Santiago Ramón y Cajal is best known as a visionary scientist and a Nobel laureate that is considered one of the founders of modern neuroscience. Unbeknownst to most, he has – aside from a series on highly-regarded textbooks – also authored a book entitled “Advice for a young investigator”.

This smart little book (less than 200 pages, making it the perfect quick read in between all those papers) will put a big smile on your face as it outlines the many pitfalls that the young scientist faces: ranging from being too idealistic, not realizing one’s own eccentricities, all the way to what needs to be considered when choosing a partner for life. Although his advice throughout the book is generally as applicable as when it was first published over 115 (!) years ago, his views on gender equality and the role of women in science in general are terribly outdated.

If one decides, however, to look past this problematic topic, one discovers where the old master really excels: be it with some down-to-earth practical advice for writing a paper (“(1) Have something to say, (2) say it, (3) stop once it is said (…)”), or when it comes to dismissing bachelordom as a recipe for disaster for the aspiring young investigator (“One might say that ideas are blossoms of virtue that fail to open their petals and wilt quickly in the fumes of boisterous partying”).

Bottom line.

There you go, for less than the price of a movie ticket this book will give you some proper advice for real life and make you chuckle just as often as a funny movie – or provide an awesome gift for that scientific friend of yours whose character is so well-described by the old Cajal.