Book Notes: Academaze by Sydney Phlox

Academaze was written under the pseudonym Sydney Phlox by the blogger Xykademiqz who often contributes valuable observations here at Clarissa’s Blog.

There’s been a steady stream of publications that describe academia as a horror show of massive proportions. My non-academic friends and relatives often bring me these whiny and moany treatises as a gift (or send links to them) and joyfully exclaim, “Here! This is a book / article / blog post about academia!” I am, however, one of those academics who’d rather read the phone book than a book about academia because I can’t take any more diatribes about everything being absolutely horrible and hopeless to the point where we all need to don a shroud and crawl straight to the cemetery.

Academaze is a welcome exception to this annoying trend. The author is a successful tenured STEM academic who discusses the good and the bad of academia with insight and humor. The ideas behind some of the sub-chapters are accompanied by really cool cartoons that even I – a passionate hater of the cartoon genre – enjoyed. This book can be an invaluable resource not only to young STEM scholars who are contemplating a career in academia but, with some modifications, to beginner scholars in all fields. The author clearly loves her work, loves her life, and writes in a way that will make a budding academic less – instead of even more – nervous about her career choice.

Among the defects of the book, I can name the excessive use of the word “Gaussian” (it is used once in the book, which I, as a professor of literature, find hugely excessive), the dearth of cartoons (they are so good that I would love to see more), and a slight disconnect between the introductory chapter and the rest of the book. From the intro, one can arrive at the conclusion that the book is aimed at the general public and hopes to convince readers that academic schedules don’t mean that academics do nothing all day and especially all summer long. However, the rest of the book makes it clear that it will be most useful to academics and probably their family members who need to understand that saying things like, “Why can’t you come over / talk / pick up the dry cleaning / join the yoga class with me, etc. if it’s summer and you don’t have to work?” is obnoxious and unfair.

The book is fun, there are tons of RL stories that illustrate each point – I highly recommend it. Especially if you are a woman in a STEM field who lacks a female mentor, this book can answer your most pressing questions while you chart your course in your field.

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10 thoughts on “Book Notes: Academaze by Sydney Phlox”

    1. Somebody who’ll tell you things like, “Hey, don’t waste your time on this conference, it’s useless” or “submit to this journal, it’s highly ranked.” Somebody who made it in the field and can guide you.

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