The Illustrated A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Title: The Illustrated A Brief History of Time/The Universe in a Nutshell
Author: Stephen Hawking
Date Added: June 25, 2016
Date Started: January 2, 2017
Date Finished: April 9, 2017
Reading Duration: 97 days
Genre: Science, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

Pages: 464
Publication Date: June 7, 2007
Publisher: Bantam Dell Publishing Group
Media: Paperback

One of the most influential thinkers of our time, Stephen Hawking is an intellectual icon, known not only for the adventurousness of his ideas but for the clarity and wit with which he expresses them. In this new book Hawking takes us to the cutting edge of theoretical physics, where truth is often stranger than fiction, to explain in laymen’s terms the principles that control our universe. Like many in the community of theoretical physicists, Professor Hawking is seeking to uncover the grail of science – the elusive Theory of Everything that lies at the heart of the cosmos. In his accessible and often playful style, he guides us on his search to uncover the secrets of the universe – from supergravity to supersymmetry, from quantum theory to M-theory, from holography to duality. He takes us to the wild frontiers of science, where superstring theory and p-branes may hold the final clue to the puzzle. And he lets us behind the scenes of one of his most exciting intellectual adventures as he seeks “to combine Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Richard Feynman’s idea of multiple histories into one complete unified theory that will describe everything that happens in the universe.” With characteristic exuberance, Professor Hawking invites us to be fellow travelers on this extraordinary voyage through space-time. Copious four-color illustrations help clarify this journey into a surreal wonderland where particles, sheets, and strings move in eleven dimensions; where black holes evaporate and disappear, taking their secret with them; and where the original cosmic seed from which our own universe sprang was a tiny nut. The Universe in a Nutshell is essential reading for all of us who want to understand the universe in which we live. Like its companion volume, A Brief History of Time, it conveys the excitement felt within the scientific community as the secrets of the cosmos reveal themselves.


Professor Hawking has managed to take something supremely difficult to understand, the nature of the universe and in fact our very being, and explained it in the simplest terms possible.  Sadly, the simplest terms possible are still wildly complicated, and I spent a good portion of this book rereading and rereading again in attempt to wrap my head around the concepts.  I can say that I understood 70% on a good day and 30% on a bad.  I am still woefully clueless on string theory and can probably only consider 20% of that to my credit, but the internet exists for a reason, and I’m certain I’ll find myself looking it up again one day.

This is not a volume that can be read casually.  It is not a book that’s picked up before repose as a bedtime browser.  Brief History should be treated more like a textbook, and this is not a slight on its part.  Professor Hawking is attempting to teach laypeople/non-scientists about highly complex scientific concepts, many of which even those in that community do not fully understand.

It is possible that some of the more complex ideas could’ve been explained a little more clearly.  Because Mr. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University and because he’s taught physics for many, many years, I believe his writing reflects the attitude that readers will have more than rudimentary knowledge of what he’s trying to explain.  Instead of being Physics 101, A Brief History of Time may be more in the neighborhood of Physics 102.  This could also just be my own personal failing to adequately grasp it, and other readers unfamiliar with theoretical physics may have no problem at all.

The book did serve to dissuade me from pursuing serious studies of astrophysics, as I was considering that at some point,  I do not say this with remorse or in an attempt to seek sympathy.  I’m actually happy I was able to come to this conclusion, as I can spend my time in more fruitful endeavors.  I’ve been thinking about studying law, which is a far more mundane matter in comparison to the universe.  Briefly, I chosen micro concerns (which are no less important) as opposed to macro.  I will most definitely continue to read about/study astrophysics on a more casual level, since postulating where the universe comes from and how it operates is paramount to understanding ourselves.

4 stars.

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24 thoughts on “The Illustrated A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

    • You definitely need to put on your thinking cap! I usually like textbook like volumes, too, but Professor Hawking really challenges you. I think he’s so intelligent, this was as “simple” as he could get. That’s why I only technically read “half” of the book since I have both History of Time and Universe in a Nutshell together in one volume, but I only read the first half. I need a break in between lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great review! I know this would be way over my head. Trying to comprehend the infinite universe, and questioning why the hell we are even alive in the first place, often sends my overactive brain down interesting paths though, haha. I wan’t a fan of physics in high school, but I liked the electronics part of the course. Grade 12 Physics was a prerequisite for the Electronics program I took in college, and that’s the only reason why I suffered through everything else, lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was lucky to understand any part of this, and I’m honestly still not sure. I need to look up string theory on Wikipedia to see if that explanation will make sense. I mean I *kind of* got what Professor Hawking was talking about, but I wouldn’t want to take an essay test on it.

      I actually never took physics! It wasn’t a requirement, though I wish I had. Maybe I’d have a better understanding of that book lol. I remember my one college roommate used complain all the time about her physics class that nearly everyone failed. She had to take it for her sports medicine degree. With math, the highest I took was Trig and Precalc. I wanted to take Calculus, but just never had the chance.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m horrible at math and most physics concepts, but I got through it (barely) because I wanted to get into the electronics field. In college I had to take up to Calculus level 3, just for one stupid concept that I’ve never used in my entire career thus far, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I bought this book several years ago and have yet to read it. I don’t know what has held me back. I have spent the last couple years or so delving into human nature from a cynic’s point of view, and I haven’t made time to take a closer look at the universe’s perspective. It’s time I put Vonnegut aside for a bit and put my physics goggles on. Maybe even put the money I spent on that book to good use.

    Liked by 1 person

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