Instead of actually completing his Ph.D., Glen Wright has wasted his time writing a book called Academia Obscura: The hidden silly side of higher education. The result of this effort is to reveal in a funhouse mirror every possible idiotic and ironic aspect of academic life and publishing. I heartily recommend that you waste your money on this book, and then waste as much of your time as possible reading it. If you are worried about cutting into the time when you are supposed to working, read it in the bathroom — it is far more entertaining than your smartphone.
I must warn you that your spouse, children, roommates, or people in the other stalls will wonder why you are giggling on the pot.
A silly book deserves a silly table of contents
So, here’s what you’ll be reading:
You will be pleased to see that (soon to be Prof.) Wright has created an encyclopedic compilation of everything silly ever published in the groves of the academy, including vital topics such as writing, footnotes, peer review, Twitter, cats, and homosexual necrophiliac ducks. You cannot afford to be without this valuable information. It seriously made me regret dropping out of graduate school in 1982.
Ripped off bits
Rather than take the time to provide a detailed and convincing review, I will simply do what any lazy reviewer of such a book should, and just republish some of his best bits to give you a sample. (I feel minimally justified in this because he tweets them all the time from his highly entertaining Twitter account. These include:
A study of medical article cliches:
This section also notes that (as one Shakespeare scholar found), there are articles referencing “Much ado about the null hypothesis,” “To Test or Not To Test” (in 3,500 papers), and “Breast Cancer Screening: All’s Well that Ends Well, or Much Ado About Nothing?” Next time you use a cliche, recognize that it will appear with disdain in this book’s sequel.
The silly article titles don’t stop there:
Nor do the absurd graphics:
Wright’s insights on the process of writing and how academics avoid it is regrettably universal in its appeal:
If you are having trouble understanding an academic, this translator will come in handy:
Together with Wright’s list of academic euphemisms for not reaching the 5% significance level (“a robust trend toward significance,” “barely escapes being statistically significant,” “only flirting with conventional levels of significance,” “hovers on the brink of significance,” narrowly eluded statistical significance,” “not absolutely significant but very probably so,”), this list creates an indispensable tool for conversing with an academic.
By now you have figured out that this book’s humor is very much on the dry side, putting it in a class with classics like “How to Lie with Statistics.” If you are an academic or live with one, reading this book is more likely to generate a constant stream of wry smiles than a belly laugh. But have pity on poor Glen Wright and get a copy to support his obsessive and fruitless quest to catalogue the absurdity of what academics do, or imagine that they are doing.
You can buy the book on Kindle here. Because it was published through a crowdfunding platform for books called Unbound, the only current way to get a hardback copy is here, at least until the supply runs out.
I scored one because, in full disclosure, I lightly edited this book for Glen. I did it for love, not for money. I am glad that Academia Obscura exists, and you should be, too.