MY BRIEF HISTORY. By Stephen Hawking. Bantam Books. 144 pages. $22.
“A Brief History of Time,” which was released in 1988, was a publishing phenomenon, selling more than 10 million copies. It was described as the most popular book that nobody read and made its author, scientist Stephen Hawking, internationally famous. Now Hawking brings the same brevity to his life that he brought to cosmology.
“My Brief History” is a 144-page memoir that gives a bare-bones account of Hawking’s life.
With about 45 photos included, the amount of text is even briefer, and with approximately one-third of the text devoted to discussion of scientific concepts, briefer still.
Although Hawking, who has lived with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) for more than 50 years, passes over many aspects and events of his 71-year life, his voice is positive and often displays an understated sense of humor.
Hawking includes a chapter on the writing and publication of his famous “A Brief History of Time” and mentions that many people must have read it because he receives letters from readers who have sent him questions. He also includes chapters on black holes, imaginary time and time travel.
As one reads Hawking’s account of his childhood, his time in Oxford and Cambridge, his diagnosis of ALS, and his determination to go on and accomplish so much, one cannot help but be inspired. Still, the book comes up a bit short in details that might illuminate the life of this very private man who has become a very public presence.
The old adage in show business is, “leave them wanting more,” but in a memoir, that is generally not as desirable.
If you want a more detailed account of Stephen Hawking’s life, search elsewhere. But if you want to know what this amazing man has to say about his own life, it will not take a great investment of time to read “My Brief History.”
Reviewer Michael Nelson is a writer and editor in Charleston.