Phil Gyford


Friday 9 May 2003

PreviousIndexNext Learning biotech

Matt mentioned he’s been looking into biotech a bit. A while back I was wondering how best to learn more about it. Not for a job — hell, regular expressions can be hard — but so I don’t end up as some out-of-touch fortysomething hunched over his internet while everyone else is busy cloning and grafting and evolving and whatever else people will be doing when biotech is still the next big thing. I am, however, hindered by my teenage-level of science education, so a couple of years ago I read a biology textbook as a start. But that seemed to require more chemistry knowledge than I had. And then I thought some basic physics would be a good foundation. And, of course, at some point my maths would need brushing up…

So while I’m not sure the best way to progress, I don’t want to be put off yet.’s Listmania! lists can provide some good clues of where to start, and their So you’d like to… guides are a wonderful idea (I’ve never found a way to search Listmania! and SYLT though; you have to search for books in general and cross your fingers).

For years, since before the LazyWeb was invokable, I’ve wanted a site that would list the books to read on any subject, perhaps by aggregating university reading lists or something; I don’t want to waste precious time reading the “wrong” books. But the LazyWeb somehow heard my plea and Canonical Tomes is close to what I was after, and it’s been filled out somewhat since I last looked.

Now I just need more time for reading…


I had a look at Canonical Tomes, found political philosophy, a specialised subject which I have the fortune of having two degrees in. I only recognised two of the books that were on their list, of the rest, they were not on any University reading list that I'd come across, nor were they gentle introductions from the look of it.

As to aggregating reading lists, the last political philosphy degree I finished in 1987 (yes I'm an out-of-touch fortysomething). I would still be doing it now if I had tried to read all the books on that reading list.

So where does that leave us. I think it was Roquentin in Sartre's novel Nausea that tried to read all the books in his local library in alphabetical order.

One piece of advice I was given, apart from 'read slowly' was 'what question are you trying to answer when you read this work'. or 'what question are you trying to answer by choosing this book'
You have to find your own line through.


Posted by Richard Hyett on 13 May 2003, 2:24 pm | Link

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