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Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  526 Ratings  ·  76 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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Nov 17, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
James Watson should be avoided, at his own advice.
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nerd-stuff
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
Vijay Akhade
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hypocrisy in search of social acceptance erodes your self-respect.

Knowing 'why' (an idea) is more important than learning 'what' (a fact).

If your experiments work all the time or your ideas never stop coming, you likely are aiming at goals not worth pursuing.

Waiting until a seminar is over to ask questions is pathologically polite. You will probably forget where you got lost and start questioning results you actually understood.

Being an ass occasionally is forgivable; being unable to admit it is
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
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"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
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.
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.
Feb 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 18, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Steve Leman
Jul 22, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
"avoid boring other people"??? i have more interesting math books...
Jun 19, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 31, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Not only do I avoid boring people, I avoid boring books ... like this one. Didn't finish it.
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Interesante chismorreo realizado en primera persona acerca de la innumerable lista de personajes relevantes a los que se arrimó, James D Watson, uno de los descubridores de la estructura molecular del ADN.

En el libro no se recogen demasiados detalles de su labor científica, que supongo se encuentran en su otro libro divulgativo La Doble Helice, ni tampoco demasiados detalles sobre su vida o pensamiento.

Aunque sobre esto último, son especialmente interesantes sus recomendaciones sobre el desar
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James Miskimen
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 15, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Harry Fulgencio
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Sep 11, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Colleen Coffin
May 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 31, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Great title but boring book.
Sep 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
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.
...avoid boring books....
Mar 19, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not much so far..Still reading the first pages. I was interested in the book cover/title. Go figure
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.
Brian Morton
Jun 06, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Stella Ekaputri
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before I start my review, it is rudimentary to remind you that I am a big fan of Dr. Watson, so probably my review is going to be biased.

I first purchased this book fully knowing the bad review it got on Amazon. While majority of people said they were disappointed and bored of this book, I still gave this book 4 stars.

Don't get me wrong--initially I thought this book was boring too. Instead of focusing on his research, how he got his topic, etc, Dr. Watson kept going on and on about his friend
Lee Belbin
An interesting autobiography about a bigger than life character and probably the second biggest scientific breakthrough after Darwin's 'evolution'. I am not so sure about "Honest Jim" or whether I would like Watson if I met him. He is egocentric, competitive and a glorious name dropper but maybe without at least the first two, he would not have achieved as much. I am a scientist, but the discussion of small points around the phages didn't do much for me. Some of the personality bits were good, b ...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...
“Most academic battles involve space or faculty appointments and promotions.” 0 likes
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