Nov 20

Book Review: The Nerdest way

The Nerdist WayThe Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick

I can’t remember what enticed me to pick up this audiobook, except that I’m kind of a sucker for self-help books, and one that is designed to be used by “nerds” has a cute angle. I’ve never heard of Chris Hardwick, and am not familiar with any of the shows he brags about having been a part of, but I presume that most readers are fans of his. From what I gleaned from the book, he’s a comedian and tv personality who also has a blog.

It must be daunting to write a self-help book, because there are so many out there, and it’s hard to add anything new. Hardwick’s contribution is to borrow the concept of a character sheet from role playing games, and make one for yourself. That way, when you accomplish something, you can add it to your character sheet and feel a sense of accomplishment. In the book, he reminds you of this by saying “character size!” I didn’t understand until like the 6th time he said it that he meant “these are things for your character sheet.” Why “character size?” Maybe it makes more sense in text.

I have to assume that most of the jokes worked better in text. In addition to the cringe-worthy habit of reading out urls (including the http://) he also reads out hashtags. I found this very annoying. He did say a couple of things that were funny (like the allegory of playing chess with an ape) but in general, most of his asides sounded like the random manic ravings of a 15-year-old who just drank a 6 pack of energy drinks. One of them, about the “Back To The Future” movies, made absolutely no sense. It seemed to just come out of left field. How did that make it past the editors?

I liked Hardwicks’ idea of a character sheet, though I don’t really think I’ll use it. It’s a valuable tool to have a running tally of your accomplishments, if for no other reason, so you can update your resume easily and have something to say at your annual review. Actually writing down your alignment and stats is a little weird, since not only is the D&D alignment system skewed, but people’s self-reported descriptions of their attributes can be highly subjective depending on the state at the time of recording. Eg. I’m prettier when I’m ovulating, I’m smarter when I’m well rested, and I’m stronger when I’ve had a good breakfast. Also, whom are you comparing yourself to? How do I decide how much xp something gives me? It’s awfully subjective.

I didn’t like Hardwick’s focus on physical fitness. True, physical fitness is important, and he seems to be presuming that is main reader is a smart, physically under-developed brainiac who can quote from memory the stats of various spacecraft but wouldn’t know Vitamin B-12 from a B52. I get it. But if you’re trying to inspire people who respond to exercise like slugs do to salt, don’t tell them how they have to hire a personal trainer and work out three to five times a week and how they have to have stretching and weight lifting and also cardiovascular fitness too, oh, and make sure you’re getting a gazillion vitamins and 8 glasses of water and 10 servings of vegetables every day. Too much! I’m one of those annoying people who will happily discuss my exercise routine at the drop of a hat, but even I felt overwhelmed by Hardwicks’ hard-sell. Just tell people to walk half an hour a day, and eat a piece of fruit a day. That’s it. Exercise is pretty awesome, and it makes you feel better, and it has amazing anti-depressive properties, but telling people they have to do ALL THAT STUFF is going to turn everyone off. Once people start a little bit of exercise and eating right, the rest of it will follow. That’s the lesson from flylady and unfuckyour habitat.  Demanding everything overwelms people, and they do nothing. Doing one simple, first step, is possible, and will lead to the second step, and then the third.

The exercise routines Hardwick includes in the book do not belong here. Not only does he lack the credentials to coach people, but there are many other books out there that do it better. It would have been better to just list a few suggested book or video titles. I skipped past all of the excercise description sections, as well as the how-to-eat right sections. More and more accurate information is so easily available everywhere on the internet, that it just felt like boring filler. He doesn’t have medical credentials, and he didn’t offer anything new, and frankly, I could pull more accurate information out of my memory.

Some of his advice for getting your email and physical clutter into shape seemed useful, if a tad obvious.  I might use some of the specific tools, if I had a physical copy of the book to reference.  Hardwick’s career advice was so pointedly directed at a very specific type of freelancer that it didn’t seem terribly useful to anyone not in his field.

I can’t say that Hardwick has much to offer the overglutted celebrity self-help sub-genre except for the usual ticket of entry “somewhat famous + repaired self-inflicted life-ruining problem.” Seems like you’re not allowed to write a self-help book about how to get your act together unless you once were a sad sack fattie/alcoholic/drug addict/whatever. If you like Hardwick’s comedy, you might enjoy this for the entertainment value, and if you’re a nerd who can’t seem to get yourself motivated, the idea of giving yourself experience points for skills you improve or possess is charming.

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1 comment

    • Beth on November 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    If I had to guess, I’d say he wasn’t saying “character size” but something like “charactercize”, some hybrid of character and exercise. Which would make more sense in print than out loud.

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