10 Nerd-Friendly Books Examining Popular Media And Obsessive Fan Subcultures

There are plenty of ways to engage in nerd culture, from collecting action figures to having an extensive knowledge of the world of Game of Thrones. Some self-professed nerds have completely different interests, but just as much passion for the things they love. If you want to learn more about fan subcultures and the media that inspire them, check out the ten books listed here. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Non-Fiction Books About Fan Culture: Our 10 Picks

Title Author
1. The War for Late Night Bill Carter
2. Cork Dork Bianca Bosker
3. Sex and the City and Us Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
4. Goth Gavin Baddeley
5. Heroes in the Night Tea Krulos
6. Green Suns and Faërie Verlyn Flieger
7. The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie Tanya Lee Stone
8. Barmy Army Dougie Brimson
9. The Company They Keep Diana Pavlac Glyer
10. Blood Relations Jes Battis

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In Depth

There are two stories that arise from every work that becomes culturally significant: its creation, and its after-effects. Covering everything from "The Lord of the Rings" to Barbie, the books included on this list analyze aspects of popular media and explore the complex fan subcultures that have emerged around them. For those curious about how their favorite works came to be and what makes them significant, here are ten nerd-friendly titles that take deep dives into various pop culture obsessions.

For #1 we have "The War for Late Night" by Bill Carter. Jay Leno's move to prime time was the critical and ratings disaster skeptics had expected. Conan O'Brien, who took over "The Tonight Show" from Leno, didn't fare much better. Rival host David Letterman, meanwhile, thrived amid the fallout. Going behind the scenes of N.B.C.'s handling of its late night shows during the 2009 to 2010 season, "New York Times" reporter Carter offers an exhaustive account of the players and politics involved in this memorable public debacle.

Coming in at #2 is "Cork Dork" by Bianca Bosker. In this witty and enlightening adventure through the wine world, tech reporter and casual drinker Bosker embarks on a journey to discover what it is that makes people so obsessed with vino. What she finds is a vibrant and vast culture of connoisseurs and sommeliers, as well as the innovative wineries and exclusive restaurants that serve them. Examining the processes of production and habits of consumption in detail, Bosker shows how we can improve our lives by drinking wine better.

In this witty and enlightening adventure through the wine world, tech reporter and casual drinker Bosker embarks on a journey to discover what it is that makes people so obsessed with vino.

For #3 we find "Sex and the City and Us" by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. Including interviews with producer Darren Star and actress Sarah Jessica Parker, among others, Armstrong's book chronicles the genesis and enduring popularity of the iconic H.B.O. series. Beginning with an account of how Candace Bushnell's original "Sex and the City" columns for "The New York Observer" became a sensation, Armstrong takes readers through the subsequent development of the show and its eventual cultural eminence. In the process, she demonstrates just how influential the series has been on perceptions of womanhood, sex, and fashion.

Showing up at #4 is "Goth" by Gavin Baddeley. Charting the evolution of the Gothic sensibility from the 18th century to the present day, Baddeley offers a linear historical analysis of the watershed moments in the Goth counterculture. Among the landmark places and people he highlights are the classic 1970s club the Batcave, festivals like Whitby Goth Weekend, and artists including Tim Burton and Marilyn Manson. Baddeley's comprehensive portrait reveals the philosophies and practices that make this darkest of subcultures so timelessly popular.

For #5 we get "Heroes in the Night" by Tea Krulos. Some fans of comic books like to argue about storylines on message boards, but others like to don capes and spandex and go out to fight crime themselves. These special individuals are members of the Real Life Superhero movement. By day, they wait tables or work at major companies, but at night, their real personas come out as they try to make the streets safe and engage in philanthropic projects to make the world a better place.

Some fans of comic books like to argue about storylines on message boards, but others like to don capes and spandex and go out to fight crime themselves.

At #6 is "Green Suns and Faerie" by Verlyn Flieger. In this collection of essays on J.R.R. Tolkien, one of the preeminent scholars of the fantasy author interrogates the methods and ideologies behind such seminal works as "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit." Over the book's three sections, Flieger examines theories of Tolkien's fantastical world-building, his reworking of old narrative traditions, and how his writing fits within the broader context of 20th-century literature and culture. Ultimately, she presents a multidimensional portrait of this most venerable of authors.

For #7 we have "The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie" by Tanya Lee Stone. For better or worse, Mattel's iconic Barbie doll has impacted perceptions of gender and beauty since her introduction in 1959. Through cultural analysis, input from psychologists, and anecdotes from a variety of girls and women, author Stone explores the history and wide-ranging influence of the classic toy. Providing an overview of the doll's creation and the debates she's sparked over feminism, materialism, and the media, this work incisively shows how Barbie has affected and been affected by society over time.

Arriving at #8 is "Barmy Army" by Dougie Brimson. Football hooligans, fans who engage in destructive behavior at sporting events, exist all over the world, but those in British stadiums are particularly aggressive. Tracing the activity from its origins in the 14th century to its heavily organized, Internet-assisted modern day incarnation, Brimson exposes the multiple causes and effects of hooliganism. In an acerbic and no-nonsense fashion, he questions the social factors underlying the epidemic, and asks if there's anything that can be done to stop it from getting worse.

In an acerbic and no-nonsense fashion, he questions the social factors underlying the epidemic, and asks if there's anything that can be done to stop it from getting worse.

For #9 we come to "The Company They Keep" by Diana Pavlac Glyer. With academic precision, Glyer uses the literary group the Inklings as a case study to examine the impact creators have on one another. The group, which included such renowned writers as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams, began at Oxford as a means for the authors to peer review each other's work. Through rigorous research and rhetoric, Glyer dispels the notion commonly held by previous scholars that those in the Inklings weren't influenced by their fellow members, arguing for the primacy of a mutual creative process over the concept of individual genius.

Finally, at #10 is "Blood Relations" by Jes Battis. Interrogating the politics of family in the television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," Battis demonstrates how these popular shows subvert ideas of the traditional, biologically-determined family. He argues that they do this by establishing inclusive groupings of their diverse supernatural characters, who "choose" to belong with one another instead of being bound by blood. Through shrewd analysis of their complex negotiations of power and gender, Battis articulates why both shows are so significant and radical.