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Top 42 Books For PhD And Graduate Students

Little Book Worm (Canon G9)

From writing papers, to giving presentations, to grad school humor. These are the top 42 books for PhD and graduate students. If you want to survive in graduate school, you must read these books.

It is normal to feel lost in the vastness of a PhD project. Graduate school is a though place. You need to learn how to write, how to give presentations, how to do research, and how not to surrender.  And you have to learn fast.

Are you a graduate student that wants to know what (today’s) scientists had to do in order to finish at grad school? What they did to become good researchers? How come they didn’t go nuts in the process?

I expect this 42 books for PhD and graduate students to help in their quest for a career in science. Some of these books I have read myself or are in my to-read list. The remaining books have been recommended by very wise people that have survived and endured a PhD.

You will find all your answers in these books. If there is some missing gem, please let us know in the comments section.


Academic Writing Books

The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition

A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations

How to Write a Better Thesis

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis

The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success

Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

Dissertations And Theses from Start to Finish: Psychology And Related Fields

Academic Writing for Graduate Students, Second Edition: Essential Tasks and Skills

How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing

On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction


Presentation Skills Books

The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid

A Handbook of Public Speaking for Scientists and Engineers

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience

Even a Geek Can Speak

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery

In The SpotLight, Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

Confessions of a Public Speaker

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences


Graduate School Motivation And General Advice Books

The Craft of Research, Third Edition

The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research

Mastering Your PhD: Survival and Success in the Doctoral Years and Beyond

A PhD Is Not Enough!: A Guide to Survival in Science

Advice for New Faculty Members

What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career

Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D.

Advice for a Young Investigator

Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School

Playing the Game: The Streetsmart Guide to Graduate School

Academics Handbook 2nd Ed

From Student to Scholar: A Candid Guide to Becoming a Professor

How to Survive Your PhD: The Insider’s Guide

The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.: 200 Secrets From 100 Graduates

Read This Before Our Next Meeting


Fun Comics

Piled Higher and Deeper: A Graduate Student Comic Strip Collection

Life is tough and then you graduate: The second Piled Higher and Deeper Comic Strip Collection

Scooped! The Third Piled Higher and Deeper Comic Strip Collection

Academic Stimulus Package (Piled Higher & Deeper)

xkcd: volume 0

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides)

I hope some of these books are useful for you. If you think other good books for PhD students should be included in this list, please leave a comment.

UPDATED: Check the Next Scientist

I have started a new blog to help PhD students and young scientist to do better science, get exposure and grow their academic footprint. All using digital hacks, blogging and social media. Check these blog posts, I think you might find them interesting:

5 Phases of PhD Motivation Explained: The Roller Coaster Curve

5 Phases of PhD Motivation Explained: The Roller Coaster Curve

Photo by Tim Ferriss

The motivation during your PhD is not constant, and it resembles the phases that entrepreneurs experience and that Tim Ferriss describes in his post Harnessing Entrepreneurial Manic Depression: Making The Rollercoaster Work for You. Tim provides great advice for entrepreneurs, but this can easily be adapted to research and PhD life.

Phase 1: Uninformed optimism

You start your PhD, everything is new and you find your project really cool. It feels like you are going to solve a big problem and you might get a big prize if you are ambitious and work well, maybe a patent, maybe a paper in a high impact journal. Sounds familiar? It is a similar feeling to starting in a new job, everybody is nicer than in the previous job and it is by far better organized. Well, give it some months, you’ll realize it is not that great.

Phase 2: Informed Pessimism

You have been working for some time on your project, you understand the field better, but unfortunately you are still lost. You don’t see any good results in the near future and you start to realize that this project might be a bit too big for you. This phase is more severe if the content of your PhD is not a continuation from a previous work, if you switched fields.

Phase 3: Crisis of Meaning

You are more or less in the middle of your PhD and you have a crisis like 40 year old guys have. Since you don’t have money to buy you a Porsche, you just cry in silence in a corner. You think “Is this all? Am I a failure?” The project is not as pinkful as you dreamt it, in fact, you are going to struggle and work your ass off to finish a minimally decent body of work. You feel that you have wasted a lot of time, that you did a lot of useless little projects. Now they seem useless, but you never know, maybe sometime later you connect the dots and they were the starting points of something great.

Phase 4: Crash and Burn (optional)

While at Phase 3, if you don’t step aside fast from your negative feelings you are going to be screwed. Negativity might take over, leading you a mini depression. At this stage, many people think they have been wasting their time and they give up. They walk away with an unfinished PhD. Needless to say, we want to avoid this.

Phase 5: Informed Optimism

Slowly you start to realize that your PhD thesis is not going to be as awesome as you thought. Whatever. At least you’ll get some publications, enough to graduate. Maybe the Nature paper has to wait for your post-doc. Who cares. You’d better finish a half-ass Phd than nothing. You are getting the grip of your field, you can contribute (something) to the state of the art. It should be enough. Good enough, you don’t need perfect.

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