Best Selling Books by Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman is the author of The Accidental Universe (2014), The Discoveries (2010), Einstein's Dreams (2011), Reunion (2004), Screening Room (2016) and other 38 books.

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The Accidental Universe

release date: Jan 01, 2014
The Accidental Universe
Meditates on scientific findings that are changing the understanding of the cosmos, exploring such topics as the debate between science and religion, the conflict between the desire for permanence and nature's impermanence, and the ways technology has changed physical experiences.

The Discoveries

release date: Oct 22, 2010
The Discoveries
An extraordinarily accessible, illuminating chronicle of the great moments of scientific discovery in the 20th century, and an exploration into the minds of the remarkable men and women behind them. We know and read the literary masterpieces; how many of us have had the opportunity not only to read but understand the masterpieces of science that describe the very moment of discovery? The last century has seen an explosion of creativity and insight that led to breakthroughs in every field of science: from the theory of relativity to the first quantum model of the atom to the mapping of the structure of DNA, these discoveries profoundly changed how we understand the world and our place in it. Alan Lightman tells the stories of two dozen breakthroughs made by such brilliant scientists as Einstein, Bohr, McClintock and Pauling, among others, drawing on his unique background as a scientist and novelist to reveal the process of scientific discovery at its greatest. He outlines the intellectual and emotional landscape of each discovery, portrays the personalities and human drama of the scientists involved, and explains the significance and impact of the work. Finally, he gives an unprecedented and exhilarating guided tour through each of the original papers.

Einstein's Dreams

release date: Mar 02, 2011
Einstein's Dreams
A modern classic, Einstein’s Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, about time, relativity and physics. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children. In another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar. Now translated into thirty languages, Einstein’s Dreams has inspired playwrights, dancers, musicians, and painters all over the world. In poetic vignettes, it explores the connections between science and art, the process of creativity, and ultimately the fragility of human existence.

Reunion

release date: Jan 01, 2004
Reunion
The author of Einstein's Dreams tenderly traces the thirty-year-old love affair between Charles, now a fifty-two-year-old professor, as a twenty-two-year-old student, with a beautiful young dancer, set against the turbulent social and political upheaval of the 1960s. Reader's Guide available. Reprint. 20,000 first printing.

Screening Room

release date: Feb 23, 2016
Screening Room
A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR Alan Lightman's grandfather M.A. was the family's undisputed patriarch. It was his movie theater empire that catapulted the Lightmans, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant family, to prominence in the South; his triumphs that would both galvanize and paralyze his descendants. In this evocative personal history, the author chronicles his return to Memphis and the stifling home he had been so eager to flee forty years earlier. As aging uncles and aunts retell old stories, Alan finds himself reconsidering long-held beliefs about his larger-than-life grandfather and his quiet, inscrutable father. The result is an unforgettable family saga set against the pulsing backdrop of Memphis--its country clubs and juke joints, its rhythm and blues, its segregated movie theaters, its barbecue and pecan pie--including encounters with Elvis, Martin Luther King Jr., and E. H. "Boss" Crump. Both intensely personal and quintessentially American, Screening Room finely explores the tricks of light that can make--and unmake--a man and his myth. (With black-and-white illustrations throughout.)

Ghost

release date: Jan 01, 2008
Ghost
Three months after being unexpectedly fired from his banking job, David takes a temporary position at a local mortuary, where he experiences an inexplicable encounter with the unknown that transforms his relationships with everyone around him, forces him to confront the shifting nature of reality, and explores the boundary between the physical world and the spiritual one. Reprint. 20,000 first printing.

Dance for Two

release date: Mar 09, 2011
Dance for Two
For the last twenty years, Alan Lightman has been writing essays that display his genius for bringing literary and scientific concerns into harmony. Dance for Two gathers the best of Lightman's work. Here are pieces that touch on both the ethereal and the corporeal; the dependence of a ballerina on the laws of physics, the choice of every scientist makes between tinkering and theorizing, the unscientific nature of discovery, the impulse behind an unprompted smile. Dance for Two is an intimate and fascinating look into the creative compulsions shared by the artist and the scientist.

In Praise of Wasting Time

release date: May 15, 2018
In Praise of Wasting Time
In this timely and essential book that offers a fresh take on the qualms of modern day life, Professor Alan Lightman investigates the creativity born from allowing our minds to freely roam, without attempting to accomplish anything and without any assigned tasks. We are all worried about wasting time. Especially in the West, we have created a frenzied lifestyle in which the twenty-­four hours of each day are carved up, dissected, and reduced down to ten minute units of efficiency. We take our iPhones and laptops with us on vacation. We check email at restaurants or our brokerage accounts while walking in the park. When the school day ends, our children are overloaded with “extras.” Our university curricula are so crammed our young people don’t have time to reflect on the material they are supposed to be learning. Yet in the face of our time-driven existence, a great deal of evidence suggests there is great value in “wasting time,” of letting the mind lie fallow for some periods, of letting minutes and even hours go by without scheduled activities or intended tasks. Gustav Mahler routinely took three or four-­hour walks after lunch, stopping to jot down ideas in his notebook. Carl Jung did his most creative thinking and writing when he visited his country house. In his 1949 autobiography, Albert Einstein described how his thinking involved letting his mind roam over many possibilities and making connections between concepts that were previously unconnected. With In Praise of Wasting Time, Professor Alan Lightman documents the rush and heave of the modern world, suggests the technological and cultural origins of our time-­driven lives, and examines the many values of “wasting time”—for replenishing the mind, for creative thought, and for finding and solidifying the inner self. Break free from the idea that we must not waste a single second, and discover how sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing at all.

The Diagnosis

release date: Mar 13, 2001
The Diagnosis
From the bestselling author of Einstein’s Dreams comes this harrowing tale of one man's struggle to cope in a wired world, even as his own biological wiring short-circuits. As Boston’s Red Line shuttles Bill Chalmers to work one summer morning, something extraordinary happens. Suddenly, he can't remember which stop is his, where he works, or even who he is. The only thing he can remember is his corporate motto: the maximum information in the minimum time. Bill’s memory returns, but a strange numbness afflicts him. As he attempts to find a diagnosis for his deteriorating illness, he descends into a nightmarish tangle of inconclusive results, his company’s manic frenzy, and his family’s disbelief. Ultimately, Bill discovers that he is fighting not just for his body but also for his soul.

GOOD BENITO

release date: Mar 23, 2011
GOOD BENITO
From the author of the best-selling Einstein’s Dreams comes a wonderfully original, deeply moving, and wryly funny novel about the clash between the absolutes of science and the vagaries of human experience. Bennett always knew he would live a life of science. From the homemade rockets and experiments of his childhood to the complex equations he solved as a professor of physics, his vision has transformed the uncertainty and frailty of life into an order and beauty that he inhabits with deep satisfaction. But his vision betrays him, revealing a profound incompleteness, an inadequacy to confront the contradictions his life: the black maid who raises him and loves him but cannot welcome him into her own house, the mentally absent father who wishes he’d died a hero in World War II, the self-destructive wife who invites Bennett’s cruelty. As Bennett struggles between reason and intuition, he slowly learns to allow the imperfections of daily life—the chaos he has worked so hard to control—to broaden his understanding of the world and his place in it. Written with lyrical sparseness, hilarity mixed with sadness, the story of Bennett’s struggle becomes both a beautifully rendered portrait of the emotional life of a scientist and a resonant tale of the disillusionment that haunts us all.

Three Flames

release date: Sep 03, 2019
Three Flames
“Lightman’s best book since Einstein’s Dreams . . . a piercing story of social dissolution in damaged Cambodia . . . an important story of global women’s rights.” —Annie Proulx The stories of one Cambodian family are intricately braided together in Alan Lightman’s first work of fiction in seven years. Three Flames portrays the struggles of a Cambodian farming family against the extreme patriarchal attitudes of their society and a cruel and dictatorial father, set in a rural community that is slowly being exposed to the modern world and its values. Ryna is a mother fighting against memories of her father’s death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge and her powerful desire for revenge. Daughter Nita is married off at sixteen to a wandering husband, while her sister Thida is sent to the city to work in the factories to settle their father’s gambling debt. Kamal, the only son, dreams of marrying the most beautiful girl in the village and escaping the life of a farmer. Yet it will be up to Sreypov, the youngest, to bravely challenge her father and strive for a better future. Three Flames is a vivid story of one family's yearning for freedom and of a young girl's courage to face down tradition. “Lyrical and poignant, Three Flames weaves the stories of three generations of a poor, Cambodian farming family as they struggle to survive and hold on to their humanity . . . Beautifully written and told with great compassion, Alan Lightman's novel gives readers a family that is rich in stories, history, and heart, proving in the end that love shines even in the midst of great darkness.” —Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father

Probable Impossibilities

release date: Apr 12, 2022
Probable Impossibilities
The acclaimed author of Einstein's Dreams tackles big questions like the origin of the universe and the nature of consciousness ... in an entertaining and easily digestible way" (Wall Street Journal) with a collection of meditative essays on the possibilities--and impossibilities--of nothingness and infinity, and how our place in the cosmos falls somewhere in between. Can space be divided into smaller and smaller units, ad infinitum? Does space extend to larger and larger regions, on and on to infinity? Is consciousness reducible to the material brain and its neurons? What was the origin of life, and can biologists create life from scratch in the lab? Physicist and novelist Alan Lightman, whom The Washington Post has called "the poet laureate of science writers," explores these questions and more--from the anatomy of a smile to the capriciousness of memory to the specialness of life in the universe to what came before the Big Bang. Probable Impossibilities is a deeply engaged consideration of what we know of the universe, of life and the mind, and of things vastly larger and smaller than ourselves.

Song of Two Worlds

release date: Jun 15, 2010
Song of Two Worlds
In Alan Lightman's new book, a verse narrative, we meet a man who has lost his faith in all things following a mysterious personal tragedy. After decades of living "hung like a dried fly," emptied and haunted by his past, the narrator awakens one morning revitalized and begins a Dante-like journey to find something to believe in, first turning to t

Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine

release date: Feb 19, 2019
Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine
An inspired, lyrical meditation on religion and science that explores the tension between our yearning for permanence and certainty, and the modern scientific discoveries that demonstrate the impermanent and uncertain nature of the world. As a physicist, Alan Lightman has always held a scientific view of the world. As a teenager experimenting in his own laboratory, he was impressed by the logic and materiality of a universe governed by a small number of disembodied forces and laws that decree all things in the world are material and impermanent. But one summer evening, while looking at the stars from a small boat at sea, Lightman was overcome by the overwhelming sensation that he was merging with something larger than himself--a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute and immaterial. Lightman's exploration of these seemingly contradictory impulses, he draws on sources ranging from Saint Augustine's conception of absolute truth to Einstein's theory of relativity, from the unity of the once-indivisible atom to the multiplicity of subatomic particles and the recent notion of multiple universes. What he gives us is a profound inquiry into the human desire for truth and meaning, and a journey along the different paths of religion and science that become part of that quest.

A Sense of the Mysterious

release date: Jan 01, 2006
A Sense of the Mysterious
Presents a collection of essays exploring the human dimensions of science, furnishing portraits of seminal scientists Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein, Edward Teller, and Vera Rubin, as well as reflections on science and art, imagination and metaphor in science, and the social and spiritual implications of technology.

Ada and the Galaxies

release date: Sep 07, 2021
Ada and the Galaxies
Stargazers rejoice! In his first book for children, renowned physicist Alan Lightman and collaborators, with help from the Hubble telescope, light up the night sky. New York Times best-selling author Alan Lightman, in collaboration with Olga Pastuchiv, brings galaxies close in a stunning picture-book tribute to the interconnectedness of the natural world. Layering photographs taken from the Hubble telescope into charming and expressive art, illustrator Susanna Chapman zooms in on one child’s experiences: Ada knows that the best place for star-gazing is on the island in Maine where she vacations with her grandparents. By day, she tracks osprey in the trees, paddles a kayak, and hunts for shells. But she’s most in her element when the sun goes down and the stars blink to life. Will the fog this year foil her plans, or will her grandfather find a way to shine a spotlight on the vast puzzle of the universe . . . until the weather turns?

Beauty and the Brain

release date: Mar 21, 2023
Beauty and the Brain
From the acclaimed author of Einstein's Dreams comes a fascinating investigation of "spiritual materialism," transcendent experiences for the scientifically inclined. Modern science teaches us that anything can be explained in terms of atoms and forces, including the inner workings of the brain. But certain personal experiences can challenge the idea that there's nothing beyond inert matter. Communing with nature, working through a complex problem, or experiencing a piece of art, we sometimes feel a powerful sense of transcendence, of connecting with a cosmic unity that may seem unexplainable by science. But according to acclaimed physicist and novelist Alan Lightman, we can embrace these spiritual experiences without letting go of our scientific worldview. Lightman draws on a rich intellectual history to explore this fascinating intersection between religion and science. Philosopher Moses Mendelssohn's rational arguments for the soul foreground our thinking about non-materiality; Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius' ideas predict how strict materialism might explain elusive phenomena; Neuroscientist Christof Koch lays the foundation for the material basis of consciousness; and social psychologist Cynthia Frantz provides a scientific explanation of our deep connection to nature and things larger than ourselves. Lightman weaves these ideas together to argue for a concept he calls "spiritual materialism"--the view that while spiritual experiences may arise from atoms and molecules like everything else, the physical laws of the universe may not be able to fully capture the first-person experience of transcendence. Spirituality, in this sense, is not only compatible with a strictly scientific view, but remains at the core of what it means to be human.

Origins

release date: Jan 01, 1990
Origins
Includes candid interviews with twenty-seven cosmologists in which they discuss their early influences, prejudices, world views, and theories

Time for the Stars

release date: Feb 01, 1994
Time for the Stars
Now, Alan Lightman, the author of the brilliantly original bestselling novel Einstein's Dreams, presents the real-life drama of astronomy, a journey far into the stars that outpaces any fiction for adventure and excitement. Unsurpassed in its authoritativeness, TIME FOR THE STARS is based on the report of the National Academy of Science's Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee, for whose science panel Alan Lightman served as chair. Here is a book that will introduce you to cosmic puzzles about people and planets stars and galaxies, and the beginnings and the ends of the universe. How do we know what's inside the sun? What are the prospects of finding other solar systems -- and extraterrestrial life -- in coming years? What was the universe like ten billion years ago? Will it keep on expanding forever? Here are the latest advances in technology that have rocketed us to dazzling new frontiers. They may catch you off guard. But they will leave you fixed in wonder.

Isabel and the Invisible World

release date: Apr 18, 2023
Isabel and the Invisible World
Renowned physicist Alan Lightman, author of Ada and the Galaxies, turns his focus to light waves in a second story for children. There's only one gift Isabel wants for her sixth birthday: a way to see invisible things. She can hardly think of anything else! Finally, the day of her party arrives. Unwrapping a big box, Isabel finds a surprise inside--a glass prism--and a dazzling world of previously invisible color emerges, lighting up the room around her. What else could be out there, waiting for her eyes to discover? In simple, engaging language, complemented by luminous artwork from best-selling illustrator Ramona Kaulitzki, author and physicist Alan Lightman unveils the hidden world of light waves--the ones you can see and the ones you can't. Back matter delves briefly into the subject of wavelengths, radio waves, and X-rays for readers curious to know more.

The Future of Spacetime

release date: Jan 01, 2003
The Future of Spacetime
Presents essays that explore the deepest mysteries of the universe, including black holes, gravity holes, and time travel, by physicists Stephen Hawking, Kip S. Thorne, Igor Novikov, Timothy Ferris, and Alan Lightman.

The Best American Science Writing 2002

release date: Sep 03, 2002
The Best American Science Writing 2002
If, as Matt Ridley suggests, science is simply the search for new forms of ignorance, then perhaps it follows that with science's advances come new questions. Will human genetic engineering become commonplace? Will human cloning ever be safe? Are there many universes? How much will the climate change during the coming century? The Best American Science Writing 2002 gathers top writers and scientists covering the latest developments in the fastest-changing, farthest-reaching scientific fields, such as medicine, genetics, computer technology, evolutionary psychology, cutting-edge physics, and the environment. Among this year's selections: In "The Made-to-Order Savior," Lisa Belkin spotlights two desperate families seeking an unprecedented cure by a medically and ethically unprecedented means -- creating a genetically matched child. Margaret Talbot's "A Desire to Duplicate" reveals that the first human clone may very likely come from an entirely unexpected source, and sooner than we think. Michael Specter reports on the shock waves rippling through the field of neuroscience following the revolutionary discovery that adult brain cells might in fact regenerate ("Rethinking the Brain"). Christopher Dickey's "I Love My Glow Bunny" recounts with sly humor a peculiar episode in which genetic engineering and artistic culture collide. Natalie Angier draws an insightful contrast between suicide terrorists and rescue workers who risk their lives, and finds that sympathy and altruism have a definite place in the evolution of human nature, David Berlinski's "What Brings a World into Being?" ponders the idea of biology and physics as essentially digital technologies, exploring the mysteries encoded in the universe's smallest units, be they cells or quanta. Nicholas Wade shows how one of the most controversial books of the year, The Skeptical Environmentalist, by former Greenpeace member and self-described leftist Bjorn Lomborg, debunks some of the most cherished tenets of the environmental movement, suggesting that things are perhaps not as bad as we've been led to believe. And as a counterpoint, Darcy Frey's profile of George Divoky reveals a dedicated researcher whose love of birds and mystery leads to some sobering discoveries about global warming and forcefully reminds us of the unsung heroes of science: those who put in long hours, fill in small details, and take great trouble. In the end, the unanswered questions are what sustain scientific inquiry, open new frontiers of knowledge, and lead to new technologies and medical treatments. The Best American Science Writing 2002 is a series of exciting reports from science's front lines, where what we don't know is every bit as important as what we know.

The Best American Science Writing 2005

The Best American Science Writing 2005
Today's most prominent thinkers provide enlightening insight into some of themost important and cutting-edge topics in the field in this acclaimed series.320 pp.

Financial Accounting For Management: An Analytical Perspective

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