Dear Authors, Why Are Academic Texts So Boring?

I’m a reader, have been for as long as I can remember. One day I opened my really beautiful eyes (oh please check my picture) to behold a new world. It wasn’t one of amniotic fluid and echoes from mama’s vocal cords. I saw a brighter world. A noisier world without the natural filters I was used to; a world with lights, colours, textures and books. Lots of books, and by God did I read them all. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve read the oddest things a child should be bothered with, and when I exhausted the cache in my own home, I laid siege upon my neighbours’ libraries (or just wherever the beauties were kept) and I read some more.There’s just one glitch in the reading system: Some books are plain dull. So dull you wonder if the authors’ muse is only present at the lowest points of their lives.  And that’s a bad thing.

Yeah, I feel your pain too. Better whipped than read those.
Yeah, I feel your pain too. Better whipped than read those. But I can’t tell if she’s about to murder the books or cry 😀

How long does one spend on a book before it’s thrown across the room and forgotten on its landing spot behind the settee? In my case, it’s just beyond the first chapter. Anything else jumping at me afterwards will be trapped by the spider webs lodged in the darkest corners of my brain. Yet again this only makes sense when you’re stuck with pleasure reading. So how does one swallow bitter pills of boring academic reading too, when all you want is to gain knowledge and ace your exams, while enjoying the process? Oh I don’t know. I get the rush to author text books. I partly see the need to feel smart and very intellectual. But I do not understand why little effort must be put into something as vital as education.

Basic foundations are forged in the home and classroom. Love, attention, sense of belonging and the feeling of significance are real mojo in a human’s life. But the ability to dream, see colours in bland pages and watch letters come to life is desirable too. Take C.S Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia for instance, that is a good story, but it is a great book because it teaches values in an interesting, fun way. The basics should not be overlooked. If fiction writers can apply their love for the arts in the shortest stories, I don’t see why the same shouldn’t be extended to academics. Academia is not synonymous with boredom. Or at the very least it shouldn’t be.

I’m staring at the second best book I have been opportune to read since I subscribed to getting professionally certified in Accounting. Second best. Before this there was me refereeing matches between boredom and survival –with the former winning– and as expected, it’s turned out to be written by a foreigner, much like the first. So far the Western populace appear to have a better grasp of what academia should be about than my Nigerian/African authors. That’s not to say though that I haven’t come across foreign authored books I couldn’t fathom, hard as I tried. The margin is just a lot smaller.

Writing is an art. Art reflects our very soul on paper, canvass, or in the beautiful strains of music. And art is not mechanical (unless it’s meant to be savoured by robots). Every word, syllable, stroke must be done with love. God, lots of love and passion. Love is infectious. When a person caresses each sentence with love before laying it on a sheet, it’s near impossible to resist sliding into that same euphoria too. When it comes to academic writing, then like Mary Poppins suggested, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. Reading can be a difficult task most times, but it’s easier when there are visual aids—one that can be conjured in the mind or otherwise splattered across the pages. We love pictures. We want stories that are relatable, illustrations, and colours. Give the people what they need when you write for the classroom, not an extended version of your big brain, self-esteem and over-zealous desire to sell copies and make money. You are a foundation builder. Give the kids blocks to work with.

To authors who do it right, you have my thanks for loving the art and never straying from what it truly means to impart knowledge on another. I hope the lost and ignorant ones out there learn there’s no greater satisfaction than knowing your labour has the most beneficial impact on people with minimal struggle. Everyone is teachable; we just need to devise the right means to get our message across, and books are the most accessible even for people who can not afford to enroll in a school.

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18 thoughts on “Dear Authors, Why Are Academic Texts So Boring?

  1. A.PROMPTreply July 3, 2015 / 12:01 am

    This is one of my biggest complaints about how our school teach. Textbooks are so dry! Who can maintain interest in something like that? Oh, if I could rewrite the world, I know. But seriously….someone really does need to take a look at this…..seems to me most countries look to their young to carry the future…..wouldn’t it be smart to engage them in learning/thinking/creativity starting with textbooks? Makes sense to me anyway.

    Like

    • uju July 4, 2015 / 6:17 pm

      You get it! You totally get it.
      It is annoying to read something that can’t even hold your attention long enough. The drawback of making learning very laborious and boring is that people will pore over a book simply to pass the next test. That’s a terrible way to encourage learning.

      Like

  2. cat9984 May 12, 2015 / 3:06 pm

    I received a degree in Russian and East European Studies. I discovered that as beautifully as the 19th century novelists wrote, their academic writing was dull. Which is why I can quote Tolstoy, but have no memory whatsoever of the linguistics behind the writing. (Yes, your eyes are beautiful, by the way. As is the rest of your face, judging from your picture.)

    Like

    • uju May 12, 2015 / 5:01 pm

      You are so right Cat! Love where you take this. It’s easier to memorize and quote literary work because we are more immersed in the process, than it is for academic writing.

      Thank you darling 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jaysentrueblood April 1, 2015 / 3:25 pm

    I have found that it depends on the texts. some are very interesting (of course I am one who loves history, writing and linguistics) But for the most part, books written for instruction do not take into consideration the need for interest. They are technical writing, not creative.

    Thanks for stopping in and liking my post. Hope you’ll return.

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju April 2, 2015 / 9:01 am

      I just feel like writing — any writing — should be engaging rather than drab. If i was to read what a person had to say about a technical issue, it would be relatively nice if he didn’t make me fall asleep on the first paragraph 😀

      You’re welcome.

      Like

  4. Obasi Chidi March 27, 2015 / 6:12 pm

    You can not judge a book by it cover or author(writer),books are written according to the mind or experience they had,textbooks are written according to certain curricullar cycle. Dear read #thelittleprince by co-author #richardhoward or #buythefuture by #mensahotabil,compare it with #engineeringmathsordrawingandGNS

    Like

    • uju March 29, 2015 / 9:21 am

      Curricular cycle shouldn’t affect a writing style now, should it? I know academic authors aren’t always about frills, but a bit of engagement during learning will help the students make sense of something that would otherwise be jargons.

      Like

  5. Holistic Wayfarer March 26, 2015 / 9:43 pm

    You’re right. It’s ironic that academic texts are so dry because their purpose is to facilitate learning, and we learn best, most naturally when our interest and spirit are engaged (and of course when we see relevance). Yes, the standards we hold other types of writing to shouldn’t evaporate in academic texts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • uju March 29, 2015 / 9:19 am

      Amen Diana. It’s tiring to snore over a book when you should be enjoying the learning process. Sometimes I wonder why adults have to be less interesting just to make themselves look matured.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Holistic Wayfarer March 29, 2015 / 2:38 pm

        “why adults have to be less interesting just to make themselves look matured.”
        LOL.

        Like

  6. livelytwist March 26, 2015 / 11:30 am

    This may not answer the question, Dear Authors, Why Are Academic Texts So Boring? However, you mention a few things that has me thinking ….

    “Writing is an art.” Not everyone has mastered the art or places a premium on the ‘art’ of writing.
    The writing style for academic work is different. I may be wrong, but facts not ‘frills’ are paramount. Perhaps pictures, illustrations, colour, increase page count and cost more money?

    I’m all for more ‘approachable’ books though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 26, 2015 / 6:05 pm

      huh facts and figures are important, but getting the message across (that’s passing knowledge if I’m not mistaken) should be paramount, and honestly I don’t see how the latter is even achieved if the books aren’t ‘approachable’ as you put it.
      It’s kinda odd though. That anyone would write a textbook in the same way as they would decades ago when people wore monochrome colours (that’s what they were called, right?) and black and white TVs were the norm.
      The world is bursting with colors today– beautiful vibrant colors and seriously they need to be adopted in the school curriculum.

      With respect to cost effectiveness, here’s what I was taught in Economics (boring textbooks and all :P) Man is assumed to be rational, and rationality dictates a desire of more to less of a thing. Hence an item that promises better value with minimal stress will likely be preferred to its opposite. Methinks an increase in demand of a commodity as necessary as this won’t be diminished by the supply price. So long people are getting something fresh, insightful and generally better than what’s obtainable, our authors have little to fear by way of cost. Ultimately the final consumer bears the weight.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. makagutu March 26, 2015 / 6:43 am

    I have read many a boring books. You would think academicians intended to kill their readers by boring them to death

    Like

    • uju March 26, 2015 / 2:42 pm

      Lol I’d like to ask them the same too. I wonder though if this boredom on paper isn’t a reflection of their real lives.
      You’re brave for concluding any boring book at all. I generally tend to give up and go digging for something I can understand with ease. Costs me more money, but it makes education lot more fun 🙂

      Like

  8. Adaeze March 25, 2015 / 8:51 pm

    Some authors subconsciously believe that the more convoluted their work is, the higher the quality. Academic books can be interesting if the readers/users are involved in the writing process and give proper feed back

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 26, 2015 / 11:46 am

      Perhaps the authors need to become conscious while writing? I don’t know the place of convolution in quality, but I know things are better appreciated when they fulfill their intended purpose.

      Proper feedback is important as you mentioned. Same goes for the classrooms. The link I attached to the post takes you to a survey focusing on the teaching process. In some ways it relates to the writing process too.

      Liked by 1 person

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