Curiosity's Cats: Writers on Research

Bruce Joshua Miller, editor of Curiosity's Cats: Writers on Research, makes no secret of his discomfort with researchers' increasing dependence on digitized sources. The 13 essays he commissioned for this collection share a common mandate: tell a story about a project that required investigative techniques beyond computer searches. The results could have been extended Luddite shudders against technology or simple exercises in nostalgia. They are neither, though several essays include a variation on "I'm not a Luddite, but..." and the final essay (Marilyn Stasio's "Your Research--or Your Life!") uses nostalgia to pointed effect. Instead, each piece explores the complicated and often personal relationship between writers and their research.

The essays, written by novelists, historians, journalists and a filmmaker, vary widely in topic, tone and method. Some writers give detailed accounts of methodology, like historian of science Alberto Martínez, who outlines the convoluted and creative process of tracking down a single elusive fact: the date that Albert Einstein had the intuitive flash that led to the theory of relativity. Others--like essayist Ned Stuckey-French, who describes the joy of research as a way of life for his entire family--approach the topic more impressionistically. Despite the book's focus on analogue discoveries, several also celebrate new opportunities offered by digital digging.

Whether funny or poignant, whether describing the insights that come from getting lost in a strange city or the development of a research path over the course of a career, the essays in Curiosity's Cats celebrate the joys of research, online and off. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

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