Fiction books

To understand how the world of academia works, one can consult a variety of sources. First, there are the normative writings by philosophers of science seeking to explain how things should be, such as Karl Popper’s masterful Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. Then there are sociological and anthropological studies describing day-to-day practice. One impressive example in this tradition is Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar. Thirdly, we can refer to the biographies and autobiographies of famous scientists; see, for example, the excellent Darwin by Adrian Desmond and James Moore or the rather conceited The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James Watson.

A fourth way to explore the inside workings of academia is to read novels in which scientists, researchers and their work play a leading role. These are often compelling and remarkably revealing. Novelists go a step further than biographers and autobiographers by creating their own reality – one which is often intriguing and sometimes enthralling. On top of that, the development of the storyline and the characters is unhindered by a need to describe real people or actual events in a historically reliable manner. A successful novel captures the essence of what academics do, and why, perhaps better than any other form. Below is a selection from this rich literary tradition, with a brief description of and commentary on each work. A far more exhaustive overview of the genre since 1950 can be found in Elaine Showalter’s Faculty Towers: The Academic Novel and its Discontents.

NRIN devotes a great deal of attention to the website’s content and would greatly appreciate your suggestions of books you believe to belong on this website.

NRIN devotes a great deal of attention to the website’s content and would greatly appreciate your suggestions of documents or links you believe to belong on this website.

This selection is an incomplete convenience sample, and does not reflect NRIN’s vision or opinion. Including an item does not necessarily mean that we agree with the authors nor does it imply we think unmentioned items are of poorer quality.

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