I watch a lot of YouTube content lately about PhDs, postdocs, and an academic career in general, and one content creator that stands out is the amazing Tara Brabazon. In one of her videos, either on her own channel, that of Flinders University, or of Charles Darwin University, she addresses academic interview questions. One such question is, "What is the title of your second book?"

My Question:

How does one answer satisfactorily the question, "What is the title of your second book?", in an academic interview when one hasn't published a single book, let alone two?

About Me:

I study pure mathematics at the PhD level here in the UK. I don't know how much it is expected of a pure maths postdoctoral fellowship applicant (or that of a more permanent position) to have published two or more books. Is it more of a Humanities thing?

I'm interested in staying competitive in the job market.

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    Adding this as a comment since it doesn't directly answer the question, but it's unlikely you'd be asked this question in a STEM subject interview. As you say, books are much more of a Humanities thing, and are very much an aside to papers and conferences as the primary output for researchers in (most?) STEM subjects. Commented Jun 14 at 16:20
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    A STEM-adapted version of the question might be "What will be the title of your first major grant application?". Note that many/most humanities academic will write their first book based on the topic of their PhD thesis, so the subtext of the question is "Tell us about something you want to work on in the future that is substantially different from what you're doing now."
    – avid
    Commented Jun 14 at 16:29
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    “The Adventures of Algebrats” Commented Jun 14 at 22:35
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    Different fields are different, but does she mean this for a postdoc interview? Anyway, it sounds to me like her version of the "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" question, so that's how probably how you should interpret it.
    – Kimball
    Commented Jun 15 at 5:44
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    1950s movie sequel paradigm: "The Return/Revenge of the ..." :-) Stephen Hawking's "An Even Briefer History of Time" The question may have been a test of your spontaneous creativity. Be creative, share a laugh, and score your objective.
    – user186240
    Commented Jun 15 at 7:37

1 Answer 1


Stephen McMahon's comments should be the answer. In history, for example, it is quite common that the first book is a rewrite of the dissertation. The question about the title of the second book is about whether the candidate has any idea of what to work on after the dissertation. I assume that the same is true in the humanities in general.

The situation in pure Mathematics is very different. First, books by people early in their career are rare. You write papers, often on your own. Text books do not usually count for academic advancement in the early stages. Monographs presume that you are an expert in a field, which usually requires you to have already published a lot. Accomplished people in the field might never write a book or only have one book to their credit (unless you count Springer Lecture Notes, which are a bit different in their outlook). I am not talking about text books here.

If you were actually asked this question, your answer should be that you want to work in this field first, and maybe that will lead to a first book. The second book is in the far future. (Unless of course you are already the junior partner in a book project.) If you are planning on a series of monographs, you better be superb, or you will come across as a bit arrogant. If you are thinking about writing a text book, mentioning that during an interview might backfire because Math departments want to see good research and do not want you to be distracted from that.

Of course, individual cases can be very different.


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