Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Book Review: 'My Brief History' by Stephen Hawking

Thanks to Netgalley.com and Random House Publishing Group for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

I have never read  any Hawking before *gasp*, so what a place to start, on his autobiography. Titled 'My Brief History' is really is brief and to the point.

The style of this autobiography is terse, to the point, and mainly about his academic achievements. His children and wives get a brief mention, which is reassuring, with the only other personal story being that of the onset of his disability and the management of it. Which is also brief in comparison to the rest of the story.

I have thought about why this style may have come about and I have several theories, each may play a role. Foremost, he is a scientist, and has given us the facts of his life. There was no embellishment, because scientists don't tend to go for all that touchy-feely stuff.

It takes a lot of effort for Stephen to write. He says explicitly that he manages three or four words per minute using his speech system. This short autobiography translates to many hours of work. Give the guy a break.

He is a private guy, and would prefer not to have all his washing hung out. Although you do get snippets now and then. For instance, when he thought he was dying in the 70s and his children were young, he and his wife decided upon a future father and husband after he was gone. The man that was selected moved in to get better acquainted with the children. Stephen's condition did not go according to what the doctors predicted and months later his marriage was over. It is obvious he did this out of love for his wife and children. It is tragic as to how it turned out.

The closest autobiography in style to this that comes to mind is Roald Dahl's 'Boy' and 'Going Solo'. Both authors give brief tales that are full of facts and not much feelings.

So a nice quick read that gives us a look at the personality and work that the amazing man has done over the last 50 or so years. Just be careful about your expectations of what this autobiography will give you. It will not give you an in depth warts and all account of his whole life. But still well worth the read if you are a fan or a fellow scientist interested in how famous academics live and research. It has given me the inspiration to move his other works up my to-read list.

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