Books By and About Stephen Hawking

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Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. "Books By and About Stephen Hawking." ThoughtCo, Sep. 1, 2016, thoughtco.com/books-by-and-about-stephen-hawking-2699409. Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. (2016, September 1). Books By and About Stephen Hawking. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/books-by-and-about-stephen-hawking-2699409 Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. "Books By and About Stephen Hawking." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/books-by-and-about-stephen-hawking-2699409 (accessed September 22, 2017).

The British cosmologist Stephen Hawking is known among physicists the world over as the revolutionary thinker who made impressive strides in exploring the distinction between quantum physics and general relativity. His work on how these two theories interact in the hypothetical objects known as black holes resulted in a radical rethinking of how they would operate, predicting a physical emission from black holes that has become known as Hawking radiation.

Among non-physicists, however, Hawking's fame is tied to his wildly successful popular science book, A Brief History of Time. In the decades since its original publication, Hawking himself has become a household name and one of the most recognizable physicists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Despite being debilitated by ALS, he has published a number of significant books for popular audiences, in an effort to make science accessible and interesting to the lay readers.

This book introduced the world (and this author) to many of the deepest mysteries of modern theoretical physics, as it laid out the difficulties in reconciling quantum physics and the theory of relativity, and explained the field of cosmology. Whether this triggered a wave of science enthusiasm, or was merely timed to ride that wave, the fact is that the book represents a watershed moment in the history of science communication, as science enthusiasts could now read and understand the arguments of scientists directly from their own mouths. 

Over a decade after his first book, Hawking returns to the realm of theoretical physics to explain some of the key insights that had developed in the intervening years. Though it was a powerful book for the time, this represents something of an outdated book at this point, and the reader might be more interested in Hawking's on A Briefer History of Time, discussed below.

Though Newton was perhaps being a bit insincere when he feigned false humility by claiming to have stood on the shoulders of giants, it was a true statement nonetheless. In this volume, Stephen Hawking attempts to pull together some of the key thoughts from a variety of history's greatest scientists, packaged for the modern reader.

A Briefer History of Time (2005) with Leonard Mlodinow

Cover of the book A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
The cover of A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Bantam Dell/Random House

In this updated edition, Hawking resumes his narrative by incorporating the nearly two decades of theoretical physics exploration that has taken place since his original Brief History of Time was published. It also contains more illustrations than the original volume.

Science in general, and physics in particular, is built in modeling the universe in mathematical terms. In this volume, subtitled "The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History," Hawking pulls together some of the most revolutionary thoughts of history's greatest mathematicians and presents them, both in their original words and with Hawking's annotations, to the modern reader.

Stephen Hawking's first wife, Jane Hawking, published this memoir in 2007, detailing her time with the revolutionary physicist. It provided the basis for the 2014 biopic The Theory of Everything

George's Secret Key to the Universe (2007) with Lucy Hawking

Cover to George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy & Stephen Hawking with Christophe Galfard. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

This series of children's novels is a collaboration between Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy. The novel itself focuses not only on science, but also an intriguing discussion of scientific ethics, which the authors codify in the Oath of the Scientist. The authors do their best to make the science accurate while depicting the trials and tribulations of their protagonist George, but at times this seems a bit more than it would if they'd be willing to fudge the science a bit for the sake of the narrative. However, the goal of this is to interest readers in the scientific concepts, so I suppose they can be forgiven sticking with those priorities.

George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt (2009) with Lucy Hawking

Cover to the book George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt by Stephen and Lucy Hawking
The cover to George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt, a children's science fiction novel by Lucy and Stephen Hawking. Simon & Schuster

The second book in the children's series that Stephen Hawking co-writes with his daughter Lucy continues the science-based adventures of George.

The Grand Design (2010) with Leonard Mlodinow

Cover of the book The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
The cover of The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Bantam press

This book attempts to bring together much of the cutting edge of theoretical physics research from recent decades, making the case that the mere existence of quantum physics and relativity allows for a full and complete description of how the universe came into being. Controversial for its direct rejection of the need for a creator deity to explain apparent design elements in our universe, the book also got a lot of controversy for generally dismissing philosophy as irrelevant ... even while attempting to make a nuanced philosophical argument.

In this third volume in Stephen Hawking's children series collaboration with his daughter Lucy, their protagonist George seeks to escape the problems in his life by helping on a project to explore the earliest moments of the universe, until sabotage by evil scientists causes things to go horribly wrong.

Cover of the book My Brief History by Stephen Hawking. Random House

This slim volume represents his life story in his own words. Perhaps not surprising, it focuses on his scientific work. Though it touches on his relationships and family life, these are not the focus of Hawking's own narrative of his life. For those more interested in those aspects of his life, I would suggest the book Theory of Everything, by his first wife. More »

In this fourth volume of Lucy and Stephen Hawking's series of young adult novels, their protagonist George and his best friend Annie travel to the furthest reaches of the universe in an effort to discover how evil scientists have been able to hack all of the computers on Earth.