Non-Fiction Book Review – The Nerdist Way

  • Title: The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level
  • Author: Chris Hardwick
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/31/2015

A friend of mine recommended this book to me, and I eventually bought a copy and read it. I did get stuck in the book a few places, putting it down for weeks at a time, but I also finally finished reading it. As self-help books go, it’s probably better than most, though it still boils down to, “My life was a mess, I fixed it, and you can too.” Though the reality is, for most people, often much more complicated.

The style of the book is conversational, chatty, and non-formal. There’s plenty of capital letters, swearing, insults, – in short, it’s very much the way you might expect a conversation with comedian and pop-culture guru Chris Hardwick to be. On the other hand, though, the book is painfully, painfully honest.

Some of the most honest parts of the book were in areas that I don’t have experience with and to which, I personally, found it very hard to relate. Namely, Mr. Hardwick’s struggle with alcoholism and paralyzing fears and anxiety. I’m not an alcoholic – though I was raised by two adult children of alcoholics (who constantly warned me of the dangers of becoming an alcoholic – though they smartly didn’t out and out forbid drinking once I was of age). Anyway, I’m a person who can have one cocktail or beer when out to dinner with friends – and that’s it. I see absolutely no point in getting blind drunk. Still, reading about someone else’s struggle did stir empathy in me – not the “oh, I feel so sorry for you,” type – but just simple human understanding. I’m not one of those people who doubt alcoholism is a disease, or who blame alcoholics for their condition, either. It’s just not been part of my experience. Still, reading about Mr. Hardwick’s experience gave me better understanding of what it’s like.

The second major struggle, Chris Hardwick, talks about is anxiety. His descriptions of the physical and psychological symptoms of his anxiety issues were frank, honest, and most importantly – understandable. I found myself reading about his anxiety and thinking both, “doesn’t apply to me I’m not afraid to fly”, and “Oh, so that’s what it’s like for people who are afraid to fly.” And, I must, shamefully, admit, I’ve never given much credence to people I know personally who have overwhelming fears that rule their life so much that the fear prevents them from living. I tend to see most “fears” as a challenge or a new experience – and, as such, something to look forward to. It was humbling and instructive to read something from the other point of view that was actually understandable to me. And, again, I was able to gain empathy.

The Nerdist Way uses gamification as it’s rubric for positive, personal change. Gamfication is exactly what it sounds like – turning something into a game, so it doesn’t seem like work and isn’t overwhelming. Hardwick’s gamification strategy comes from Character-Based Role-Playing Games, such as D & D, and video games in general – and the video games were something Hardwick had actually given up on as an addiction. This may work extremely well for fans of RPGs and video games. It’s definitely an attempt to speak “Nerd” language. And I could understand his system, as well as the psychology behind it. Also, Chris Hardwick is genuinely interested in RPG’s, gaming, and similar “Nerd” topics.

The book is also split in to three parts: the first introduces Chris Hardwick (from his own point-of-view in first person) and his past, problems, how he met challenges, and how he overcame them; the second talks about physical health – good eating, exercise; the third talks time and money management. The section on health and exercise was probably the best and most helpful for me personally – but others who read the book might find other areas more helpful. The section on time and money management I found interesting. I was baffled by some of Mr. Hardwick’s admissions on his problems with money management. (My reaction was “of course you should be using Quicken – I used it for years, but isn’t Intuit now out of business?”) There were some great hints for dealing with issues on your credit report though.

Overall, I’d recommend this book as a good starting point. However, if it doesn’t work for you – remember the “best system” is often one you design yourself.

Book Review – Lord Peter

  • Title: Lord Peter
  • Author: Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/05/2013

This is a collection of all the Lord Peter Wimsey short stories, including those published in Lord Peter Views the Body, and In the Teeth of Evidence.

The twenty stories in this collection vary widely, from extremely good to average. However, the novel is a good introduction to the classic crime-solving aristocrat, Lord Peter Wimsey, and it’s a great deal of fun to read.

Stories that I particularly enjoyed were:

“The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager’s Will” which revolves around a will with a very unusual clause, and spooky legends in an English village.

“The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach” another unusual will and an even more unusual theft.

“The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba” in which Lord Peter fakes his death and goes undercover to catch a notorious ring of thieves and robbers.

“The Image in the Mirror” a fascinating story of “Gothic horror” that, in the end, has a perfectly logical explanation anyway. I particularly loved the moody-quality of this story and how Lord Peter figured it out.

“Striding Folly” – a story of nightmares and chess. The dream imagery in this one was wonderful, tho’ the actual mystery and its resolution was a bit predictable.

And finally “The Haunted Policeman” and “Talboys” which introduce Lord Peter and Harriet’s children.

Lord Peter is a second son, his older brother is the Duke of Denver. As such, he cannot inherit his father’s property (his brother did that). However, as an aristocrat – he cannot work for a living. Having returned from service in “the war” (World War I), Lord Peter desperately needs something to keep him occupied, and he soon discovers he’s well-equipped to solve crimes. And not simply murders as in most “murder mysteries”, but in this collection, many of the stories have to do with stolen objects (such as a priceless pearl necklace) or missing wills. Lord Peter at times seems to be the perfect “upper-class twit” similar to Bertie Wooster – but he’s actually quite clever, he just at times hides his smarts to fit in with what’s expected of his class.

Also present in this story is Bunter, Peter’s valet, butler and Gentleman’s gentleman. Bunter is an expert photographer, and at times seems to be channeling Wodehouse’s Jeeves, or to be the ancestor of Bruce Wayne’s Alfred. He’s competent and level-headed, present to take care of the day-to-day for Lord Peter, as well as providing a needed sounding board.

Other characters from the Lord Peter novels make their appearances, including: Parker of Scotland Yard, Harriet Vane (Lord Peter’s wife or wife-to-be depending on when in the book series a story takes place), The Duke of Denver (Peter’s brother), “Pickled” Gerkins (Peter’s nephew and Denver’s son), and the Dowager Duchess (Peter & the Duke’s mother), among others.

The stories span all of Peter’s career – from young “man-about-town” recently returned from service to married suburbanite with three young children. Again, despite the skips in time… an excellent introduction to the Lord Peter stories. Recommended.