Don’t Judge a Book By it’s Cover and Sticking to Basics

Having just returned from Why I Write, I have many thoughts. Listening to Thomas Hager speak was a very enlightening experience, or maybe as he would describe, “compelling.” When I initially heard that Hager was nonfiction science writer and that his most recent book was The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery that Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler, I sort of assumed that this topic would not interest me much, as I am not much of a science person at all. But wow was I wrong in my assumptions. I suppose the old phrase you can’t judge a book by its cover applies here, once again.

Hager was incredibly interesting and despite my lack of knowledge about topics of science, he made his writing methods appealing, approachable, and relevant for all. He brought up ideas we discussed in class about writing for the reader, and writing for the audience. I love that despite his nonfiction limitations and topic that may only interest few groups of people, he stated that when he writes he doesn’t write just to write, he writes for people to read. I would like to apply this philosophy to all writing I write, despite the topic.  Sometimes I get so bored and fed up with a topic I am writing about that after I finish writing it I don’t even want to read my paper. His passion for writing and all the topics he chose to write about was so apparent.

I also love the point he brought up about putting your facts and breaking up your research on note cards. I remember on the first research and basically long paper I ever had to write in my 6th grade English class, in order to organize our research that we had no previous background on ever doing before, we used this method. Our teacher knew that as 12 year olds writing their first big research paper we had no idea what we were doing, so any time we found a source and quote from that source we wanted to use, we had to write it and cite it on the note card. She even made us color code our pens by source and then divide the note cards into sub topic for specific paragraphs based on what the quotes were about. Although I used to think this process they made us complete in 6th grade was juvenile and an overly long process to get research and keep kids organized, thinking back on this experience now, I realize that this was one of the most effective and organized research methods I have ever done. Perhaps why I still remember it even. I am so glad he brought this idea back up because although I may not have time to do such a lengthy process now as a busy college student, I am glad to know that one day if I do choose to write a book or something, that this research method is proven effective even by published authors!

One thought to “Don’t Judge a Book By it’s Cover and Sticking to Basics”

  1. I think I know what you’re talking about. It’s kind of comforting that, despite how much research and technology have changed, the old tried and true methods are not obsolete and aren’t going to be. As somebody who is sometimes flustered and panicked by new tech, that’s really reassuring that there won’t come a day when I’m not able to compile research the way we learned in grade school.

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