Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! Book Summary - Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! summary

Richard P. Feynman

Adventures of a Curious Character

3.3 (124 ratings)
7 mins

Brief summary

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! is a captivating memoir by Richard P. Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. It takes readers on a humorous and enlightening journey through his extraordinary life and scientific adventures.

Table of Contents

    Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
    Summary of 2 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 2

    Feynman's unconventional Nobel Prize reaction

    One morning, Richard Feynman received a very early phone call that woke him up at 4:30 a.m. The caller informed him that he’d won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Still half-asleep, Feynman thought it was a prank and dismissively said he was sleeping before hanging up. When he told his wife about the call, she didn't believe him either, as he was known for playing jokes on her.

    After getting up, though, the news started to sink in. Feynman contemplated whether he could refuse to accept the Nobel Prize without causing too much of a stir. He called a reporter at Time magazine off the record, asking if there was any way out of accepting the award. The reporter regretfully told him there was no way to refuse it gracefully. So, reluctantly, Feynman accepted that he would have to go through with the pomp and ceremony around receiving the prize.

    The Swedish consulate in Los Angeles wanted to host a reception for Feynman. They asked him to provide a guest list, which Feynman kept short with around 8 people – including his neighbor. In contrast, the consulate's own guest list had 300 names, including governors and other VIPs. Amusingly, there was no overlap between the two lists. Feynman ended up calling the consulate back to cancel the reception altogether, much to the relief of the consulate organizer who didn't want to host it either.

    This left only the formal thank-you speech. Feynman became anxious about how to craft a speech that was honest but also had the expected polite niceties. He didn't really want the Nobel Prize but knew he couldn't just blithely say a typical “thank you very much.” Eventually, he gave a clever speech explaining that he had already gotten everything he wanted from his career – the pleasure of discovery and seeing his work used. He said the supportive letters from old friends after the prize meant more to him than the prize itself. 

    The speech allowed Feynman to be truthful while also meeting convention – a characteristic compromise.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!?

    Key ideas in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! about?

    Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (1985) shares amusing and illuminating anecdotes from the life of Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman. From his unorthodox problem-solving methods to his rejection of pomp and pretense, it offers an insightful look at Feynman's iconoclastic personality and approach to science. 

    Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! Review

    Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (1985) is an enthralling memoir of Richard P. Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • It offers a unique glimpse into the life of one of the greatest scientific minds of our time, filled with fascinating anecdotes and experiences.
    • With its brilliant and accessible storytelling, the book manages to make complex scientific concepts understandable and engaging for readers of all backgrounds.
    • The book's playful and humorous tone keeps readers entertained throughout, making it an enjoyable and engaging exploration of Feynman's remarkable life and scientific achievements.

    Who should read Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!?

    • Aspiring physicists and scientists
    • Readers interested in humor and adventure
    • Those seeking an unconventional memoir

    About the Author

    Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988) was an American physicist. He studied at MIT and Princeton before joining the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos during World War II, where he helped develop the atomic bomb. After the war, Feynman taught at Cornell and Caltech, where he had a distinguished career until his death. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for his groundbreaking work in quantum electrodynamics. In 1986, he contributed to the investigation of the Challenger space shuttle disaster as part of the Rogers Commission. 

    Categories with Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

    Book summaries like Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    30 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! FAQs 

    What is the main message of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!?

    Curiosity and a playful spirit can lead to extraordinary adventures and discoveries.

    How long does it take to read Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!?

    The reading time for Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just minutes.

    Is Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! is a delightful and inspiring read, filled with fascinating stories and valuable insights.

    Who is the author of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!?

    The author of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! is Richard P. Feynman.

    What to read after Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • American Prometheus by Kai Bird & Martin J Sherwin
    • The Wager by David Grann
    • The Porn Trap by Wendy Maltz & Larry Maltz
    • Strangers by Taichi Yamada
    • Genius by James Gleick
    • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
    • Poor Things by Alasdair Gray
    • Dune by Frank Herbert
    • Oath and Honor by Liz Cheney
    • Your Brain on Porn by Gary Wilson