American Nerd: The Story of My People

By Benjamin Nugent

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In his charming and disarmingly serious study of the history of the nerd in popular culture and throughout modern history, Nugent (Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing) succeeds in crafting a nuanced discussion without resorting to smugness or excessive cleverness. His prose is straightforward, but the writing is never dry, as Nugent maintains a brisk pace by chasing an entertaining series of tangents across short chapters. Discrete pockets of nerd-dom are carefully observed and analyzed, with an eye for connections that lead to unusual places. While there are engaging sections about more obvious nerd subjects like the rise of online gaming and the history of American science-fiction clubs, Nugent takes his book in surprising directions, such as the ethnic implications of the nerd categorization, particularly in regard to Jewish and Asian stereotypes. In one chapter, Nugent finds correspondence between nerdiness and people with Asperger's syndrome, astutely drawing comparisons between the socializing problems experienced by both groups and positing that many of those considered nerds historically might in fact be on the autism spectrum. Another unexpected detour, this one into the intense subculture of high school and college debaters, turns into an extraordinarily poignant meditation on the friendships engendered by shared passions. Swinging ably from personal anecdotes to historical perspective, Nugent's exploration of outcasts is a triumph. (May)
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Review
"American Nerd is very funny and consistently smart, but it's also mildly controversial -- I'm not sure I've ever seen these kinds of cogent, intuitively accurate arguments made about any 'type' of modern person. Benjamin Nugent is just weird enough to be absolutely right." -- Chuck Klosterman, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

"The coolest book about nerds ever written. Heck, one of the coolest books ever written, period. Benjamin Nugent is the Richard Daw-kins of geekdom. Outsiders of the world, this is required reading. Know your roots!" -- Paul Feig, creator of Freaks and Geeks

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