What can we learn from geek culture, shows and icons?

Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture is a book that gives exactly what it says on the tin. However, one must be careful with what is considered as Wisdom. The book is organized in six sections dealing with different concepts and every section has several small column-like articles with a (geek) phrase and a small reflection on it. It's quite a good book

  • Full Title: Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture
  • Authors: N. K. Jemisin, Genevieve Valentine, Eric San Juan and Zaki Hasan
  • Editor: Stephen H. Segal
  • Illustrations: Mario Zucca
  • Year: 2011
  • ISBN: 1594745277
  • eISBN: 978-1-59474-530-0
  • Amazon customer rating at the time of writing this review: 4.3 out of 5 (63 reviews)

Book structure

The book has six overall sections:

  1. My name is Inigo Montoya (wisdom about the self)
  2. Form Feet and Legs (wisdom about relationships)
  3. We are all individuals (wisdom about humankind)
  4. Knowing is half the battle (wisdom about conflict)
  5. Billions and Billions (wisdom about the universe)
  6. In the year 2525 (wisdom about the future)

Every section has several smaller articles, containing a quote or quotes from geek culture (including TV shows, movies, videogames and the odd internet meme), a brief explanation on the term and its background, the lesson that one can fathom and a footnote with further details or trivia about the source material.

Contrary to what one might think, this is far from being one of those cheesy "5 things that videogames taught me" crap listicles and goes well beyond internet memes that are comparatively recent in geek history. Some of the source materials for this book have decades of age, which serves a secondary function as a "must-read/watch" list of geek media.

It's not 100% spoiler-free, though. The authors make a note about this:

(...) Some of the points we necessarily address will, technically, be spoilers to anyone who hasn't experienced these works directly. We have avoided, however, ruining any big surprises or twist endings; the spoilers found within are the kind of thing you'd pick up from general cultural discussion on f the stories in question. In other words: a few bits may be spoiled, but don't worry--none of them are ruined.

What do you think, Andy?

I liked this book as an intellectual curiosity. It is obviously not as "deep" as other wisdom-reference texts, nor it's intended to be one. It's definitely not a self-help guide, it's not a motivational book, it's not even a good reference text for geek media. There are many things that this book is not.

The real reason why I liked it is because it rings true with one of my deepest beliefs: there are lessons everywhere. This is why I said earlier that, depending on what you accept as wisdom, this book might be a great one or a fancy paperweight. I believe that anyone who is really looking to gain wisdom will (try to) find it everywhere and not just on dusty books in ancient libraries or in a cave dwelling hermit. A wise person is more concerned on analyzing and observing than on speaking.

However, few of us can attain that level of observation and need a little help every now and then, someone to point us to the right direction, so to speak. This is where the book comes in.

It's been already a long time since a single person was able to know everything about geek media. It's simply too much. Among this pantheon, geeks have picked up on role models and ideals since decades ago. Some of the most prominent examples live on as what we now call "memes", but they're only a subset of the whole buffet of worthy ideas geek media has to offer. Couple that with the fact that not every geek knows about many of these examples and even less of the population as a whole is even interested in it.

That, to me, is the real value of this book. The fact that it contains potential wisdom on everyday subjects from geek sources, explained for the non-fan, non-geek layman.

Can you learn from this book? Yes, if you want to and it won't take you long. Heck, you can open the book in pretty much any page and there will be something you can learn. Will you learn from this book? That's entirely up to you. If you don't want to, no amount of books and feel-good seminars can help you.

But yeah, well, that's just, like, my opinion, man.

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