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Avoid Boring People by James D. Watson
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Avoid Boring People (2007)

by James D. Watson

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I enjoyed reading the first half of the book, and I struggled to go through the second half. In any case, it was a good read, and the advices at the end of every chapter are sometimes useful. ( )
  amarcobio | Aug 19, 2013 |
He didn't avoid boring me.

I really, really wanted to like this book, too. I struggled through 100 pages and just couldn't go on. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
Loved the title of this book and was excited to pick it up, having read other memoirs of scientists (Richard Feynman, memorably). Found though that this book didn't resonate. Liked the idea of the Remembered Lessons at the end of each chapter but found them unexpectedly uninspiring (e.g. Work on Sundays, College is for learning how to think, Use snappy sentences to open your chapters, etc.). ( )
  fsmichaels | May 16, 2011 |
This was a fab book - I do love a science book that I don't quite understand...

I loved the science - obviously Mr Watson contributed a lot to modern science, especially to what we know about DNA, as well as in other spheres - but it was almost more fascinating to read about him and his peers. I was surprised to find that to me he was slightly unlikeable, I suppose because you don't expect that when someone has written a book about themself. Or because he should have been a jolly, affable professor type. This, strangely, made me enjoy the book even more. The story - science and a chronological anecdotal history - moved along at a good pace and kept me reading.

For me, this was an exposure to a high level, ground breaking scientific community, but it was also modern history come alive, and I think that is what made it so enjoyable.
  ntr | Mar 15, 2011 |
Words fail me to transcribe the extent to which Watson, even through a largely self-apologetic book, manages to come across as an especially loathsome individual ; suffice to say there can be no doubt why he is despised and hated by just about everybody who crossed his path. His pointing out gratuitously, for example, the undisclosed bulimia of a former acquaintance's wife is not even the crassest example of the foulness dripping from some pages.

An unpalatable author, of course, even if he doubles as narrator, is no guarantee of a bad book ; Avoid boring people is at times interesting and evocative of the world of post-WW2 science, radically different from modern research. I found especially remarkable the permeability then prevalent between different scientific domains and the dingy conditions of 50s laboratories, although I could not get rid of the suspicion Watson overstates both phenomena. The writing is competent if unremarkable, but wavers between overdetailed explanations of basic concepts and long-winded strings of Big Words. Given that, as a chemist (not a very good one, but it only makes my point more valid), I struggled to understand what several technical paragraphs were about make their inclusion in a book marketed for the layman questionable. The "dramatis personae" appendix would have been much more useful as an index.

Overall the book is not that bad, especially as a reference rather than a story. In fact, it is not 'even' bad. It is just a mediocre work with unpleasant undertones. ( )
1 vote Kuiperdolin | Sep 25, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375412840, Hardcover)

From a living legend—James D. Watson, who shared the Nobel Prize for having revealed the structure of DNA—a personal account of the making of a scientist. In Avoid Boring People, the man who discovered “the secret of life” shares the less revolutionary secrets he has found to getting along and getting ahead in a competitive world.

Recounting the years of his own formation—from his father’s birding lessons to the political cat’s cradle of professorship at Harvard—Watson illuminates the progress of an exemplary scientific life, both his own pursuit of knowledge and how he learns to nurture fledgling scientists. Each phase of his experience yields a wealth of age-specific practical advice. For instance, when young, never be the brightest person in the room or bring more than one date on a ski trip; later in life, always accept with grace when your request for funding is denied, and--for goodness’ sake--don’t dye your hair. There are precepts that few others would find occasion to heed (expect to gain weight after you win your Nobel Prize, as everyone will invite you to dinner) and many more with broader application (do not succumb to the seductions of golf if you intend to stay young professionally). And whatever the season or the occasion: avoid boring people.

A true believer in the intellectual promise of youth, Watson offers specific pointers to beginning scientists about choosing the projects that will shape their careers, the supreme importance of collegiality, and dealing with competitors within the same institution, even one who is a former mentor. Finally he addresses himself to the role and needs of science at large universities in the context of discussing the unceremonious departure of Harvard's president Larry Summers and the search for his successor.

Scorning political correctness, this irreverent romp through Watson’s life and learning is an indispensable guide to anyone plotting a career in science (or most anything else), a primer addressed both to the next generation and those who are entrusted with their minds.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:36 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

From a living legend--James D. Watson, who shared the Nobel Prize for revealing the structure of DNA--comes a personal account of the making of a scientist. Watson shares the less revolutionary secrets he has found to getting along and getting ahead in a competitive world. Each phase of his experience yields age-specific practical advice. A believer in the intellectual promise of youth, Watson offers pointers to beginning scientists about choosing the projects that will shape their careers, the supreme importance of collegiality, and dealing with competitors within the same institution, even one who is a former mentor. Later he addresses the role and needs of science at large universities. Scorning political correctness, this irreverent romp through Watson's life and learning is a guide to anyone plotting a career in science (or most anything else), addressed both to the next generation and those who are entrusted with their minds.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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