My Brief History

2 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 2 hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804164306. $15; digital download. MEMOIR
The public generally pictures theoretical physicist Hawking (A Brief History of Time) as a slight man, wheelchair-bound from Lou Gehrig's disease. That a different Hawking snapshot graces the cover of his autobiography—a robust youth posturing with his Cambridge Boat Club chums—hints at the rich life behind the scientist's public persona. Expanded from his celebrated lectures titled "A Brief History of Mine" and a documentary of the same name, Hawking recounts his youth, academic successes, marriages, and fatherhood. The brevity referenced in the title was necessitated by the constraints of typing three words a minute using a single facial muscle. Narrator Matthew Brenher's resonant voice anchors the memoir in place and captures Hawking's spirit. Chapters begin voiced by a speech synthesizer, merging with and then fading to Brenher's voice. The book's final sentences reverse the process, blending Brenher's voice back to Hawking's speech synthesizer. It's a powerful effect unique to audio presentation. The savvy listener may want to borrow the print book since it is enhanced with 47 captioned photos.
VERDICT Young adults and adults, laypersons and scientists will find 71-year-old Hawking's life story enriching.

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