Once famous for nothing more auspicious than co-hosting Singled Out, Chris Hardwick has reinvented himself in recent years as one of the internet's premier nerd celebrities, consolidating a nexus of comedy, pop culture, and nerd nostalgia around his website, nerdist.com, and its affiliated podcasts. His success is easy enough to explain: He's a smart and likeable spokesperson for so-called nerds, and his chatty persona and relatable frame of reference offer at least the impression of accessibility.
With The Nerdist Way, Hardwick landed on a can't-believe-it-hasn't-been-done-already conceit: He's rounded up a whole bunch of common-sense self-help ideas and retrofitted them for nerds, urging readers to "RPG" their lives by building a skill set and achievements as one would a Dungeons & Dragons character.
The book's lessons (focus on your strengths! Stand up straight! Take control of your inbox!) are gleaned both from his own life and his own obsessive interest in self-improvement. While the concepts aren't earth shattering, their presentation kinda is: He's speaking directly to a reader who possesses typically "nerdy" attributes, like an overactive inner monologue and the capacity for intense focus. (He even goes so far as to explain it in high school terms: "Jocks live in an external world. They don't plot. They don't plan. They just act. Nerds, on the other hand, are HYPER self-aware....")
That being said, Hardwick's jokey, self-referential style is more suited for the internet than a 300-page book, and his blaring use of all caps for emphasis and relentless parenthetical jokes can grate. But the book's financial, career, and fitness advice is basically sound, and refreshingly free of the seriousness that usually plagues self-help books. A nerd in need of improvement could do a lot worse.