clear-eyed, intimate, and wise, My Brief History opens a window for the rest of us into Hawking's personal cosm
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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
How does one review someone's life? It's probably one of the harder things to do, especially with such an icon as Stephen Hawking. I'll admit that I'm one of those people who has a copy of A Brief History of Time, but I haven't read it yet (I'm going to, I swear!).

My Brief History by Dr. Stephen Hawking is his personal memoir. For those who don't know who Stephen Hawking is, he is a theoretical physicist, cosmologist and the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. He predicted the radiation emitted from black holes (Hawking radiation), and has worked extensively on a grand unifying theory. Some consider him to be the smartest man alive. He also has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known in the United States as Lou Gehrig's disease, which has left him paralyzed in a wheelchair and only able to communicate through a speech synthesizer.

The first thing the reader will notice is how short his memoir is, which may trouble the reader. This apprehension is not without merit. Hawking discusses his family and early life, his studies at school, developing his theories, and how he eventually became a Director at Cambridge. And all this in a very small space.

It's difficult to criticize a memoir without feeling like you're criticizing the person's life. So I'll emphasize that my criticism of My Brief History is only a criticism of this book, not of Hawking himself.

The problem is that this book feels very rushed. Hawking talks about his life, and even discusses when they discovered he had ALS and how it's progressed over his life. But he glosses over a lot of the detail. If you're looking for an in-depth description of what it's like or his feeling about living with a serious and progressing disability, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Hawking spends comparatively much more time describing the thought process and work that went into his scientific theories that made him famous. He gives some background on what went on behind the scenes while writing and publishing A Brief History of Time, but nothing really juicy or controversial.

Coming away from this memoir, it feels like Hawking wasn't really that into writing it. It's clear what he's most interested in talking about (science), but doesn't seem that interested in discussing himself personally. He does say that the public focus on his disability has made him a little uncomfortable, and he wouldn't mind if people simply focused on his work, but he also recognizes that it gets people paying attention to scientific achievements. It feels like he wrote this book more for demands to know more about him personally than any real desire to tell his story.

If you're looking for anything new or revelatory about Dr. Hawking, you're going to be disappointed. It's a very concise memoir that's mostly devoid of any controversial content, which is what most memoir-readers are going to look for. I suppose this says something about Dr. Hawking's character, that he's led a good life and been mostly focused on his work. But at the same time, the reader might feel like this book is a waste of time to read, with only minor gaps in what we already knew about him being filled in. However, when looking at Dr. Hawking's work, whether time can actually be wasted is beyond the scope of this review.

My Brief History earns a very middle-of-the-road 2.5 black holes out of 5. ( )
  sheldonnylander | Apr 5, 2023 |
Bit long on incomprehensible theoretical physics and short on personal revelations. ( )
  MuggleBorn930 | Jul 11, 2021 |
A very brief history indeed but considering Hawking could only communicate with 3-4 words per minute, I'm glad he was able to write about his wonderful life and all the amazing things he achieved ❤️ ( )
  MandaTheStrange | Oct 7, 2020 |
I listened to this audiobook, and it was really enjoyable. It is, as many other reviewers have noted, quite short, but it was a perfect small slice of Hawking's past. The audio production began each chapter with his synthesizer then melded his voice into the narrator's which worked really well. The only bit where I drifted was near the end when the discussion of space time loops left me FAR behind. Also, don't pick this up expecting a detailed, extensive history like [b: Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl|8805331|Storyteller The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl |Donald Sturrock|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1437312816s/8805331.jpg|8801583] that gives you new details about Hawking's life and work. But for all that, I'd definitely recommend the audiobook if you'd like a quick and interesting listen, with a bit of self-deprecating humor.

Fulfils the "author whose gender is different from your own" task for the Read Harder Challenge. ( )
  bookbrig | Aug 5, 2020 |
A quick easy autobiography from a fascinating figure in the science community. One can definitely say he led an interesting and (in his own words) satisfying life. He expanded our knowledge on black holes, gravity, and other cosmological issues. He brought awareness to the disease of ALS just merely by having it and being a social figure (similar to Lou Gehrig). He was definitely a remarkable man. And this tiny small autobiography does a pretty good job of summing up his life. It is a stat by stat rather than a deep-felt autobiography (chronological, date to date, here I did this, here I did that); (rather than I did this or this happened to me and that made me feel X). Still a good and interesting read for any curious about him as a person, and his cosmological works. ( )
  BenKline | Jul 1, 2020 |
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Biography & Autobiography. Science. Nonfiction. HTML:Stephen Hawking has dazzled readers worldwide with a string of bestsellers exploring the mysteries of the universe. Now, for the first time, perhaps the most brilliant cosmologist of our age turns his gaze inward for a revealing look at his own life and intellectual evolution.

My Brief History recounts Stephen Hawking's improbable journey, from his postwar London boyhood to his years of international acclaim and celebrity. This concise, witty, and candid account introduces listeners to a Hawking rarely glimpsed in previous books: the inquisitive schoolboy whose classmates nicknamed him Einstein; the jokester who once placed a bet with a colleague over the existence of a particular black hole; and the young husband and father struggling to gain a foothold in the world of physics and cosmology.

Writing with characteristic humility and humor, Hawking opens up about the challenges that confronted him following his diagnosis of ALS at age twenty-one. Tracing his development as a thinker, he explains how the prospect of an early death urged him onward through numerous intellectual breakthroughs, and talks about the genesis of his masterpiece A Brief History of Time??one of the iconic books of the twentieth century.

Clear-eyed, intimate, and wise, My Brief History opens a window for the rest of us into Hawking's personal cosm

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