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Editor reviews

I know my fair share of science from a couple of courses I took in school, but Professor Hawking really got me thinking when he asked me to stew over this question: what do we really know about the universe? This spawns another question: was God forced to create the Universe? Tough issues to deal with in a book! Have no fear, though, we have one of the most brilliant minds, who heads up a post at Cambridge once headed by Newton himself, to guide us through history, from the Greeks, to Copernicus, to recent discoveries. (Tony H.)

Summary

This landmark book is for those of us who prefer words to equations; this is the story of the ultimate quest for knowledge, the ongoing search for the secrets at the heart of time and space. Its author, Stephen W. Hawking, is arguably the greatest mind since Einstein. From the vantage point of the wheelchair, where he has spent the last 20 years trapped by Lou Gehrig's disease, Professor Hawking has transformed our view of the universe. A Brief History of Time is Hawking's classic introduction to today's most important scientific ideas about the cosmos. It is read here by the Emmy Award-winning host of The Michael Jackson Show on KABC-TV.
©1988 Stephen W. Hawking (P)2005 Phoenix Books, Inc.

Critic reviews

"A masterful summary of what physicists now think the world is made of and how it got that way." ( The Wall Street Journal)
"Lively and provocative, Hawking clearly possesses a natural teacher's gift, easy, good-natured humor, and an ability to illustrate highly complex propositions with analogies plucked from daily life." ( The New York Times)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Andrew
  • Nottingham, England, United Kingdom
  • 17-04-06

Fascinating and bewildering.

I have read the book, and thoroughly enjoyed it, however the audio version assists understanding of more complicated hypotheses, by providing the listener with a passive and more comfortable viewpoint.

10 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • James
  • 19-05-04

Easily Digestible Presentation of Complex Topics

Content - This is a "pop physics" classic. Fairly complex topics are covered in an entertaining and clear manner. There is a "leap" in the book in moving from the macro to the micro, but this isn't so much a function of the book, but of the science at this point.
Math isn't really needed, but a scientific mindset helps

Adaptation - as it is unabridged, there is little in the way of adaptation. The "voice" of the book is of a "lecture" type which translates well. There are figures in the printed work that help clarify things, but these are few and only minimally impact the experience

Narration - Solid. It is a fairly emotionally even subject and the reader doesn't attempt to "overdress" the text.
I have heard Hawking lectures read by Hawking and, sadly, the mechanical voice can be stressful to listen to at first (you do get used to it), but a professional human reader is easier

39 of 39 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jeff Parent
  • 15-11-03

Great book, but....

I really enjoyed this book. It helped me better understand many of the great advances in physics, astronomy, and cosmology of the 20th century. The narration was great and included a couple jokes and personal notes about/from the author that lent a human touch to the subject.

As good as the book is, I think it would be a real struggle for those who don?t already have a familiarity with some of the topics. Further, because of the books age some of the ideas are out of date (e.g. the latest evidence is that the universe is not only expanding, but doing so at an ever increasing rate). Nonetheless, the book is worth reading and re-reading (as I?ll do).

55 of 57 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Austin
  • 16-03-05

Uncommonly good!

As you already know what this book is about, I will tell you how it affected a student with limited mathematical background and none in physics. Well, it was wonderful- this is one of the only audiobooks for which I must abandon all other sources of distraction. Hawking's descriptions and analogies are spot-on for my taste, and I rarely had to re-listen to any of it to grasp the concepts.
The narration is good too. Jackson, thankfully unique from most stoic-sounding professionals, actually gets caught up in what he is reading! I believe that speaks volumes, as it were, about the book itself. Even (and perhaps especially) if you're not a fan of these topics, take this chance to culture yourself with this mind-expanding prize.

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Raema
  • 05-11-06

would recommend to anyone

A few people said here that the book was boring because they already knew all the concepts... I couldn't DISagree more. I'm a physics/astrophysics student in my senior year, and know all these concepts like the back of my hand, but this book was still such a pleasure to listen to. Hawking writes in such a way that this book was one of the best I've ever encountered (on these topics), and has the potential to really intreague anyone and everyone. I'd recommend it to anyone!

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Matt
  • 29-08-03

Elegance

This book dives right in and tells a story that helped me understand how many of the 20th century advances in theoretical physics relate to my world/life.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Donald
  • 22-05-03

Great book, great recording

I'm going through this for a second time a year or so after the first and am loving it. The writing is personal with insight into the creative scientific process. The narrator and sound quality are wonderful: good inflections. The narrator sometimes hesitates on words in a way that makes it sound like he's thinking or recalling, it's delightful.

39 of 43 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Shana
  • 02-04-12

Find another narrator

Would you try another book from Stephen Hawking and/or Michael Jackson?

While the content from Stephen Hawking is interesting, it's difficult to follow due to the narrator's very strange vocal cadence. Not only is his timing odd, but it sounds as if it's the first time he's glanced at the manuscript, stumbling over words.

28 of 31 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Anthony G Lazaro
  • 06-02-12

Can barely listen

While I expect the underlying book to be pretty good, the narration is so bad that I simply couldn't get through more than about an hour of this recording. The reader clearly has difficulty with scientific terms and pronunciation, but that is something that should be taken care of in production. With randomly quickly-read clauses and terms interspersed with slowly read sentences, it's just too difficult to follow what Dr. Hawking is saying.

23 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • kieu
  • 19-11-09

Second to none amongst science books!

Science has never been shown to me as interesting as it was in this book. Apart from all the scientific details, Stephan Hawking did a wonderful job to show the whole history of science since Aristotle until modern time. So much of the book must be read again, in slower pace so I thought I shall be looking for a hard copy as well. It's true that the reader dampened the quality of this as a whole. Yet, the content was so good that I was able to forget the performance aspect of the reader.
Would recommend the book to all age and all vocations.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Timothy
  • 17-07-04

Challenging for a beginner

For a thirty-something who hasn't studied much science since high-school biology, this was a bit challenging...but rewarding.

Hawking delivers a summary of the popular theories on the origin of our planet, it's place in the universe, and everything we know and don't know about the laws that govern it.

He does a good job of helping the layman understand what may be unfamiliar concepts (they were to me anyway) like the second law of thermodynamics, the event horizon, relativity and red shift by use of analogy and "for example" type descriptions. The best audience would seem to be a college science major who has a bit of a passion for astronomy or physics or the like.

I found the reader's voice a bit monotone and I could often hear more excitement and animation in Hawking's words by re-reading them aloud in my own mind.

18 of 22 people found this review helpful