Top positive review
A good, clear overview of physics for non-physicists.
Reviewed in the United States on June 16, 2020
This book sets out to describe physics, especially the frontiers of modern physics, to non-scientists, and to do so in relatively simple terms and in a relatively short volume. I love this goal, its ambition and its importance, and I think the book mostly succeeds. I'm not sure how well it would work for someone with no science background whatsoever, but it seems accessible to those with just a modicum of familiarity.
I found the preface and the first two chapters the weakest. Sometimes they felt overly sensationalist. Even the title of the opening chapter -- "The Awe of Understanding" -- rubbed my crotchety self the wrong way. From chapter three onward, either I grew less crotchety or the book hit its stride, and I liked it considerably. In chapters three through six, Al-Khalili provides a lucid overview of three fundamental areas of physics: gravity, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics. Then in chapters seven through nine, he talks about unresolved issues in physics, its future, and its applications. Finally in chapter ten, he steps back and discusses the nature of scientific endeavor, including the importance of doubt and admitting mistakes, and yet how scientific theories on gravity, evolution, et al, have a weight of evidence behind them that less scientific opinions lack.
If I have a complaint about chapters three through ten, it is only that I wanted them to go deeper, to learn more about the state of physics than this relatively brief overview could provide. But that shows that the author succeeded in fascinating me in the subject. Happily, he provides suggestions for further reading. (I've already ordered two more books.)
About my reviews: I try to review every book I read, including those that I don't end up enjoying. The reviews are not scholarly, but just indicate my reaction as a reader, reading being my addiction. I am miserly with 5-star reviews; 4 stars means I liked a book very much; 3 stars means I liked it; 2 stars means I didn't like it (though often the 2-star books are very popular with other readers and/or are by authors whose other work I've loved).