Book Review: That Book About Harvard

Well, we got this book from Sourcebooks a few weeks before the Man Booker prize nominees were announced, the BookerMarks Project became my full-time reading job and this one got put on the back burner. Turns out that That Book About Harvard – Surviving the World’s Most Famous University One Embarrassment at a Time was the perfect follow-up to some of the intense and difficult reads that the BookerMarks Project required (Umbrella– I’m talking to you). It was light, it was silly and it was downright fun!

Eric Kester’s life is turned upside down when he realizes that his “Holy sh*t! I’m going to Harvard!” moment turns into an “Oh sh*t! I’m going to Harvard” one! It begins with his first day as a freshman when he gets locked out of his dorm room (in his Incredible Hulk underwear), analyzes his feelings of inadequacy as he fails calculus (NO ONE fails at Harvard, do they??), chronicles his pursuit of “the girl of his dreams” (soooooo out of his league) and ends with 2 events that can only happen in the movies (an actual “foam party” (Mather Lather) and a naked race (Primal Scream)).

The story doesn’t so much chronicle his first year at Harvard than it does provide an overview and feeling of what it must be like to be there– especially when you are just a normal, unambitious kid with a football scholarship trying to get by at a school famous for producing greatness (can you truly call someone “normal” when they obsess about taking a pee on the famous John Harvard statue?). Along the way I learned a little bit about the school (the John Harvard statue is not really John Harvard– just some random model; they care more about academics than sports– so different from most American Universities; the students that go there are so obsessive about over achieving that they actually have therapy groups to help them cope) but mostly I learned that Eric Kester is a hilarious writer! His quips had me literally laughing out loud. Check out some of these nuggets of hilarity:

I once left my Volvo sedan on North Harvard Street only to find a brick through its window the next morning with a note attached that said: “Harvard Douche…Your an asshole.” I couldn’t understand why the locals hated Harvard students so much, and why they chose to ignore such simple grammatical rules.

Personally, I really wasn’t really into the whole “entrepreneurship” craze at Harvard. It didn’t really bother me much– different people are into different things. Mark Zuckerberg spent his time making Facebook in his Harvard dorm room, and I spent my time making cups of ramen noodles. Both are special in their own way.

By far the most common mental issue Harvard students face is “perfectionism.” I know it doesn’t sound like a particularly harmful condition to live with, but perfectionism can be extremely difficult to live with. (For instance, many Harvard students will be physically unable to read past the previous sentence, since it ended with a preposition.)

The bottom line is that both Harvard guys and Harvard girls thought they were too good for each other. Girls were looking for a mature romance worthy of a Jane Austen novel, and guys were looking for a girl with the unmatched sexiness of Jabba the Hutt’s slave Leia. And you weren’t going to find either at Harvard.

One minute you’re slouched in your chair spacing out, doing your best to stay awake and not stare at boobs, then the next you’re on trial for human rights violations.

This book was pure fun! It is not going to change the world or anything but it will make you chuckle while you are trying! 3.5 stars from me! Thanks to Sourcebooks for providing us a copy!

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: That Book About Harvard

  1. Huh. This is the first I’m hearing of this book. I admit that I’m hesitant to read a book that might only be marketable because it’s about Harvard. Would anyone read it if it were about first year mishaps at the University of Illinois? Despite the mystique surrounding the school, kids at Harvard aren’t that different from kids at any other honors program (and I say that as someone with some familiarity with the place). By the way, does he address the cheating scandals at the school?

  2. It is a VERY tongue-in-cheek book! Very sarcastic and definitely only marketable because it is about Harvard. It is less about first year university mishaps than the author feeling that he does not fit the “Harvard mould” as he navigates his first year. And he does address the cheating with first-hand experiences.

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