My son and I were having a conversation about nerds recently. Another second grader had told him that being a nerd was a bad thing. I explained that I was a huge nerd growing up and that his father, despite his athletic prowess and popularity with cheerleaders, was also a bit of a nerd. My kid was intrigued. “Why were you a nerd?” he asked, and the answer, irrefutable and incontrovertible: “I was obsessed with books. Still am.”
Of course, plenty of non-nerds love books. And not every nerd is obsessed with literary pursuits (just think of your friend the techie who has memorized every line from every Star Wars movie). But, books and nerdiness have a delightfully symbiotic history.
This piece in Flavorwire made me think fondly of the books that I’ve loved in spite of and a little because of their high nerd quotient: Borge’s Labyrinths, Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night, Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy….you get the idea. These are not books you discuss with your girlfriends over wine and nachos like you would an episode of CSI: Antarctica. These are the kinds of titles that cause people to roll their eyes at you in disbelief at your pretentiousness or, in a different setting, that will set off endless tedious deconstructions of literary tropes and themes. As much as I relish my pulp fiction, my popular nonfiction, and my scandalous bestsellers, I still define myself as a nerd because of those, well, nerdy books I read.
So, what books do you love that mark you as a nerd?