Sunday, June 15, 2014

Review: The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick

The Nerdist WayThe Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I only know Chris Hardwick from his hosting The Talking Dead on AMC. The premise of the book didn't seem terrible, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

The Nerdist Way is a self-help book written specifically toward self-identified nerds. It capitalizes on traits stereotypically associated with being a nerd, and advises ways of thinking about self-improvement that build on other knowledge, like tabletop gaming or chess. Hardwick is quick to point out that he's no expert, just a guy this stuff worked on. He discusses a lot of his journey toward self-improvement, and the obstacles standing in his way.

The book covers self-improvement in three stages: the mind, the body, and time. The first section deals with how a person might be getting in one's own way with implementing change. He specifically addresses anxiety and panic attacks, which he, himself, has had to manage. The second section focuses mostly on fitness, with a little lip service paid to diet. The third dilutes a lot of time management and priority advice into a practical set of guidelines for using the 24 hours allotted you.

I found the middle section to be the weakest. Hardwick conflates weight and health, and never clears up the misconception. He is coming from it from the angle that he was at his least healthy when he was overweight, but he later mentions that people were most concerned for his health after he'd lost the weight and was too skinny. It would be difficult for someone told by a doctor they need to lose 75+ pounds to relate to Hardwick, who reports a difference of 30 pounds between "doughy" and emaciated. While it is valuable to strive to be healthier, weight isn't an accurate measure, especially when you're comparing two people side-by-side.

While the book uses gender-neutral pronouns throughout, there are places where he invokes attitudes common to the male nerd that alienate women. He flirts with the "you deserve hot women" attitude several times, and depicts nerds as unilaterally liberal and open-minded, despite the historic blind spots the community has had in regards to women and minorities. I understand he's a guy writing this book, and therefore has a guy's perspective, but a little awareness of blind spots would've been nice.

All-in-all, though, Hardwick gives his advice in a self-deprecating, easygoing way that makes it sound realistic, and even desirable. He doesn't lay on guilt trips or make blanket judgments. He comes across as just a guy, chatting with friends non-judgmentally about what worked for him. He even hands out experience points for having finished sections of the book.

I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Chris Hardwick. It probably detracted from the middle section, because it's a lot harder to figure out how to correctly exercise when someone is telling you the specifics while you're doing something entirely different. For the most part, though, the narration was a plus. Hardwick has good comic delivery, and his self-effacing remarks are a lot more obvious when he says them aloud. I laughed while listening to this book quite a lot.

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