A Field Guide to Book Nerds

Peterson Field Guide to BirdsWe all know about the care and feeding of the common book nerd (give them a comfortable chair, plenty of sequels, and food that can be eaten with one hand). And their known habitats are certainly no mystery (bookstores, park benches, George R.R. Martin’s bushes). But what are the species within the book nerd genus? Here’s an incomplete list, to enlighten you on how to identify and approach all manner of book nerds—even the one in the mirror:

The Omnivore
Reads everything. Everything. Books, magazines, fine print, circulars, other people’s books over their shoulders in an emergency. Never met a story they didn’t like, can’t understand the point of snobbery, incapable of passing a “take a book, leave a book” station without taking and/or leaving.

Has been known to: Trade snacks for reading material on long plane trips, use pizza crusts as bookmarks in a pinch.

The Proselytizer
These loud-and-proud book lovers tend to recommend the kind of series that require a two-week staycation to even begin to absorb. You’ll learn the true meaning of fear when they follow the words, “I have something for you, can’t wait to hear what you think,” by presenting volumes 1 through 7 of their favorite series during your next coffee date.

Catchphrase: “The first 600 pages move a little slowly, but after that it gets amazing.”

The Fanficcer
This person has found a foolproof way to extend the lives of their favorite characters and never wait on an author’s whims again: by writing sequels, prequels, and same-timeline alts of their own. Beware canon arguments and steamy love-story plotlines where before there were none.

Sigil: Harry and Draco holding hands on a golden-and-green background.

The True Believer
Through a combination of magical thinking and willful ignorance, they choose to believe that all their wildest bookworm dreams will come true, contrary to common sense, evidence, and space-time continuum. This person is certain that Tolkien left behind a Legolas spinoff trilogy, and that Cambridge is sitting on several lost Shakespeare plays out of spite.

Distinguishing characteristics: Slight hunch from sitting at computer hitting refresh on various book news sites; the crazy eyes.

The Fronter
The Fronter prefers to read in public places, with an impressive book (in 94% of cases, Infinite Jest) held directly in front of their face, despite the obvious strain it puts on their forearms. Can be found discussing David Mitchell at length in front of good-looking people at the coffee shop, and claiming that only five really good books have been written since the death of Herman Melville—three of which haven’t been translated from the original Turkish yet.

Their kryptonite: People who’ve also read the Wikipedia article on Fyodor Dostoevsky that they’re currently quoting.

The Waiter
You think you had it bad waiting for the latest Outlander book? This person’s still hoping Dickens will add another chapter to The Tale of Two Cities. They were last seen requiring medical attention upon the release of J.K. Rowling’s recent Harry Potter story.

Accessories: Lawn chair for midnight release parties, “Good things come to those who wait” calligraphy tattoo.

The Snob
You won’t catch this bookworm dead in the self-help, sci-fi, or YA aisles, and they were only able to read a copy of The Hunger Games by keeping an ironic smile on their face, and later claiming to anyone who would listen that they only read it for zeitgeist reasons.

Rarely seen without: “I’d prefer not to” tote bag, dogeared copy of Flowers in the Attic tucked into The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter book jacket. (We kid! But wouldn’t be surprised.)

The Reverse Snob
This genre lover knows and loves that you’re judging the dragons-and-space bikinis cover of their train read, which is why they’re also wearing a T-shirt that says, “Ask me about my Star Wars extended universe fiction.” They have no use for Jane Austen (unless there are some zombies or sea monsters thrown into the mix), and breathlessly await the novelization of Sharknado 2.

Can often be found: Just daring someone to throw them side eye for going to a midnight showing of Transformers: Age of Extinction alone.

What book nerd species did we miss?

  • Jadi

    Omnivore Reverse-Snob Elitist. They read books, and just about only books. Almost any genre is fine. They’re against celebrity biography and reality TV on principle and snarl every time they see the Duck Dynasty display in a bookstore. Plebeians who watch reality TV don’t belong in bookstores where the people who think are.

    Or, that’s how I am, and I consider myself a little book snobby, except I like genre fiction and the classics, except I won’t read just anything like the Omnivore listed.

  • zeifus

    What a terrific post. B&N bloggers rule!

    Totally get the omnivores. Reading is breathing, therefore we must feed on any and all material at hand, even if it’s the back of a ketchup bottle. I don’t know what it is, but if we have to sit longer than about 60 seconds without anything to read, we start getting panicky.

    I think there is a good argument for an Herbivore species. They only read literary fiction and the classics. It’s like eating your vegetables — it’s good for you! They have attempted to travel back in time by dressing up in period garb and wishing themselves — super duper hard — to a particular time and place in the past, a la Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time.

    Distinguishing behavior: Herbivores flock together and refer to the great authors strictly by their first name: “Jane” for Jane Austen, “Leo” for Leo Tolstoy, etc.

    My favorite part was “food that can be eaten with one hand.” So true!

    • Melissa Albert

      Hah! Love the Herbivore idea. Do Carnivores only read Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski?

      • zeifus

        Yes. And don’t forget Chuck Palahniuk and Vince Flynn. Carnivore readers are noted for their anomalous (to book nerds) behavior of NOT collecting a ton of books. More of a love ‘em and leave ‘em mentality. Move on to the next conquest.