Monday, 26 February 2018

Reading Challenge Week 8 - A Book by Someone Who Isn’t a Writer

Well, this was one of those challenges where cheating was positively encouraged. Trying to find "A Book by Someone Who Isn’t a Writer" (especially in our library) required some creative interpretation of what "someone who isn't a writer" might mean.

So, this week we have a review of a book written by a corporate author, and a review of a book assembled by an editor from a variety of translated sources.

What did you find to fit the challenge?

Luc Brien read the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, written by the American Psychological Association.

While I’ve had a copy of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association sitting on my iPad for a long time, I’ve never really taken a look at anything outside of chapters six and seven - those chapters dedicated to citing sources. This week I w̶a̶s̶ ̶c̶o̶e̶r̶c̶e̶d̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶o̶ decided to take up the challenge of reading the rest of the Manual, which was surprisingly interesting!

It’s not exactly a gripping cover-to-cover read but, over the course of this week, I’ve learned a bunch of things about writing for the social sciences that I never knew before (my background is in humanities and business).  First developed in 1929 (it’s 90 years old!), the Manual has evolved from a seven-page article to the 272 page behemoth we know and love today. While many people will already be familiar with the same chapters that I was, the rest of the Manual is really worth a look for anyone who wants some general advice or guidance about how to lay out a document (do headings get capitalised?), construct sentences (should we use Oxford commas?), prepare research (what’s the best way to summarise my study?), and cite their sources (how do I not get done for plagiarism?).

The Manual also talks about the publication process - from finding a journal to submit to, working with their manuscript requirements, the peer-review process, making changes, and complying to the legal and ethical frameworks involved.

Overall, I enjoyed dipping into the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (which you can find at 150.149 AME 2010). It’s a must-have book for anyone beginning their careers in the social sciences.

Sharon Bryan read Original Buddhist Sources: A Reader, written by a whole bunch of people, translated by quite a few others, and edited by Carl Olson.

When I picked up this collection of translations of various Buddhist texts – covering several thousand years and following different forms of Buddhism as the religion moved from India through Central Asia into Tibet, China and Japan (which I found at 294.38 OLS) – I didn’t expect to come across poorly written sex scenes passing themselves off as super-secret holy scriptures. Granted, there were only a few of them and they were all in the Tibetan section, but it was still a bit of a surprise.

That’s part of the interesting thing about this book. As the readings are taken from different schools of Buddhism from different places in different times, some of the readings seem like they may as well come from completely different religions. Early in the first part of the book, a passage claims that the historical Buddha explicitly stated that members of his religious order should abstain from all forms of sex with all people (and non-people). I doubt that Buddha would be particularly impressed with the Tantric passages in the Tibetan section. For that matter, neither would most of the other schools of Buddhism, which seem mostly focused on discussing the nature of existence and trying to avoid getting suckered into the cycle of rebirth.

I wouldn’t say that the book is particularly enlightening (in both senses of the word) as it isn’t really an introductory text. It assumes the readers already have some background knowledge of Buddhism, and doesn’t explain any of the terminology used. If you have read any other books about Buddhism, however, these “original” texts can be quite illuminating.

Oh, and I just want to specifically say: “Don’t read the Tantric passages in the Tibetan section” – largely because one of them starts by pointing out that these are super secret holy scriptures and anyone who reveals these rites to people who have not been initiated into this quasi-religious sex party will be cursed with all kinds of incontinence. I wonder how Carl fared with that…

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