The world is wanting for a better definition or description for a nerd and American Nerd most excellently provides that.
Benjamin Nugent, a self-described nerd, anti-nerd, and non-nerd (at different points through life), goes into detail about various obsessions, habits, and commonalities of nerd culture. For example, “D&D” is printed four times on page 190 (five if you count “Dungeons & Dragons), Super Smash Bros is printed eight times on page 158, LARPing makes a cameo, SCA gets a chapter, l337-speak on p.154, and so on.
Why is this on our bookshelf?
After reading, I’m not sure the book is all that nerdy or geeky. It’s really a better read as a personal theory about nerds and nerd culture. Nevertheless, what nerd could resist the temptation for more data about their species?
Rating (3 stars)
This is a hard rating to give. On one hand, the book is a great piece of non-fiction: an somewhat anecdotal assessment of nerd culture, history, and definition.
On the other hand, this is not a geeky book. As a geeky/nerd (I consider it a loose definition) I’d rather build websites, play Settlers of Cataan or re-read Hitchikers’ Guide to the Galaxy than pick up this book again.
Finally, even looking at it from an “okay-this-isn’t-meant-to-be-a-nerdy-book-about-nerds” perspective, I still yearn for more science and less drama from the author’s childhood. To be fair, Ben does outline in a short preface that the book does attempt to maintain “journalistic objectivity” but cautions it may not have been possible.
I believe that your reception to American Nerd will vary considerably depending on your own relationship with nerds in a way that may not be entirely predictable.
Read this book:
You have a nerd in your life (friend, loved one, yourself) who you just don’t quite understand.
Don't Read this book:
You’d rather be playing D&D
Once you're done, do this:
Go play D&D