Over the years, I’ve read my share of books that contain compilations of quotes. Most, frankly, failed to impress me (excepting, of course, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, which was an absolute desktop necessity for writers before the web came along).
Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture, on the other hand, lived up to its promise. The editor, Stephen H Segal, collected interesting and/or humorous quotes from a wide variety of geeky sources, including books, movies, comic books, video games, TV shows, Internet memes, and more. He then sorted the quotes into sections, wrote a short introduction to each section, and then presented each quote with his interpretation of what we can learn from it.
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
– Inigo Montoya
The book does not take itself too seriously. In fact, the publisher put it into three BISAC categories:
- Social Science | Popular Culture | General
- Humor | Form | Essays
- Reference | Quotations
I’d say those three are in order of applicability. It’s a lighthearted look at geek pop culture first, entertainment second, and a reference book third. Segal’s interpretations of the lessons to be learned don’t always match mine. I’d be willing to bet that they don’t always match the intentions of the original author of the quote. I doubt that William Goldman had any idea how widely quoted Inigo Montoya’s offhand comments would be. Some of the quotes Segal chose were almost certainly casual toss-away lines that simply took on a life of their own.
“Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.”
Geek Wisdom is a bit over 200 pages long. It can be consumed in small bites, making it a perfect bathroom reader. If you choose to read it straight through, it could be accomplished in a single sitting. I would classify it as a lightweight companion to one of my favorite books in the genre, Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar …: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes.
If you’re as geeky as I am, you’ll enjoy sitting with a friend and quizzing each other as to the origins of the quotes. I also enjoyed reading its interpretation of each quote and thinking about it to decide whether I agree. I’d say this book is definitely worth a read. Pre-order yourself a copy, or pick it up when it comes out.
NOTE: This review is based on an advance copy, and there may be changes before its scheduled release on August 2, 2011.