• Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

  • By: Richard P. Feynman
  • Narrated by: Raymond Todd
  • Length: 11 hrs and 31 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (11,348 ratings)

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Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

By: Richard P. Feynman
Narrated by: Raymond Todd
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Publisher's Summary

With his characteristic eyebrow-raising behavior, Richard P. Feynman once provoked the wife of a Princeton dean to remark, "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!" But the many scientific and personal achievements of this Nobel Prize-winning physicist are no laughing matter. In addition to solving the mystery of liquid helium, Feynman has been commissioned to paint a naked female toreador and asked to crack the uncrackable safes guarding the atomic bomb's most critical secrets. He has traded ideas with Einstein and Bohr, discussed gambling odds with Nick the Greek, and accompanied a ballet on the bongo drums. Here, woven with his scintillating views on modern science, Feynman relates the defining moments of his accomplished life.
©1985 by Richard P. Feynman (P)1997 by Blackstone Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"A chain reaction is not a bad analogy for Feynman's life. From a critical mass of gray matter it goes off in all directions, producing both heat and light." (Time)

What listeners say about Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Inspiring book, HORRIBLE reader.

It's a testament to Feynman's interesting life and perspective that I was able to sit through a reading by what I consider the absolute worst reader ever. Listen to a sample of this one before buying it. The reader uses the same limited cadence and inflection for everything! From a funny story about a cocktail party to a death in the family, the reader's delivery is static. To make things worse, he reads everything with what sounds to me like a haughty, almost concieted tone. Feynman was well known for his self confidence, but not for arrogance.

As for the content of the book, only a small percentage is directly related to physics. This book has more insights on how to live life than anything.

111 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Terrible narration

I bought this title with great anticipation -- my husband has read all of Feynman's books and raved about them. And the book itself did seem promising. But for the first time in the many years now that I've been using Audible, I had to stop listening to this one just a chapter or so in, because the reader was so awful. He read every sentence in this strange, sing-songy voice that made me insane and had no relevance to the words he was reading. I just couldn't stand it anymore. I'll have to try to find the time to read Feynman's books in print. I strongly suggest listening to a sample before you purchase this one--maybe my reaction to the reader was a fluke, but better safe than sorry.

80 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful book...

I'd heard of this guy but had never got around to actually reading any of his books. This is a great way to get to know Mr Feynman without getting into physics, maths, etc. The narrator does an amazing job. By far the best book I have read/listened in a long time. And yes, I did laugh out loud in public a couple of times.

64 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Well Worth the Read

If you don't openly smile while listening to this book (particularly the first 60% of it) then you've passed on. A physicist with a sense of humor should not be missed.

50 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

My favorite audio book

I love this book - I'm actually listening to it for the second time, which I almost never do. I think the narrator takes the perfect tone for the material, and I found Feynman's stories to be fascinating and quite amusing - especially the parts about Los Alamos. I don't read or listen to many autobiographies, but by the end of this one I found myself regretting that I never met him.

45 people found this helpful

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He was curious, was a risk-taker. He was a genius.

I've been circling this book, 'The Feynman Lectures on Physics', and Gleck's 'Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman' for awhile. This one seemed the most fun and easiest place to start. I was driving from Taos/Santa Fe back to Phoenix last week and as I drove past Los Alamos, it was just the particle collision in my brain I needed to start on Feynman.

Often, memoirs are hard to read because you know a bunch of it is façade. A person is showing you a part of them for a purpose. They want to be viewed as smart, important, funny, etc. They carefully guide you through a Potemkin village of their life. Richard Feynman's memoir is different. Not that I don't think Feynman had an ego. He might have even had an agenda with the book. But, for the most part, he seemed much more interested in the stories he wanted to tell, rather than on how they would make him look. He wasn't all that worried about how he looked so much. His entire life was built around doing what he wanted, exploring what he found interesting, violating taboos, beating his own drums and cutting his own path.

He was a Nobel-prize winning polymath physicist whose other talents included playing drums, teaching, drawing naked girls, picking locks, making atomic bombs, practical jokes, and telling stories. He wasn't interested in the usual trappings of success. Many of those things annoyed him. He was curious. He was a risk-taker. He was a genius.

43 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

What was Mr. Feynman like?

If you have any idea of the influence this scientist on the world of physics you should love hearing how he came up with his ideas. If you don't all the more reason to learn about this unique and fastinating man. I had a great deal of trouble with the tone of the narrator and found it distracting. I prefer a straight read without an attempt to mimic the speach of the author. This is subjective, but you might want to check it out to see if you would prefer to read than listen to this fastinating book. A look into the thought processes of a genius. Check it out!

35 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Hilarious and inspiring

I didn't know quite what to expect with this book. But I found Feynman's life to be quite inspiring, and hilarious every step of the way. I didn't know his name before, but he's an instant idol of mine.

31 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Pleasant and amusing story about an eccentric

Feynman is probably one of the most charismatic physicists in history. This narrator captures his "voice" with delightful nuance.

22 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Likeable, entertaining man!

The narration was perfection, and I had to keep reminding myself it wasn't the author himself narrating. It's a sort of stream-of-consciousness telling of the many events in his life that define his quirky curiosity and intelligence. Entertaining and humorous--loved it!

19 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Simon
  • 08-06-09

Endlessly interesting

This is a fantastic book, and you urge it to continue as Feynman leads us through his life, from the mundane to the truly extra-ordinary. What really sets this book apart is the complete, unashamed honesty with which he approaches every situation. That one man could have won the Nobel Prize (that "damn" prize), worked on the atomic bomb, become a paid musician and paid artist and given evidence in a trial supporting a strip club just sums up the sort of character Feynman was. Someone who loved life and embraced every opportunity. That enthusiasm comes through in his breathless-at-times writing style and unstructured format, but you really don't care. It's like listening to the world's most interesting person talk in a bar.

The only slight downside is the variable audio quality and the narrator's penchant for doing voices and accents, which can be jarring at times. It certainly doesn't ruin this fantastic book though.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 07-28-13

Disappointing

I loved the paper book, so looked forward to this. However the quality let it down. it's not a dreadful recording, but the presenter's voice came across as too childish which seemed to change the tone of some parts of the book and there were a few repeated sentences. Somehow the excitement of a genius that played with science felt more like a blundering amateur.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Mark Tilbrook
  • 03-19-17

Great stories, Narrator is quite weak

The material is great, the narrator however is very flat. Would still recommend for fans of Feynman.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Chris
  • 07-04-13

Wish I'd known him!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, I would, particularly to somebody who understood some maths & physics.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!?

People thought he was being pretentious because he learned Portuguese when living in Brazil. They set out to tease him by introducing him to a lady who had been brought up in China and greeted him in Chinese. He boldly replied with a bit of nonsense which sounded Chinese and she said "Wouldn't you just know it, I speak Mandarin and he speaks Cantonese?!"

What does Raymond Todd bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

I actually have the book, but he makes some wonderful sound effects and noises which you don't get from the printed page.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Mainly it made me laugh, but the chapter when he witnessed the first A-bomb test made me sad - particularly when he went on to like, admire and work with Japanese colleagues.

Any additional comments?

If you're not sure and think this might be a bit stuffy and erudite, take a chance on it - you'll be glad you did.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Nik Jewell
  • 06-11-17

Flawed fun

I first read this book about 30 years ago along with its sequel and, later, Gleick's biography. I was much taken with Feynman in those days and he was very much in my mind a few years ago when I was fortunate to visit the Altai mountains (and witness the throat singing) that he so wanted to visit in his dying days.

I picked this recording up in a recent sale and looked forward to reacquainting myself with the book and the man. I was not disappointed with the anecdotes, his zest for problem solving and his mischievous sense of fun.

I remembered from before his contempt for philosophy and for culture in general but, at the risk of criticising an icon, this time I was struck, however, by the sexism. I didn't recall this from the last time I read it, and that probably says much about how attitudes have changed. I was also struck by a lack of compassion and empathy at times.

Feynman remains undiminished as one of the greatest physicists and scientific communicators of all time; I was just a little more aware of his flaws on this listening (though all 'geniuses' are lacking in some area).

6 people found this helpful

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  • mollyeyre
  • 11-15-13

Fascinating man

I have read in one review that the reviewer considered Mr F to be self centred and a womaniser. I disagree very strongly, in all his brilliance he has a certain naivety and sees things in a straight uncomplicated manor. I found this book fascinating and read well. My only complaint is that the editing wasn't up to Audible's usual standards, there were a few passages that were repeated - as in - for the recording process to be able to be picked up accurately. There was also one spot where the words 'jumped', even when I backtracked and played it again in case I had done something accidentally .

All in all an excellent read

6 people found this helpful

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  • JOHN
  • 06-30-13

Not A Lot Of Laughs

What disappointed you about Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!?

I was expecting to be entertained and enlightened by this much lauded book but I found it dull and boring and Feynman comes across as a particularly unpleasant individual, an egotist of the first rank. I gave up on it just over half way through as I could no longer tolerate his presence. He may have been a genius and was undoubtedly a great physicist but he most certainly was not a good writer. The book has an undeserved reputation mainly due to the uncritical worshiping of all things Feynman by his adoring fans. Raymond Todd does a workmanlike job with the narration but unfortunately the source material leaves a lot to be desired.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kaggy
  • 08-27-15

The Greatest Showman

A set of amusing, entertaining and thought provoking anecdotal stories from a man who was rightly described as a genius. Richard Feynman was capable of many other things but he would fail miserably at being lazy, boring and stupid. A lover of showgirls, pranks and exposing corruption and failures in the system, his absolute self-confidence and scorn for convention got him into some amazing scrapes. From bar brawls, scaring the neighbourhood with his maniacal drum and breaking into safes, he was a true force of nature and was also able to understand its myriad of intricacies. This is a fascinating insight into a man with a brilliant mind and an insatiable zest for life. He was passionate about his teaching profession and his students, but was also one of the scientists who developed the nuclear bomb and his thoughts on this achievement make sobering reading.
This is only a snapshot of an incredible life but there is enough here to make you thirst for more.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Chris
  • 10-20-11

An absolute joy to read

I was expecting heavy going, well you would wouldn't you? But this was a pleasure to read; stories from theoretical physics through to picking up girls in a bar, all told by a 20th Century genius.

I couldn't recommend this highly enough.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rani
  • 08-21-11

Excellent - interesting, witty and insightful!

One of the best audiobooks I listened to. Extremely enjoyable and some lovely insights to life:)

Well worth a listen!

4 people found this helpful

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  • AB
  • 08-29-19

amazing book

just an overall well written book, with genuine intentions.

and a true feeling that Feynman is your long time friend

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Varun Shukla
  • 09-11-17

Excellent reading by Raymond Todd.

Excellent reading by Raymond Todd. Great story, highly recommended. I didn't even realize how time passed

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Benjimite
  • 11-24-22

Brilliant!

Knew next to nothing about Feynman but feel enlightened to have heard his adventures. What a full and examine life he led

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-10-22

Sigh

So I'm a young scientist and I was looking for something different then this. This book paints Richard Feynman as a sexist jerk. I understand that "it was a different time" and "things were different" but some of the attitudes expressed in this book are just kinda bad and feel really disgusting. This is proof that the "best minds" can be really flawed people.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Attie v.
  • 06-17-22

Brilliantly read story of a brilliant man.

Most striking is how Richard Feynman followed his curiosity down so many varied paths and managed to find joy and fulfillment in so many places. To me, that is the lesson here.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-29-21

snoozer

after reading all of the reviews I was surprised at how boring this one was

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Francis Doherty-Bigara
  • 12-14-21

Motor-mouth narration 😔

The book sounds like it could be a very honest, frank and fun recount of Richard Feynman's life, experiences and thought processes. I struggle a lot with the chosen style of narration though. It's super stressful, overly intense, and frankly very, very annoying. Like a loud motor-mouth at a quiet dinner party that just. keeps. on. going. and going. and going. and going. without. one. breadth. ever. and going. and....

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Tim Gayton
  • 09-04-21

Interesting, charismatic

This man has done an incredible amount. His journey through the science, academia, music and teaching world is unique and entertaining. Some humorous anecdotes throughout and his achievements, ensure this is an enjoyable listen

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Binod Dahal
  • 07-30-21

Amazing life of an incredible personality

Incredible story of one of the fascinating personalities in the world.
Love the presentation as well.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rishab Bhargava
  • 05-17-21

Narration was brilliant

Great stories from a brilliant scientist and only made better by the narrator Raymond Todd