Walter Isaacson goes deeper into his life and Dennis Overbye into his work, but readers will find this shorter biography...

A prolific British science writer examines the creation of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Special relativity—Einstein’s startling 1905 assertion that time and space are flexible, varying predictably according to one’s frame of reference—is easy, writes Gribbin (13.8: The Quest to Find the True Age of the Universe and the Theory of Everything, 2016, etc.). General relativity is considered much more difficult, but the author insists that anyone can understand Einstein’s 1915 theory of gravity as a fourth dimensional distortion of space-time around any massive body. He exaggerates, but careful readers will understand most of this book, which, despite the title, is a fine account of Einstein’s life and work with modest emphasis on general relativity. Gribbin checks all the boxes. Born in a middle-class Jewish German family, Einstein was—despite the myth—a good if obstreperous student. He failed to obtain an academic position after his 1900 graduation from Swiss Federal Polytechnic because theoretical physics professorships were much more rare then, but it’s also a myth that the scientific establishment ignored him. Europe’s leading physics journal, Annalen der Physik, accepted all of his groundbreaking 1905 papers, but it had been accepting his papers since 1900. By 1908, he was a significant figure in the scientific community, and in 1914, Berlin’s pre-eminent Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics created a position especially for him. General relativity turned out to be so difficult for Einstein that he needed help from a mathematician friend to get it right, but it made him a scientific superstar. As Gribbin notes, he had “discovered a fundamental absolute truth about the universe…to rank with such fundamental mathematical truths as Pythagoras’ theorem.”

Walter Isaacson goes deeper into his life and Dennis Overbye into his work, but readers will find this shorter biography entirely satisfactory.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68177-212-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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