Let’s start a book club

As long as we’re rolling out great new things this week on this soon-to-be-renamed(?) blog, here’s another one.

Wouldn’t it be cool if a bunch of us read the same book at the same time and then got together virtually to discuss it? Rather than one of us reading a good book and reviewing it, and the rest of us thinking “hmmm, maybe I should read that book someday,” all of us could read the book and share our thoughts on it. Specifically, I’m thinking of the sort of books that speak to the experiences of women in STEM fields.

I think a book club would be really cool, and I say we should do it. In fact, I’ve already got a book in mind. And I think you’ll like it.

The book I have in mind is “Lifting a ton of feathers: A woman’s guide to surviving in the academic world” by Paula J. Caplan (published in 1993 by the University of Toronto Press).

Here’s what it says in the preface:

“This book is intended to be a handbook, a source of suggestions, ideas, perspectives, and many other references that might be useful to women academics. The focus is on graduate students and faculty, although much of the material is also applicable to other staff. …This book is based on the wealth of existing literature on women in academia, on interviews and discussions with hundreds of academic women, and on my own experiences. …Based on these various materials, I have assembled some background information, but the bulk of the book consists of suggestions and advice.”

i-339b97572655c448c625e255d328ea9b-feathers.jpgSounds pretty useful, eh? I think so. In fact, I’ve already started reading the book and it’s a fast and intriguing read. It’s also easy to pick up and read for short increments, perfect for down times in the lab or while your babe is happily destroying the house. It’s also less than 200 pages of a big font, so while the subject matter may be heavy, the reading load is not.

You can get “Lifting a ton of feathers” on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite bookseller. But you can also check your library. If you are at a university, then they really should have this book. If they don’t, that tells you something about the institutional culture and values, and it’s not something positive for women. If they do, but it’s checked out, then there’s at least one other kindred spirit on your campus. Your public library might also be a place to look.

Ok, so we’ve got a book that sounds good, we know where to look for it, all we need now is a date. And since I’ve done all the decision making so far, I’ll propose the date too. Let’s plan on discussing the book over the weekend of March 14-16th. That gives us a little more than a month. I’ll post a link to the book in the sidebar and remind y’all as we get closer to the discussion date.

Happy Reading!


  1. #1 Laelaps
    February 13, 2008

    That’s a great idea. John, Razib, and I have all been working through Gould’s The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, although it’s going to be a loooooong time before any of us finish that one…

  2. #2 LM
    February 13, 2008

    This sounds AWESOME! I don’t know how much time I have to read a book, but actually, the weekend you are proposing to discuss the book is the week after spring break, so I could read it over break.

    Now, do you plan on having people read an entire book and discussing it all at once, or reading a chapter or two a week? I think either way works, but since I am an overworked grad student the latter option would be best. I don’t know how anyone else feels, though.

    Today my advisor suggested that I read some books by Evelyn Fox Keller. Might you consider reading something by her in the future?

  3. #3 Becca
    February 13, 2008

    Fantastic idea!
    Just ordered via our intercampus library loan- should be here within the week.
    I guess I should be glad my uni has several copies.

  4. #4 Propter Doc
    February 13, 2008

    I just ordered this book last week and it arrived yesterday! Your timeing is awesome and I look forward to it.

  5. #5 ScienceWoman
    February 13, 2008

    I hadn’t really decided how to hold the discussion yet, so if you have suggestions…Maybe we all post our thoughts on our own blogs and have a thread here to post links. Or maybe I do a post and then we have a free-for-all in the comments? In any case, there should be red wine involved and comfy couches to be sat on.

  6. #6 Brigindo
    February 13, 2008

    Excellent idea. I actually read it a couple of years ago but it is definitely worth a reread.

  7. #7 GMC
    February 13, 2008

    used copies are available on amazon also (~$7 with shipping)

  8. #8 phd me
    February 13, 2008

    How interesting…my university didn’t have a copy…so I’ve turned to my trusty ILL. What a great idea – I’m looking forward to our discussion!

  9. #9 doc-in-training
    February 13, 2008

    What an awesome idea! I’m in and I have advertised it on my blog.

    Regarding how to go about discussing a book collectively online, I’d think that dicussing a session at a time would be easier to manage, especially since this particular book is a collection of suggestions and advice. What do you think?

  10. #10 Nic
    February 14, 2008

    Great idea. 🙂

  11. #11 Andrea Grant
    February 15, 2008

    Cool! And even better–there is a copy in the library here in Zurich!

  12. #12 JaneB
    February 15, 2008

    I’d love to join in – and what a great book!

  13. #13 Wayfarer Scientista
    February 16, 2008

    I’m interested!! But I don’t know if I can get the book…so I’m going to try and for now I’m tentative.

  14. #14 Podblack
    May 19, 2008

    So, is this continuing? How about on a set date, those taking part put in a book review of it? If it’s continuing.

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