Stephen Hawking co-authored another book with Leonard Mlodinow, A Briefer History in Time, which I haven't read. Somehow, it seems like going back and reading books like this, years after they were written, will be a waste of my time. The current book, The Grand Design, is the latest thinking by this deep-thinking duo, and as such, disputes or clarifies some of things that the great minds (maybe including themselves) were thinking just a few years ago. So read it while is fresh, y'all.
I have read Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, when they first came out and this recent books tries to go a little farther. This book made the news when it was released, as you may have heard, because it says right upfront that it will be discussing the origins of the universe from a scientific standpoint, and the actual origins of the universe(s?) can be understood in purely scientific terms. I think statements have been made like this before, but Hawking and Mlodinow come right out and say, "...creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god.", in the first chapter. You can imagine that stirring the pot like this is going to get some folks excited.
The Diagorain Duo then go on to mention God or gods, in various ways throughout the rest of the book. Mainly, I gather, to make the point that while it isn't necessary for a god to have begun the universe, and establish all the laws in it, does not mean that a deity or deities of some kind, don't exist. In fact, they mention all kinds of creation stories, from all different traditions, reinforcing the point that man has invented many different ways to explain the unknowable which surrounds him, none of which agrees with the science. Yeah, hot topic.
Back to the science. Hawking and Mlodinow are now selling M-Theory as the bestest model to describe the universe. Its got a little o' this, an' a little o' that; multiverse, string theory, quantum theory, Newtonian physics, general and special relativity, all stirred in there for some home-grown universal origins goodness. Funny thing: it hangs together pretty well. H&M help resolve some tricky questions us mere mortals have been struggling with, about the squirrely way quantum particles act, what a multiverse really means, and what happened before the beginning of the universe. Good stuff.
This is a quick read, and I don't think you need to be versed in all of these ideas before picking this book up, but I'm sure it helps. The writing was relaxed, and tries to be funny (jokes are a little professor-tells-joke-in-class, result: polite laughter) and the illustrations are lovely, and very helpful. Thanks to my lovely wife for giving me this book, I enjoyed it a lot.