Category Archives: books

Career arcs and “My Life in Fish”

I mentioned the other week that one of the books in my “to-read” pile was Gary Grossman’s My Life in Fish – his graphic autobiography (by which I mean it’s heavily illustrated in the style of a graphic novel, not that it’s NSFW!). Now, books sometimes linger on my “to-read” pile for a long time; but I read My Life in Fish last weekend and it made me think.

My Life in Fish is, obviously, the story Grossman tells about his own career (he’s a recently retired fish ecologist). But reading Grossman’s story made me think a bit about my own, and the way our career arcs have been both different and the same. I hope Gary would count this as a win for his book. Continue reading


Holiday reading (some suggestions)

Semesters are winding down for most of us, which I hope means that you, like me, will get a bit of a break. So I thought I’d pull together a few book recommendations. It’s probably too late for you to use these as gifting ideas (unless you, like me, tend to procrastinate that sort of thing). But if you’d like to curl up with a book that’s not technical science reading but is sort of science-adjacent, here are some possibilities. Some are new to Scientist Sees Squirrel; others are books I’ve reviewed or mentioned before but deserve a boost.

Let’s start with something new. I’ve just finished Leslie Forbes’ Fish, Blood, and Bone,* and it was terrific. Continue reading

Exciting news: I’m (co-)writing another book!

I’ve been itching to share this news, and now I can: I’m writing another book! Actually, even better: I’m co-writing this one, with Bethann Garramon Merkle. It’s been hard to keep this quiet for so long, but we’ve just signed a contract (with the University of Chicago Press), so now it’s official. Hooray!

What’s it about, you ask? Well, our working title is Helping Students Write in the Sciences: Strategies for Efficient and Effective Mentoring of Developing Writers. Writing is a huge part of the job of a scientist, and it’s hard – but teaching and mentoring writing is too, and it’s harder. Continue reading

How to boost a book, and an author – and why you should

Last week, I reassured you that you don’t need to buy my books – I’m perfectly content if you borrow them from a library, or from a friend. I suspect most authors are the same – most of understand very well that writing books isn’t going to make us wealthy!

But let’s imagine that you’ve read a book and liked it, and you’d like to thank the author in some small way. You can do that, in ways that won’t cost you a single penny, and I can guarantee you your gesture will be gratefully received. Continue reading

I don’t mind at all if you get my book from the library

If you’ve been reading Scientist Sees Squirrel at all, you know I’ve written a couple of books: The Scientist’s Guide to Writing, and Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider (so far). When I’m talking with folks about these books, there’s a bit of awkwardness that often comes up. Someone will politely mention their interest in reading one of the books, and I’ll tell them that I have copies for sale. That’s not the awkward part, though! The awkward part, instead, comes when I mention that they can also borrow either book from their university or public library. Folks seem to think that they shouldn’t show interest in that option – that I’d be upset if they borrowed my book rather than buying a copy. Continue reading

My proceeds from the Russian translation of my book are going to Ukraine

I’ve just received my author copies of Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider in Russian translation. When I heard that there would be a Russian translation, I was (perhaps naively) pretty excited. By the time my copy got to me – somehow, not so much. So: I’ve just donated all my proceeds from the Russian translation* to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, to support humanitarian relief in the wake of the Russian invasion. Continue reading

It’s out today! The 2nd edition “Scientist’s Guide to Writing”

Forgive me for being very excited today: it’s the official release date for the second edition of The Scientist’s Guide to Writing. It’s been a long time in the works, but now it’s for real: you can have your very own copy! (US evil corporate behemoth; publisher; more ordering links).

I hope you’ll like the new edition. It has two new chapters (on strategies for reading, and on preprinting and choice of journals), and a whole slew of other additions and improvements. You can read more about what’s new here.

I thought today I’d use the book’s release as a hook to answer a question I get asked a lot, in various forms. Continue reading

Stop buying my book! (Because the second edition is nearly out)

People are doing something weird: they’re buying my book.

The Scientist’s Guide to Writing, I mean – it’s not weird at all that people are buying Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider. (So please keep buying that one. It’s fun, I swear.*)

But The Scientist’s Guide: people are still buying it (I can tell from its Amazon sales rank, which I expected to start cratering before now, but which hasn’t), and that’s weird. Continue reading

We’re (nearly) all untrained at SciComm. So, some resources.

If there’s one thing the Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced for scientists, it’s that we desperately need the general public to understand, or at least accept and respect, what science has to tell us about the way the world works. There are a number of ways that can happen. It can happen through skilled and passionate teachers in K-12 education. It can happen through the work of science journalists (Ed Yong, Elizabeth Kolbert, and Carl Zimmer being three superb examples). Or, it can happen through scientists taking on the job themselves, speaking or writing directly to the general public. This last one is science outreach, or as it’s more often called these days, science communication or SciComm. What’s interesting about SciComm is that we (scientists) all seem to think it’s important, and many of us do it – but almost none of us have any training for the job. Continue reading

Nerdy thrills: “Charles Darwin’s Barnacle” is in my local public library

Warning: navel-gazing AND trivial, all in one tidy package

I spent a fish-out-of-water hour last Friday, hanging an art exhibit. Nothing in my career made me suspect I’d ever do that – and given my complete lack of artistic ability*, you’ll be relieved to know that it’s not my art. Instead, I was hanging an exhibit of the illustrations from my book, Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider. They’re gorgeous, thanks to the expert work of science illustrator Emily Damstra, and if aren’t in Fredericton to see the exhibit, then you can come close via this post and the online exhibit it links to.

I did feel like a fish out of water Continue reading