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It’s obvious that any book that starts with the world’s most renowned living physicist warning that the answer to the universe is not “42” is not going to be an ordinary book on quantum mechanics.

Stephen W. Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow’s [avhamazon locale=”US” asin=”0553805371″ linktype=”text” picsize=”small”]¬†begins with the bold statement that “philosophy is dead,” and then shows why, by taking the reader through a history of philosophy and how it has conflicted with science, held back the truth, and has now been superseded by it.

The authors go on to discuss the various attempts at creating unification theories, while reducing the concepts to analogies for the casual reader, and end up with an understandable overview of M-theory, how it could unify the laws of the universe, and why it renders religious explanations for the existence of life irrelevant.

The mixed reviews are no wonder — they’re split between physicists who say it’s too dumbed down, the religious who try to hide their bias behind transparent criticisms, and the truly curious, who cannot help but smile at this state-of-the-union of physics. They will even forgive the stereotypically half-funny physics jokes that you’d expect from any science professor. (Well, except for Richard Feynman. He had a gift for telling stories that not many could match.)

This book will likely be regarded as equally important, if not more so, than [avhamazon locale=”US” asin=”0553380168″ linktype=”text” picsize=”medium”], and be the work that, for non-physicists, will become Hawking’s legacy. Don’t miss it.

(And for those of you with kids, don’t miss out on his awesome children’s books [avhamazon locale=”US” asin=”1416954627″ linktype=”text” picsize=”medium”]¬†and it’s sequel, [avhamazon locale=”US” asin=”1416986715″ linktype=”text” picsize=”medium”].)