How Geeks Read: The Anatomy of a Good Nerd Book


I think every reader wanders into the bookstore with the same idea in mind: finding the book that calls out to them. I know I do, and while it depends on what I’m in the mood for that particular day, I admit that more often than not I drift into the same sections of my local bookstore. I’m interested in geek culture (you may have noticed by now), and I like to see what other people that are into the same put out into the world. However, the trendier geek culture gets, the more stuff hits the market, and soon enough, the bookshelf is swimming in stuff tailored to meet my interests. I Can Has Cheezburger collection? Yeah, I got that. Watchmen? Never leaves the coffeetable. Geek Girls Unite? It’s my primer for life.

As the books continued to stack up, it got me thinking about which ones I went back to again and again, while other ones collected dust. When it came to books that documented nerd culture, rather than actually being a part of it, there were lots and lots of missed out there. I pored over books like Otacool, Ready Player One, and Geek Wisdom over and over. But why was I enjoying them so much? What did they offer me that some of the other books didn’t quite find the sweet spot on?

Laying the Groundwork

After reading enough favorites, I started to note that the best culture books had a specific anatomy. A structure, if you will. The foundation is laid by references galore, as that is the language of the nerd kingdom. Just try it the next time you go to a con or even a programmers’ meetup. It works on the internet like magic.  Just say “my Atari,” “favorite RPG,” “Linux,” or ,”d20.” If heads perk up and eyes widen, you’re in the game. The more you can drop, the better — and you get extra credit for the mega obscure ones (if you say anything that makes reference to the MacVenture series, my eyes instantly become twinkling hearts).

Know Your Sh*t

Now that the language is in place, it’s time to woo me with knowledge. Fill me in on history, and you get double points for telling me parts of my culture I don’t already know about. Vintage gaming is hard (I was kind of obsessed as a child), but I don’t know too much about early Mac nerds. I kind of missed out on the later years of Star Trek (more of a devoted Deep Space Nine type). And I never finished Buffy. Can you fill me in? I’m learning new things, which is something the majority of nerds really love to do.

I’ve Been Geeking Since 1980

The third part of this golden triforce is experience. Writing a book about geekdom is a great thing whether you’re two years in or twenty, but just like your grandfather has the best stories, the long time geeks know their stuff, and I want to hear about it. Experiences are key. What was your first gaming system? Did you play games on an IBM using DOS? Did you go Nintendo or Sega? The more stories you can tell, the more we want to hear – because it leads us to be able to relate. The words “me too” wield major power in the English language, but relatable stories are a close second. Since many geeks felt alienated when they were growing up, this is an even more powerful bond.

With that, we leave you to peruse your own journey through the path of Ready Player One. Make sure you get equipped before you get headed out. You don’t want to head into the field without a proper weapon…



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