Books with bosoms!, he said.
Ugly art, she said.


048) American Nerd: The Story of My People by Benjamin Nugent, finished September 7

I have many positive things to say about this book, but I want to start with polluting those compliments. Because although this book makes many striking and convincing arguments about nerd-related topics, it's also just a single and early voice in the serious discussion and its arguments are filled with holes that I hope later writers drive trucks through. That said, I enjoyed his arguments.

I started reading the book just a few days before school started and the first person mentioned is Mary Bennet. And the second section of the book is about Victor Frankenstein. Which two people happen to be characters in the first two novels I teach in AP Lit. And yes: they are total nerds.

So I started off rather excited. And I adapted his Animals<------->Machines spectrum to an early lesson and made it the first homework assignment of the year. I also talked about a number of the facts and proposals in the book with people in conversation.

What's been difficult is reading a book by a guy who clearly rejected his nerd past---and violently---writing about nerds. He's the apostate expert, as it were.
In the wild and idiotic delusions I experienced in my nerd phase . . . (187)
He doesn't back down from looking down on nerds even as he explains and promotes their humanity.

Now, me, I've always felt like a failed nerd. By which I mean I had a lot of nerd characteristics, but never really was nerd enough to be a nerd. I don't know what I was, but I've never felt comfortable aspiring to nerddom. That belongs to nerds and it is theirs. Bur I've certainly been friends with nerds and sometimes I want to slap Nugent. Even with his painful regrets re how he rejected his nerd friends, he still hates that he was ever a nerd and goes to great pains to prove he is not and has not been a nerd for years and years and years and years. And that desperate need to prove colors everything else he has to say about nerds.

If I read another book about nerd history and theory, I would like it to be written by someone who never backed down from their nerdiness. No one can know nerds as well as the nerd who never backed down.

But---and this is something American Nerd points out well---"nerd" is a broad category with many subsets. So broad that maybe, just maybe, there is even room for me within its borders.

(And my making that sentence would suggest that my least favorite of Nugent's arguments may apply to me in some small way after all.)

Note: For a tangential bit about the book's comments on Mormons, see A Motley Vision.
a bit over three weeks


047) Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, finished September 6

I've heard of Powers in the years it's been out, but a new grownup look at superheroes has never been reason enough to check it out. But then someone game me pirated digital issues of the first thirty-seven issues and, well, why not? (Those issues comprise of the stories "Who Killed Retro Girl?", "Roleplay", "Little Deaths", "Supergroup", "Anarchy", "The Sellouts", and "Forever" which together comprise volume one of three and counting.)

First, disclaimer, sex, violence, nudity, gore, etc. Not for kids.

Second, holy crap. This may well be the best reinvention of superheroes for adults ever. It's on par with Watchmen for sure. Personally, I think it may be better. Maybe not as consistently excellent, but overall a better read. Less literary, more pure. Great stuff.

Starts with a former superhero as cop. Moves forward to apocalypse (conclusion of which is the series lowpoint), back to the age of monkeys, back up the just after the beginning.

Solid writing, solid art, nice jokes in the endpage (though those you can take or leave).

If you have an interest in revisionist superheroing, you need to read Powers. That is all.


046) Simply Science by a number of authors and illustrators for All Aboard Reading, finished September 5

So this is Large S's first book checked out from the school library and it's a winner. A collection of science stories about water and spiders and butterflies and frogs and turtles and stars. Each in simple words perfect for reading to a kindergartner and illustrated in a Highlights-friendly style. I particularly enjoyed the sharks---holy crap have you ever seen a pink goblin shark??? That thing is freaky!!!

I read the whole thing tonight after the kids went to bed. I'm excited to share it with the boy who checked it out. Stellar first checkout, S. Stellar.
an evening


045) Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach, finished September 3

I was thrilled to hear about this book and bought it before its release four years ago. I started reading it and had to share every other fact with Lady Steed who then tried to read it at the same time which resulted in a compromise: we'll read it together. Which proved to be a lousy choice because it took us over four years to read the darn thing. In that time, we both read a similar book in a fraction of the time.

Anyway, Mary Roach is as great as ever and, I've since learned, she's a charming person to email. The main bummer is we took so long to read this book I haven't touched her space book yet. At least the bug book isn't out yet. That's something.

Anyway, if you would like to learn awful things (like Kinsey stuck t**********s up his u****a---b******s-first, no less!---for his colleague's viewing pleasure) and wonderful things (no comment) all with a charismatic guide, then this is the book for you.

Also it has sex.


044) The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore by Nancy Butcher, finished August 27

I'm afraid I was terribly disappointed in this book. I kept picking it up and reading chapters, but there were so few new delights. I suppose in part because I have already read so much about medical mysteris and curious remedies, etc, in my day, but still. I expect a higher percentage of Exciting New Never-Before-Heard things. It doesn't help that poor Ms Butcher is not the equal of, say, Mary Roach when it comes to wit and charisma. Nor does it help that her publisher forced her to cite web sources in a way that a mere eight years later feels painfully antiquated.

With that last paragraph as a caveat, however, I love the topic and if you are interested but unfamiliar, this is a light and chewy primer. So think about it.
a few weeks perhaps

Previously in 2012 . . . . :

Read the reviews of 40-43.
043) How to Analyze the Works of Stephenie Meyer by Marcela Kostihova, finished August 13
042) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, finished August 10
041) Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid and Jorge Molina, finished August 1
040) If You Believe in Mermaids . . . Don't Tell by A.A. Philips, finished July 28

Read the reviews of 37-39.
039) The Smartest Man in Ireland by Mollie Hunter, finished July 27
038) Blockade Billy / Morality by Stephen King, finished July 12
037) Dispirited by Luisa M. Perkins, finished July 9

Read the reviews of 34-36.
036) Hyperion by Dan Simmons, finished July 2
035) A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck, finished June 27
034) Kampung Boy by Lat, finished June 22

Read the reviews of 29-33.
034) The Giant Joshua by Maurine Whipple, finished June 20
033) Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl, finished June 18
032) Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart, "finished" June 18
031) Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese, "finished" June 15
030) The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, finished June 9
029) Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick, finished early June

Read the reviews of 25-28.
028) Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, finished May 24
027) The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan, finished May 16
026) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, finished May 10
025) Dominant Traits by Eric Freeze, finished April 10

Read the reviews of 21-24.
024) The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, finished April 2
023) UNTITLED MS by Kyle Jepson, finished March 12, 2012
022) The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 4
021) The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, finished March 3

Read the reviews of 14-20.
020) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
019) Good-bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson, finished February 26
018) Madman 20th Anniversary Monster HC by [everybody], finished February 25
017) Billy Hazelnuts and Crazy Bird by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
016) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
015) Habibi by Craig Thompson, finished February 20
014) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1910 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, finished February 15

Read the reviews of 12-13.
013) Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, finished February 12
012) Black Hole by Charles Burns, finished February 11

Read the reviews of 6-11.
011) The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980 by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 4
010) Blankets by Craig Thompson, finished February 4
009) Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, finished February 2
008) The Millstone Necklace (forthcoming) by S.P. Bailey, finished January 31
007) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, finished January 27
006) Across a Harvested Field by Robert Goble, finished January 23

Read the reviews of 1-5.
005) Hark! a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton, finished January 21
004) The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark, finished January 12
003) Bucketfoot Al: The Baseball Life of Al Simmons by Clifton Blue Parker, finished January 9
002) Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly, finished January 9
001) What of the Night? by Stephen Carter, finished January 5


  1. .

    One piece of the nerd book that continues to bother me bears mention.

    At one point Nugent is talking about this aging nerds. Then the scene cuts to him hanging out with tv writers. Not knowing he's dating Mindy Kaling and apparently moving in these circles, I assumed this was his next group of nerds to discuss. Then he moves back to the aging nerds and the Why the Writers? question goes unanswered.

    Eventually it becomes clear that the only reason that sequence existed is to show that Nugent has Cool Friends he hangs out with when he gets tired of playing anthropologist to the nerds. That's it. That's the only reason. I, Ben, know really cool people and you don't. That's his need. He still hasn't grown out of this need to divorce himself from nerddom. And that gets tiring.

  2. .

    [EDIT: Corrected numbering error.]

  3. I actually saw the nerd book for the first time the other day and couldn't decide if I wanted to read it or if I didn't.

    And now I'm slightly less torn and much more curious.

    (Also, I've also been given to think of tv writers as nerdy in their own ways, but maybe that has a lot to do with the tv I watch. )

  4. .

    Tv writers are hella nerdy. If he can't tell that, he's still more nerdy than he thinks.