If all physicists could explain their work as well as Stephen Hawking explained black holes in his 1988 best seller A Brief History of Time, science writers would have to find other work. The British theorist’s new book proves that he is nearly as adept at writing about himself.
Still going strong at age 71 despite amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Hawking can write only three words a minute using a computer that senses his cheek movements. He wastes few of his 20,000 words, breezily recounting his inquisitive childhood and some lucky scientific breaks. He touches on the heartache of two divorces and his many moments at the brink of death. Yet even recalling his darkest days, he injects humor. After mentioning that a physician once told his wife that he was about to die, he writes: “I have since changed my doctor.”
At 144 pages, the book will leave some readers wanting more. Several times Hawking claims that reporters exaggerated events in his life but neglects to correct the record. And he skims only the surface of his research.
Nevertheless, My Brief History is a fun read and a great window into the life of one of the most engaging scientists of our time.
Bantam Books, $22
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