That Book about Harvard: Surviving the World's Most Famous University, One Embarrassment at a Time

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Overview

"Eric Kester has written the kind of book I wish I had the courage and insight to write. His illuminations on everything from Larry Summers to the Harvard football team to cheating, tourists, and competitiveness are dead–on. His writing has also provided me with some of the best laugh–out–loud moments I've had in recent years. God knows Harvard could use some humor!" —PETER OLSON, FORMER CEO OF RANDOM HOUSE, HARVARD GRADUATE, AND CURRENT HARVARD PROFESSOR

One of the most thrilling and terrifying days of your life...

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That Book about Harvard: Surviving the World's Most Famous University, One Embarrassment at a Time

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Overview

"Eric Kester has written the kind of book I wish I had the courage and insight to write. His illuminations on everything from Larry Summers to the Harvard football team to cheating, tourists, and competitiveness are dead–on. His writing has also provided me with some of the best laugh–out–loud moments I've had in recent years. God knows Harvard could use some humor!" —PETER OLSON, FORMER CEO OF RANDOM HOUSE, HARVARD GRADUATE, AND CURRENT HARVARD PROFESSOR

One of the most thrilling and terrifying days of your life is the first day of college, when you step onto campus filled with the excitement of all the possibilities ahead—and panic about if you'll make it and how you'll fit in.

Now imagine that same feeling, but you're in the middle of the lawn at the world's most prestigious university.

In your underwear.

Thus begins one of the craziest years ever at Harvard, in which Eric Kester finds himself in a cheating scheme, trying to join a prestigious Finals Club, and falling for a stunning type-A brunette...who happened to be standing there in shock that first day when he made his red-faced stroll across the Harvard Yard.

That Book about Harvard is the hilarious and heartwarming story of trying to find your place in a new world, the unending quest to fit in, and how the moments that change your life often happen in the most unexpected ways.

Eric Kester graduated from Harvard in 2008, where he wrote a popular column for the undergraduate newspaper, the Crimson. Now a featured writer for CollegeHumor.com, Eric has also contributed to the Boston Globe, someEcards.com, and Dorkly.com.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Just in time for graduation season, Kester, a writer for collegehumour.com, shares his hilarious and poignant misadventures during his often humiliating first year at Harvard. On day one, he locks himself out of his room in his Incredible Hulk boxers and makes a memorable walk across the grounds to get a key. Having gotten into the esteemed school thanks to his grades and also his skills on the football field, he feels pressure on two fronts and routinely inadequate at a university so intensely competitive that there are even grades for the annual campus streaking before finals. At one of his lowest points he’s contemplating not only the prospect of cheating on an exam but of also possibly failing a random drug test for the NCAA. Unable for hours to provide a sample in front of a witness, the tester eventually has to accompany Kester to class until he’s able to perform. Although he survives to see a second semester and gains some traction academically and socially, he’s felled by a broken heart. Depressed, the author considers quitting the football team and not returning to school. Like many other successful high school students, Kester struggles during freshman year with finding his identity, although with heightened anxieties that come with Ivy League admission. With self-deprecation and clear eyes, he deftly manages to dispel some of the Harvard mythos and his illusions as he learns to not take his achievements or himself so seriously (July)
From the Publisher
"Just in time for graduation season, Kester, a writer for collegehumour.com, shares his hilarious and poignant misadventures during his often humiliating first year at Harvard...With self-deprecation and clear eyes, he deftly manages to dispel some of the Harvard mythos and his illusions as he learns to not take his achievements or himself so seriously." - Publishers Weekly

"Even if you didn't go to an ultra-competitive school, you will still enjoy this book. Eric does a great job of poking fun at himself, his school and just about everything, without being offensive. It's a great humor book that would be perfect for any kid who is just entering college. " - Second Bookshelf on the Right

"All in all, it's a well-told, entertaining and totez LOL-inducing story of a freshman hopelessly floundering at a university that most of us (besides me, obvvv) couldn't get into even if we donated a library or 16. " - Study Breaks

"Laugh out loud funny!" - A Bookish Affair

"Kester provides a fresh male perspective that makes readers laugh and, ultimately, understand that it's not the grades or the girls that define success - it's about accepting yourself." - Anokhi Magazine

"I love those columns in the back of 17 magazine where teenage girls discuss their most embarrassing moments. This book is one long list of those. " - The Unshelved Book Club

"The book is every bit entertaining, full of laugh-out-loud moments and the freshness of narrative brings the much needed lightness in the otherwise tensed first day and first year in the premiere college of Harvard repute. Clearly Eric Kester has a wonderful way with words and has created a true page turner... " - BookPleasures.com

"If you like your memoirs on the funny 'I can't believe he just said/did that' then this is definitely the book for you. I loved it.
" - Bookshipper

"A light-hearted and raunchy story of frat boy—style college adventures, this book is written with skill and (a kind of) grace. An enjoyable addition to the genre" - Library Journal

"Eric Kester is rather young to be already writing a memoir but, in this instance, it works because he only focuses on his first year at Harvard. The reader is invited to follow along as the insecure freshman copes with adjusting to a place that he never really feels comfortable in." - BookLoons

Library Journal
In this raucous memoir of his first year at Harvard (he graduated in 2008), Kester (writer, CollegeHumor.com) careens from one embarrassing situation to another, full of self-doubt and convinced he will never fit in. This common college experience is intensified by the Harvard mystique of brainy superiority, which only heightens Kester's feelings of not belonging. The book spins out hilarious stories of academic misfortune, futility on the football field, and awkwardness with both roommates and female classmates—all presented with adolescent vulgarity and the quick pace of stand-up comedy. His romantic and sexual longings are sources of torment for much of the year and eventually part of his redemption. This story of college freshman anxieties could be set anywhere, but he evokes the Harvard atmosphere well, with scenes of its buildings, traditions, and prominent figures (e.g., President Lawrence Summers and Mark Zuckerberg). As the riotous year of angst comes to an end, his depression and self-absorption give way to glimmers of personal and academic maturity. VERDICT A light-hearted and raunchy story of frat boy-style college adventures, this book is written with skill and (a kind of) grace. An enjoyable addition to the genre.— Elizabeth R. Hayford, formerly with Associated Colls. of the Midwest, Evanston, IL
Kirkus Reviews
In which the author copes with attending the world's most demanding institution of higher learning by reducing it to middle-school jokes. Like many freshmen at Harvard, Kester suffered a rude awakening during his first weeks on campus: The smartest kid in his hometown had quickly morphed into, at best, a mediocrity. Academically he couldn't crack calculus, and he was performing poorly everywhere else too: He locked himself out of his dorm room on move-in day, wearing only his boxers; he rode the bench on the football team; he felt alienated from the sons of old-money Brahmins at the campus' final clubs. Such modest suffering shouldn't merit a full-length memoir, a shortcoming Kester attempts to resolve by couching every modest indignity in lowbrow humor. If the book's cast of characters aren't actually invented, they certainly adhere to college-comedy stereotypes: the hotheaded football coach, the nerdy math whiz who uses hip-hop slang to boast about his nonexistent sexual prowess, the wacky roommate and the out-of-touch college president. The book's driving force is the most clichéd stereotype of all: the gorgeous, unattainable co-ed. Much of the first half of the book follows Kester's mooning over this "smokeshow" from a distance, his attempts to catch her attention derailed by some embarrassment or other. The author alternates anecdotes about the downsides of Harvard life (Adderall popping, cheating, constant insecurity) with tales of hijinks. But his comfort zone is cheeseball shtick, from mocking foreign accents to bathroom humor--which makes the final pages' platitudes about growing maturity and respect for diversity ring all the more hollow. College humor is supposed to be a little lowbrow, but Kester is stuck in a mode of repetitive and ultimately tiring gags.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402267505
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/1/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 217,792
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

It must have looked pretty weird to people driving by: two parents flanking their teenage son as they all made a solemn walk down the driveway. My ashen face and hesitant steps likely made it look like I was walking the plank, or being led by my parents through some bizarre driveway-based version of that punishment. But anyone who's ever opened a college admissions letter can attest that this was far more terrifying.

Mr. Lynch, our neighbor across the street, was out mowing his lawn and began to watch us. He seemed surprised to see me walk up to the mailbox. "Already time for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?" he shouted cheerfully.

Part of me wanted to snap at him. I was checking the mail today because I was getting my admissions decision from Harvard, not because I was some sort of obsessive horndog. Besides, the next swimsuit issue was still 293 days away.

I kept quiet, though; my anxiety about the letter had me unusually irritable, and snapping at Mr. Lynch wouldn't do anything to change what was going to be in the letter when I opened it.

I was a decent college candidate (at least that's what I had been told by family members obligated to say such things). But everything I had ever heard about the prestigious university indicated that being "good enough" wasn't good enough for Harvard. So by the time my parents and I finally reached the mailbox, I had already read the letter in my mind:

Dear Eric "Failure" Kester,

After carefully reviewing your application, we have determined that we cannot offer admission to you or any of your future offspring. This was not an easy decision*, but ultimately we concluded that it reflects poorly on the Harvard brand to admit a student who would be better served attending a lesser school, perhaps as a janitor. For your benefit we've included a pamphlet to a nearby orphanage in the event that your parents abandon you in shame. We wish you the best of luck in your future, highly unsuccessful life.

*It was.

With the utmost sincerity,

Harvard Admissions

P.S. Your ex-girlfriend was right about you.

My mom reached into the mailbox and pulled out the heap of mail. She then forced me to walk halfway up our driveway before handing over the pile. Getting into Harvard wasn't a life or death situation for me, but still my parents thought it might be best if I opened my letter a safe distance away from oncoming traffic.

Breathing, hearing, and pretty much all other bodily functions ceased to work as I hastily flipped through the mail, starting first with the thin letters at the top. The past two years of my life were flashing before my eyes-the grueling "college process" filled with SATs, APs, GPAs, and other miserable letters that have left me forever terrified of the alphabet. The stakes were huge: an acceptance letter would mean that all my hard work had actually paid off. And that my parents wouldn't have to return those Harvard T-shirts they bought on my campus tour.

I found the envelope from Harvard near the bottom, and it was thick. Under normal circumstances this would indicate good news; acceptance letters include brochures and other informational material for the new admits, while rejections are normally just a letter in a thin envelope. But I remained skeptical. I figured that, in typical Harvard fashion, the university would make even their rejection letters ostentatious, and I would open the fat envelope only to release a package of fireworks that would explode above my house and spell in giant letters: YOU'RE REJECTED.

But my mind was the only thing that exploded when I tore open the letter, scanned the first line, and saw "Congratulations!"

Holy shit, I'm going to Harvard!

In my excitement I accidently expressed this thought out loud. But my parents didn't notice; they were too busy cheering. We collapsed into a prolonged three-way hug that made an uncomfortable Mr. Lynch turn off his lawn mower and go inside. My mom ran back to the house to call my grandma and probably the local newspaper, leaving my dad and me to relish the moment.

"I'm proud of you, son."

He looked at me with misty eyes, and we shared a long man-hug. Now I had banned such public displays of affection back in middle school, when I learned that girls don't have "dad hugger" high on their list of turn-ons. But this was a special moment. Something miraculous had just happened. I had somehow been accepted into Harvard, and I didn't even play the violin.

While we walked back up the driveway, my dad held onto the other mail as I leafed through the Harvard brochure, excited to get a taste of my new school. It was filled with picture after picture of highly enthusiastic Harvard students engaging in various academic activities. There was one photo of a guy in a white lab coat mixing test tubes of chemicals, then another of a young woman at a blackboard writing what appeared to be Egyptian hieroglyphics. Or maybe it was calculus...I wasn't sure.

For some reason, I felt my chest begin to tighten. Next was a picture of a student relaxing with a magazine in his dorm room. It wasn't a magazine I'd qualify as "leisure reading," and it sure as hell wasn't the swimsuit issue. It was The Economist, and the guy was giggling with delight while reading it.

My hands felt sweaty as I quickly turned the page. Now I was faced with a picture of a student just standing there and staring intensely at me, his unnaturally wide eyes bulging like they were being squeezed out of his skull by his oversized brain. I looked at his shirt, neatly pressed and tucked in. I glanced down at my shirt, the host of an ongoing territorial war between ketchup and mustard stains.

I closed the brochure, and the iconic crimson shield stared me in the face.

Oh shit, I thought, I'm going to Harvard...

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Table of Contents

Contents

Front Cover

Title Page

A Note from the Author

Prologue

Chapter One: The Last Package

Chapter Two: .38 Caliber Shock

Chapter Three: Mac Attack

Chapter Four: Into the Depths of the Pusey

Chapter Five: Tripping on A-Bombs

Chapter Six: Diversity University

Chapter Seven: Party in the USA

Chapter Eight: Arrested Development

Chapter Nine: There's Something about Larry

Chapter Ten: Somebody at Harvard Loves You

Chapter Eleven: Three Bathrooms and a Funeral

Chapter Twelve: The Ace of Clubs

Chapter Thirteen: Beauty and the Beast

Chapter Fourteen: Yellow is the New Crimson

Chapter Fifteen: Mac and P.C.

Chapter Sixteen: Rash Decisions

Chapter Seventeen: The Final Harvard Act

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Back Cover

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    I found the book full of humor and real. I am one of the student

    I found the book full of humor and real. I am one of the students from this University, 
    a graduate student now after taking some undergrad courses to add to my degree.
    He is a good writer, with a great talent. I hope there is a Part 2. As I was reading through
     the pages I picture myself through what Eric has experienced, I have similar emotions
    experienced just to compete and be at pace.  After realizing the talent you have gained
    from from school, you become settled and calm, its really stressful, but its worth... Eric you made it. I enjoyed this book a lot!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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