Stephen Hawking credits one word and a single sentence with the runaway success of his classic 1988 book, "A Brief History of Time." Writing in The Wall Street Journal (9/7/13), Stephen says the book’s original title was "A Short History of Time," but his editor, in "a stroke of genius" changed "short" to "brief," and, says Stephen, this "must have contributed to the success of the book." He also says he nearly cut the last sentence of the book, in which he says a that a unified history of the universe "would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we should know the mind of God." "Had I done so," Stephen writes, "the sales might have been halved."
When he first contemplated writing the book, in 1982, Stephen says he had two goals. One was simply "to earn money" to help pay his daughter’s tuition. "But the main reason," he writes, "was that I wanted to explain how far we had come in our understanding of the universe." He continues: "If I was going to spend the time and effort to write a book, I wanted it to have as many readers as possible … I wanted it to be the sort of book that would sell in airport bookstores." However, while he was "sure that nearly everyone is interested in how the universe operates … most people cannot follow mathematical equations."
Stephen says he addressed this challenge by attempting to describe certain mental images, supported by "familiar analogies and a few diagrams." In retrospect, he says he wishes he had "put more effort into explaining" the more difficult concepts, especially "imaginary time," because a lot of people still don’t understand it. The book sold like crazy anyway – it was on "The New York Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks, has been translated into 40 languages, and has sold over 10 million copies worldwide." To this day, says Stephen, he receives "a pile of letters every day, many asking questions or making detailed comments."