On reading academic books

I love them, obviously. And even if I didn’t I would have to because it is such an enormous part of going to grad school. Sometimes grad school just feels like a really expensive, really intense book club. But only sometimes.

Any way, back to the books. My favorite part is the acknowledgements. Even when I don’t have time to read the whole thing and read only the introduction, the conclusion and maybe a case study, I always read the acknowledgements. This is the part that talks about whether this author is a human being that also has some people that love him/her or someone that just lived for the book.

Some tell-tale signs that the person has no life:

  • Dedicated the book to a pet or acknowledged a goldfish or something for its unconditional support.
  • Acknowledges only people that are paid to talk to him/her: advisers, government employees, librarians, psychiatrist.
  • Doesn’t acknowledge anyone and dedicates the book to something weird.

My favorite dedications:

  • “Para Maria Angelica, mi vida y mi alma.” -James Robinson, Why nations fail
  • “My deepest gratitude is to my husband […]. The thought of dedicating this book to him has finally become a reality.” -Victoria Murillo, Labor unions, party coalitions and market reforms in Latin America. (This is in the acknowledgements section, but still.)

My favorite acknowledgements:

  • “And last, but by no means least, I couldn’t have thought or lived my way through this manuscript without the insights and companionship of my high altitude muse.” -James C. Scott, The art of not being governed. (That whole preface is fantastic).
  • “Let me note, finally, that most of the research for this book was done in the libraries of Harvard University, the size of whose holdings is matched only by the school’s determination to restrict access to them. I am delighted to have been able to use these resources, and it hardly matters that I was afforded this privilege only because the school thought I was someone else.” – Afie Kohn. No contest, the case against competition. (I didn’t read this book, just came across this part and loved it).

And of course the best, meanest dedication of all times is in fiction:

  • “This is presented as a work of fiction and dedicated to nobody.” -Charles Bukowski, The Post Office.

And just because, here’s an excellent story that appeared in The Guardian about book dedications.



One thought on “On reading academic books

  1. Pingback: Reason 208: Kramerbooks | fabifabiana

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