Scientists’ Nightstand: Steven Weinberg

From American Scientist:

Weinberg Steven Weinberg is Josey Regental Professor of Science and a member of the physics and astronomy departments at the University of Texas, Austin. In 1979 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles. His latest book is Lake Views: This World and the Universe (Harvard University Press, 2010).

Who are your favorite writers (fiction, nonfiction or poetry)? Why?

In English-language fiction, Anthony Trollope, Henry James, E.M. Forster, Edith Wharton, Herman Melville, Jane Austen, W.M. Thackeray. As you can see, I'm more at home in the 19th than the 20th century, let alone the 21st. I've enjoyed the great 19th-century French and Russian novelists, but unfortunately I have to read them in translation. In nonfiction, I read mostly history: Gibbon, Thomas Macaulay, G.M. Trevelyan, Thucydides, Tacitus, Winston Churchill, Allan Nevins, Samuel Eliot Morison. And memoirs: Ulysses S. Grant, the Duke of Saint-Simon, Churchill again, Henry Adams. In poetry, William Shakespeare, Andrew Marvell, John Donne, John Milton, John Keats, Lord Tennyson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Butler Yeats, Dylan Thomas, W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, Philip Larkin, Robert Frost, John Crowe Ransom.

What are the three best books you've ever read? Explain.

I have to include at least one novel by Trollope. I suppose I'd pick Barchester Towers (1857). It has a great cast of wonderfully drawn characters and is very funny. The language in Moby-Dick (1851) bowled me over when I read it years ago. And The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire lays out an amazing panorama, spanning 13 centuries, with both sympathy and sarcasm.

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