No matter how dense the subject, complicated the field, or convoluted the material, every interested reader should be able to access and understand the argument in any nonfiction book.
For some authors, this can be a difficult imperative to accept. When we’ve spent years–decades, likely–gaining expertise and building arguments, we often bury the assumptions, connections, and relationships that make up the foundation of our work. When we then condense our work into a book, we often assume our readers will do the work of excavation.
Although very (very) few readers will do this, authors often resist directives to make their arguments more accessible because it feels like a directive to dumb things down or pander to casual passersby.
To get past the resistance, we can think of accessibility not as a tool for making an argument artificially simple but as a tool for for making it functional and usable. In this case, functional and usable mean readable. Making thinking accessible means making a book readable, and it’s an authorial responsibility.
Books are, in part, a medium for delivering an author’s thoughts to a reader’s understanding. Ensuring successful (that is, readable) delivery depends on the access granted when authors adopt the conventions by which their thinking can be shared.
These conventions usually guide authors toward locating their argument’s foundation and exposing the scaffolding from which their claims have been built.
Although this seems like it should be easy for an authorial expert, it’s very often not. The foundations of our most complicated arguments tend to be buried so deeply that even their authors can’t always easily find them. Consequently, many authors meet a moment of despair during the drafting stage–deciding that if their reader can’t follow their thinking, it’s simply because their thinking is too complex.
It’s possible. But far more likely, this is just the story we tell ourselves to avoid the difficult but necessary work of making our thinking usable, functional…readable.
While it’s true that not every reader will be interested in evolutionary biology and the future of genetics, or in the philosophical foundations and future of AI, those who are interested and motivated are capable of following the author’s most complicated argument, as long as it’s accessible.
We write for these readers–interested, motivated readers–readers who have sought out our work and want to know more. Making our argument functional and usable for them simply means making it readable.