Book reviews

ID-10043431On this page, our own ClimateSnackers review and recommend books that can help others develop their scientific writing and communication abilities. The success of ClimateSnack depends on a good and level of knowledge input. We must base our feedback – both in writing groups and online – on  some previous advice, instruction, inspiration. Knowledge input can come from online courses, such as Kristin Sainani’s course that’s available under the resource section. However, there are also old fashioned things called books that can be a treasure trove of useful information and a joy to read!

Paul J. Silvia, How to write a lot

The book convinced me that writing is not a special talent but just a skill, which everyone can learn and master. To write, you do not need to wait for inspiration to come, but to make a plan, set the goals and complete them one by one. The book teaches that your ‘writing time’ should be respected by yourself and by people around you. In the end the author recommends a list of other good books on writing; and emphasizes that more accurate title of his book would be “How to write more productively during the normal work week with less anxiety and guilt”. I strongly recommend reading this book during times when you have to write but for whatever reason cannot. (By Anna Silyakova)

Angelika H. Hofmann, Scientific writing and communication

This book is my desk book. It is thick, with 682 pages. Before I draft a specific section of my paper, a cover letter, or a grant proposal, I read “how to” in this book. The layout of each chapter is very clear and consists of a guideline, clarification, examples, a check list, summary and problems. As I am not native English speaker, I find that the appendix is very useful. It lists commonly confused and misused words, where the author explains what these words actually mean. In summary, this is very comprehensive and ‘easy to use’ guide to scientific writing. (By Anna Silyakova)

Joshua Schimel, Writing science

I decided to buy this book after I watched APECS webinars on writing, presented by the author. The book offers many advices on how to make a flowing text that’s easy to read and sticks in the readers mind. The book recommends focusing on quality of your papers rather than on “publish or perish” quantity strategy in science. Although each chapter provides examples and exercises, I find it difficult to use this book as a guide. It is more the motivation/inspiration book for me; but also the place where I can find many tricks and tools to enhance the quality of my texts. (By Anna Silyakova)

Hilary Glasman-Deal, Science research writing for non-native speaker of English

It takes many years of experience for non-native speaker of English to see, that the sentence, which is logically written in your native language, will not necessarily have same logic when translated to English word by word. I often use this book to make sure that the meaning of my sentences will be understood correctly. The book shows a variety of examples that each IMRaD section of a paper has a structure. What I especially like is that the book suggests the vocabulary of commonly used words for each IMRaD section. I recommend reading this book when all you have is clean sheet of paper and you have to start somewhere; or when you revise your first or second draft and need to check your  structure and choice of words.  (By Anna Silyakova)

Bora Zivkovic and Jennifer OuelletteThe Best Science Writing Online 2012

Once you finish a book such as this, it’s a good exercise to return to the contents page and browse the essay titles. See how many of the stories you remember just from reading the titles. I think you’ll find that you’ll remember many of the stories in this book. True enough, some of the texts leap out further than others, but in my inexperience, this may just be because of my unconscious taste rather than expertise in writing skills. This book will provoke you to think about the scientific stories and the way the writers write. What makes these stories good? Here are some of the pieces I liked the best:

-Kimberley Gerson has a clear scientific message based around a truly sad and moving story.

-Richard Wintle walks off with the prize for the best analogy. He expertly and succinctly compares the works of Shakespeare to mapping the genome.

-Dana Hunter contributes with an inspiring piece, that inspires me to keep on working with science communication. There really are people out there who want to hear these stories! All of them!

-Aatish Bhatia explains science with amazing metaphor and vivid writing. Using whales and sperm to explain the Reynolds number, whatever that is!

-Christie Wilcox clearly has her own voice and uses it perfectly. A powerful piece, where you sometimes think ‘she didn’t just say that!’. She does a superb job supporting her arguments and presents some exceptionally clever explanations.

I didn’t enjoy all the stories I have to admit. But then again, I don’t like all the fruit available in a supermarket. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be there for somebody else to enjoy.  (By Mathew Stiller-Reeve)

Have you read any good books about scientific writing or communication? Would you like to share your thoughts and recommendations with others in the ClimateSnack community? If so, get in touch at info@climatesnack.com. 

[Image at top of page courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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