Who’s The Book For?

One of the challenges in marketing a book like this is explaining who it’s for and why it matters. There isn’t really a niche it fits into, or perhaps it partially fits several niches.

The publishers see the main audience as high school students with an interest in science, but with questions about where a scientific career would take them. At high school I loved science, and proclaimed an intention to be an astronomer, but I had no idea what ordinary astronomers did. The only living astronomers I could name were Carl Sagan (then still alive) and a couple of locals who did more science communication than research. In particular, I had no idea just how many people it took to make the discoveries  that fascinated me so much. Biographies of scientists were largely restricted to the long-dead, and conveyed the impression of a world where science was the activity of a handful of geniuses, rather than something done by several million full-time researchers.

It might be a bit better today, what with the Internet and programs like “I’m a scientist get me out of here“. However, I  had the benefit of an older sister doing a physics degree. Most high school science enthusiasts lack that sort of link, and from what I’m hearing the problem hasn’t changed a lot.

If nothing else Forensics, Fossils and Fruitbats leaves a clear impression that there are a lot of people doing science, they’re a very diverse mob, and many of them are having fun doing it. I think most younger readers could imagine themselves in the shoes of several of the people in the book, an opportunity we rarely get when hearing about scientific research.

However, there are a lot of other people who I think would enjoy the book. I’ve kept  people enthralled at parties with stories from the book. I don’t think it’s just my friends who are fascinated to learn how ancient Celtic stone circles could lead to a computer program to catch financial scams, the welter of sports statistics now available and even techniques to reduce domestic violence. Or that jellyfish have no brains, yet still seem to be able to make decisions about where to swim. Or that kangaroos have friendship circles. That’s not really a “best of” either. The whole book is filled with these stories. In this case however, you don’t just get the results disembodied from the people behind them. I’ve tried to offer an insight into the personalities and motivations of the scientists, and I think that has considerable appeal. I know people who don’t much like sport, but love Martin Flanagan’s weekly insights into sportspeople and organisers he meets. I’d never claim to be as good at this as Flanagan, but I think for many people physicists are more interesting than footballers. If that includes you, you might just like this book.

About Stephen Luntz

I am a science journalist, specialising in Australian and New Zealand research across all fields of science. My book, Forensics, Fossils and Fruitbats: A Field Guide to Australian Scientists is out now through CSIRO Publishing. I am also a professional returning officer for non-government organisations. I'm very politically active, but generally try to restrict this blog to scientific matters.
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