Top positive review
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Less substantial but still very welcome
on 8 August 2004
This book is billed as a second, and final, collection of reminiscences from one of the twentieth century's greatest thinkers, the physicist / artist / philosopher / educator / genius, Richard Feynman. This is true; however, it is somewhat different in style to the unsurpassably brilliant "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman?" - surely one of the greatest books ever written - to which this is the sequel.
The first part of the book covers, not in chronological order, some important events from Feynman's life, particularly his early life, that were omitted from "Surely You're Joking". Most especially, it covers his meeting, marriage and subsequent death of his first wife, a tale which is no less moving for being told in his typically matter-of-fact manner.
Fully half the book is taken up with his account of his time spent on the Challenger space shuttle disaster review board, which shows that he was determined to go about accident investigation with exactly the same rigour and method that he applied to all of his pursuits.
If "Surely You're Joking" were a film, "What Do You Care" would be the bonus DVD of extras that came with it. To a certain extent, it's more of what we loved about "Surely You're Joking"; occasionally it throws the main narrative into a different light; sometimes it feels a trifle redundant. For example, why include Feynman's report on the Challenger disaster as an appendix to his own excellent and detailed account of his time working on the same, when it includes no new information? If this were indeed a DVD, it would be criticised for unnecessary reuse of material.
One welcome inclusion is a small collection of illustrations, some showing Feynman at various stages of his career but also some of his own drawings. Again, these latter would have been more relevant had they been included as part of the earlier book.
Still, "What Do You Care" is an easy read and any more wisdom from the author of "Surely You're Joking" is very welcome, however insubstantial.