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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 19: Publish a book (or two)

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


Publishing a book is a tremendous academic and personal achievement. A good book can very clearly launch or cement your role as a leader in your scholarly field. For example, as a 34-year-old, Paul Starr (1982) wrote the magnificent The Social Transformation of American Medicine. This landmark volume traced, in exquisite, beautifully written detail, a 200-year history of the US health care system. The book won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize as well as a host of other notable awards, including the Bancroft Prize in American History, and helped to establish Starr’s place as a leading contributor to sociology and public affairs. Aside from the career rewards book publishing can bring, ‘Having the book physically in your hands, turning the pages and remembering the blood, sweat and tears that went into it, is a moment of euphoria’ (Birkhead, in Evans et al., 2014).

Books generally offer more substantial and less ephemeral scholarly contributions than journal articles. As Paul Starr’s magnum opus did, books can stand as major statements in a broader research and writing career as well as on your office bookshelves. A book allows you to explore and tease out complex ideas in more detail than is possible in shorter forms of publication. As your publication count grows, so you may find that your recollections and appreciation of the relative importance of most of your papers, commentaries and reviews diminishes. But even though more and more books are now published in electronic form, most...

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