I'd read a couple of Discworld novels but never quite gotten into them. I first saw the tv adaptation of Going Postal. Then I downloaded the electronic book. I now also have a hard copy, a french translation and I'm eyeing off the audiobook version despite it being almost four times as much as a paperback.
It was only on the second or third read-through that I realised why I loved the book so much: I identified with the main character. Not because he was a criminal, but because he spends the entire book feeling like a fraud and waiting for someone to bust him. But they never do. And when he does eventually confess to having no idea what he's doing, nobody believes him.
Now I no longer feel like a total fraud. Most PhD students do at some point. But I am conscious of how much I don't know and expect someone to call me out on the things I'm not confident of. And when I tell people I don't know what I'm doing, to my great surprise they don't believe me.
My favourite quote (so favourite it is currently written on my fridge) is:
This is where his soul lived: dancing on the avalanche, making things up as he went along, reaching into people's ears and changing their minds.
I guess this is how I feel when I give a good presentation. Like people don't know how little I know, yet I'm pulling it off! I'm making sense! Or more realistically, it is only when I am changing people's minds that I realise I know what I'm talking about. On the other hand, when I'm less confident, I feel like I've been caught with my arm in people's ears before I've been able to reach their minds.
When I was in the middle of my PhD my friend gave me a book by Stephen Fry. I started reading it but didn't get far into it because it was too close to my reality to provide an escape - it was about a PhD student preparing his thesis for submission. So personally I couldn't recommend it for PhD recreational reading.
Going Postal, however, has familiar themes for the PhD student and provides a decent escape while subtly suggesting 'Keep going. You may do some good, however inadvertently.'
But why paraphrase? A few apt quotes:
"This was probably garbage, but it was good garbage!"
"Always keep moving. There may be something behind you."
"Run before you walk! Fly before you crawl! Keep moving forward!"*
"... Because if we fail, I'd rather fail really hugely."
For some strange reason, over my PhD I found this ambitious realism, this optimistic fatalism, hugely comforting.
*I actually used this quote recently talking to a PhD student who'd been offered an amazing opportunity but was feeling inadequate.
EDIT: Forgetting I had scheduled this post to publish on Saturday, I coincidentally downloaded the audiobook on Saturday.