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Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science

3.21 of 5 stars 3.21  ·  rating details  ·  391 ratings  ·  59 reviews
From Nobel Prize-winning scientist James D. Watson, a living legend for his work unlocking the structure of DNA, comes this candid and entertaining memoir, filled with practical advice for those starting out their academic careers.

In Avoid Boring People, Watson lays down a life’s wisdom for getting ahead in a competitive world. Witty and uncompromisingly honest, he shares
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 4th 2010 by Vintage (first published September 25th 2007)
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"Avoid Boring People", he definitely bored me though. This book terribly fell far below my expectations. I am not a big fan of Jim Watson, yet expected a more engaging memoir! The summary of the first 4 chapters: I went to School/University X, took subjects Y&Z - taught by Prof. .... and I managed to get A or B. The autobiography is not written well, as it focuses too much on small details and fails to find focus. Lots of names of persons/places and unnecessary details! In my opinion, he is ...more
Quick- do you read this title as "avoid people who you find boring" or "avoid the act yourself of making others feel bored?"
It turns out Watson meant it both ways (as he would have had to... any decent scientist would not leave such obvious ambiguity in his words), but it took him 300 pages to say so, thereby causing both of us to violate his advice.

I don't know where to start, really. I almost stopped reading after the first chapter, where Watson comes off as an unbearable, arrogant little bra
Victor Tatarskii
Too many facts in a book too small.
Double Helix by James Watson is one of my most loved books about doing science, so I anticipated a very interesting reading about Watson's life from childhood until leaving Harvard in the 70's. But this memoir is a too big collection of people, places and facts in Watson's life to make an interesting reading about any of them. It all goes "I met this one, and then I worked with that one", and so on, and so on. Don't expect any deep insights into personalities o
James Watson should be avoided, at his own advice.
What an egotistical person. I kept reading, waiting for the light bulb to go on for him as to why so many people didn't care for him, but it never did. Plus, any man who is always looking for a cute young blond, even into his 40's, is just creepy.
Lucy Stewart
Enjoyable and interesting, and would have been significantly more enjoyable if the author hadn't managed to come across as a bit of a dick (the epilogue managed to tie up sexism, racism, and ableism in less than two pages - impressive. Or not.) And if your own biography makes me think you're a dick? You're doing it wrong.

Still worth reading for the science history and useful observations on American scientific culture, just be prepared to eyeroll a little.
Tough slog. Positives: I appreciate the man's effort to share the lessons of a relatively successful life, he knows the importance of intellectual honesty, and its a great insight into the ivy league world (and his era). On the negatives: he really doesnt come across as a very likable guy, and you kind of wince your way through a lot of it. Not a fun read.
Strangely ambiguous title... is "boring" a gerund or a participle? Should I avoid people who have nothing to say, or should I make sure I always have something to say around people? Must read, must find out.

AFTER-READ EDIT -- Unfortunately, James Watson turns out to be a self-centered bigot and a real bore. This book is a self-indulgent reliving of his time in grad school and beyond that spares no technical details of each experiment he performed and emphasizes how he made all of the right decis
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Harry Fulgencio
"see a paramount among her goals the seeking of potential greatness for its undergraduates through equipping them with the best ideas of the past, honest assessments of the world today, and realistic expectations about the future.." ~ JD Watson to Harvard (a reinterpretation of Hutchin's vision for Uni. of Chicago)

A very candid and straightforward retelling of his life's work, his ideals and the people around him (an involuntary participant of his story). One can imagine being incensed by some o
Jun 19, 2012 Y rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in science
Shelves: read-in-2012
It was very difficult for me to keep engaged. The reason I am not giving it one star is that there were parts that I found very interesting.

Some parts I appreciated:

"I was discovering that most high-powered minds to not daily generate new ideas. Their brains lie idle until the input of one or more new facts stimulates their neurons to resolve the conundrums that stump them"

"Success is gratifying and failure is not, but failure is a necessary feature of the work: if your experiments work all the
I like sex. I also like writing. Looking back at my long and distinguished career as a science writer, I have to say that these are the most difficult things to get right.

My advice to you young whipper-snappers just starting out on your careers is to try not to have sex and write at the same time. What I don't like, however, is listening to anyone else's opinions about anything, not because they'll be inferior to me at the typewriter or in the bedroom (because that's pretty much guaranteed) but
Oct 19, 2007 Issy rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: genetics students
Shelves: couldntfinish
*** Whoa good thing I didn't finish this - racist. Bad for my division at work though . . .

This book fell out of my bag somwhere between the laundomat and my house, which I can only imagine is the work of some benevolent higher power. At it's best this book was like that part in the bible where it goes "Abraham begat Moses who begat Samuel who begat Jonah who begat Ishmael." At it's worst the writer tells us what book he was reading on a particular train ride for no reason other than to tell us
I not really sure how to rate this.
On the one hand, it provides a detailed account of Jim Watson's career and discovery of DNA, so on that account it succeeds, but on the other hand Jim Watson is a fairly unlikeable man.
The risk of autobiographies is that in writing a book centred on yourself it is very easy to come across of arrogant, but in Jim Watson's case toweringly so. His constant insults of other faculty members as dinosaurs, fossils and even calling them vapid gets rather tiresome, and
Bojana Kriznik
I expected this book to be much more enjoyable, but in some cases it bored me. Life lessons are the best part of the book, since you can actually learn something from them and can be useful for students, professors and scientists in general. But then again we have to take into a consideration that this book was not written by a celebrity, a writer or musician who have much more life experiences and have funny stories to tell. This book was written by a scientist who spent most of his days in a c ...more
enjoyable as a farce (unless you legitimately need advice about what to do when you win a Nobel Prize)

Almost unbelievable how egotistical Watson is.

Less enjoyable than the Double Helix, where science takes the forefront instead of academic politics, although more quotably ridiculous
Chris Roberts
This book made me want to work to better myself, write to collect my daily thoughts, and helped me realize that the individuals that change history are very similar to everyone else, except they have an added drive to make things happen.
JP WAdams
His confidence in his own prowess leads to pages of names of the famous scientists he knew. This overwhelms the structured approach of each chapter and the easy writing style.
I liked the insight into academic life as a scientist. However, there was an excessive amount of name dropping, which made this a bit of a tedious read.
What a stuck-up showoff, but it is a great insight into the way academia and science work worldwide and the 'manners learnt' are priceless.
He didn't avoid boring me.

I really, really wanted to like this book, too. I struggled through 100 pages and just couldn't go on.
Not only do I avoid boring people, I avoid boring books ... like this one. Didn't finish it.
Steve Leman
Jul 22, 2008 Steve Leman is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
"avoid boring other people"??? i have more interesting math books...
James Miskimen
Dr. Watson had an interesting life and I enjoyed the book. It was interesting to see the real side of scientist whether other readers likes it or not. He comes off as some readers have said as "a dick," to which I would partially agree.
Our highly sensitive feminist would like to say he was sexists, despite the fact that he propped up intelligent women and also was disturbed by the science journal when his wife was portrayed as a simple housewife with no future for a career.
He seemed like a chi
Marie E.
Throughout reading this book, I thought, man, even dropping hints about winning a Nobel prize can't get you a date. That and how creepy now, though apropos for the time, that a 40 year old professor was going after the undergrads. Those humorous rejections aside, I did find this book enjoyable more as a professional in general and as a scientist secondarily. After reading this book, my impression of James Watson is that the self professed average student was more lucky than good as a scientists. ...more
This is an interesting book that tells us about James Watson's life, and the lessons he learned at each moment of his life. The beginning can be a bit tedious, but his opinions and lessons are interesting, especially for young scientists. Read more:
I loved it. Not that I love his personality or agree with his position in several issues. But because you can really understand his path and learn from some "lessons". Of course that a scientist will find the details fascinating, but for a non scientist they should be hard to follow. Having moved close to Harvard for my PhD as a visiting student, this was a perfect time to read it, right after the double helix. The book is honest, and was a mentor and guide when I missed that advice and support ...more
Anthony Faber
Kind of interesting inside look at how science is done.

Colleen Coffin
Slyly humorous, he very effectively conveys his personality here. This book is less about the specifics surrounding the discovery of the double helix and is more about advice giving. His target audience is aspiring nobel prize- seekers but he writes with a charm that makes you feel like he doesn't exclude anyone. I especially love how he points out where people's careers were hurt not from a lack of intelligence but rather from a lack of old fashioned hard work, humility, and learning to work to ...more
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In 1928, James D. Watson was born in Chicago. Watson, who co-discovered the double helix structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) at age 25, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962, along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. His bird-watching hobby prompted his interest in genetics. He earned his B.Sc. degree in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1947, and his Ph.D. ...more
More about James D. Watson...
The Double Helix DNA: The Secret of Life Genes, Girls, and Gamow: After the Double Helix The Double Helix: Annotated and Illustrated Molecular Biology of the Gene/Reading Primary Literature: A Practical Guide to Evaluating Research Articles in Biology

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