James Gleick’s Time Travel riffs on the topics that might pop up in a serious bull session about time: eternity; memory; the theory of relativity; causation; personal identity (what makes me the same person today as yesterday); free will versus determinism; the subjective time of poets, novelists, and (some) philosophers versus the operational time of physicists (and other philosophers); time as a cycle, as an arrow, as an eternal recurrence; time travel and its paradoxes. It is in part a treasury of quotations. The opening chapters alone cite (among others) St. Augustine, Newton, Richard Feynman, Hobbes, Schopenhauer, Susan Sontag, Saint Paul, Tennyson, Poe, Borges, and one of my favorite comedians, Stephen Wright: “Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time. I think I’ve forgotten this before.”

The hook i ...