Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time

3869A Brief History of Time
by Stephen Hawking
(science non-fiction)

When I initially added this to my TBR, I misunderstood what the book was going to be about. I thought it was going to be more of a history of the time humans have spent existing, not a history of how we understand time itself. It’s still a good read, just not what I expected. And even though it was a bit hard to read (I’m used to reading science non-fiction, but most of what I read is aimed at the layperson even more than this one) I’m still glad I did. It’s like taking the Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson works I’ve been reading and stepping up the science a notch or three. Definitely worth reading, though it took some adjusting at the beginning of the book to get used to Hawking’s style of writing. (I don’t mean to be implying that Sagan and Tyson are less scientific. They are addressing slightly different audiences, however. Sagan and Tyson are trying to reach people with very little science literacy, so their works are easier to access. Hawking seems to be addressing people who–while they aren’t necessarily scientists–have a higher amount of science literacy.)

I was doing some reading about the late Prof. Hawking after reading his A Brief History of Time, and I came across this quote attributed to him which I love:

I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.

Some of the science in this volume is out-dated, which makes sense since it was initially written in 1987 and revised in 1996. One of the major things I noticed was a distinct lack of talk of dark matter and dark energy. However, what it covers, it covers well. As an example, the way Hawking describes the expanding universe worked well for me. I’ve always had trouble understanding how the universe could be expanding and yet not have any edges. (Think a four-dimensional version of the globe, or a balloon.)

Is this book something you should read? Yes, I think it is. I think that this is one everyone should at least try to read. It’s a really good look at space-time, and teaches a lot about areas of science that most people assume they’ll never understand. I will fully admit that I don’t properly understand everything Hawking wrote about–I’d guess that I properly understood about half of it, and somewhat understood maybe another quarter (leaving at least another quarter of the material as completely over my head at the moment). Still: I learned something that I didn’t know before. And I’m reminded that there is still so much about this subject (which is a subject I like, and so have been casually studying for year) that I don’t know. Being reminded that you still have a lot to learn can be a wonderful thing, and Hawking presents that in such a way that you won’t feel like any less of a person because you still have more to learn. I think this is a book I’ll be revisiting over again and again.

Rating: 4 stars

3 thoughts on “Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time

  1. Great review! Sounds really interesting, it’s a book I’ve been meaning to pick up since his passing but I was worried I wouldn’t get it… at least I’ve been pre-warned now!

    1. Thanks! I did find it interesting, but parts of it were hard to unpack. Still, it was good to read!

      (But if you’re looking for similar material that is easier to read, I’d suggest Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.)

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