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Book Review: Stephen Hawking, A Briefer History Of Time
In 1988 the famous British physicist Stephen Hawking released his book titled "A Brief History of Time", a fascinating book that explained many of Professor Hawkings revolutionary theories about the universe. This book whilst it was praised for how it simplified immensely complex theories and was a must read for University/College Physics students, the book however was still complex and difficult to follow for those who may not have qualifications in physics but are interested in the subject none the less.
The 2005 release "A Briefer History of Time" is Professor Stephen Hawkings attempt to address this. A Briefer History of time is shorter and does away with many of the equations and mathematics that are used in the original, instead the book focuses on using analogies and explanations to prove theories.
How simple is too simple?
When simplifying the book there was a careful balance for Professor Hawking to make, not to make the book so simple that it felt like it wasn't giving full explanations, but also to make it simple enough to combat the original critics.
I think at this point it is important for me to state my level of physics knowledge, I am 18 and have studied physics up until the level before uni/college, at uni/college I will be studying Engineering. Thus I would say my understanding of physics is around that of the books target audience (maybe if anything very slightly higher.)
I found the book to be at a good level for my "holiday reading", the topics included were very thought provoking and felt to be giving full answers to the questions the book posed. Apart from one or two sections however (The section about time travel mainly) there wasn't much I felt I needed to re-read to understand, it all sunk in relatively well first time. The book does a very very good job of simplifying relativity and Einsteins theory of it, I read various explanations before and this one is the best explanation I have found yet.
As I mentioned before, this book was my holiday by a sunbed reading. It took me about a week of 1.5 hours a day reading to get through. Not particularly fast for a 176 page book agreed, however I took my time reading the concepts to make sure I understood them before moving on, I also sometimes paused to think about a question that was raised. I think that is the best way to approach this book, just powering through it is going to leave you getting to the end still with questions about the topics and then just having to go back and re-read parts again.
I thought the length of the book was quite good, I didn't want it to end because it was so interesting and would have happily read many more pages, however making it much longer may have made the book seem intimidating for the casual reader and thus I understand the choice to keep it shorter.
Whilst not hugely important to the content of the book the quality of the cover and colour images inside the book are really nice, a few of the images useful diagrams for explaining the content however most are just nice decoration with a link to the content being discussed.
I really enjoyed the book, I found it very interesting and an enjoyable read.
Would I recommend it to people? well it depends on the person. To those who have an interest in physics and a reasonable amount of prior knowledge then yes, it is a fantastic book that explains topics that the reader might have otherwise thought were completely out of their grasp. However as an academic book for those who studied physics at college/university level, or someone with only little prior knowledge of the subject then the book is not really suitable for them, however in fairness those people are not really the books target market.