Author: Eric Kester

Publisher: Sourcebooks

ISBN-13: 978 -1-4022-6750-5


In That Book About Harvard, author Eric Kester chronicles his disastrous year at that most revered of  universities, with disarming candor, self deprecating wit and a dash of creative license. His worm’s eye view is light hearted; nonetheless, it captures the darker side of the college as well. Kester’s Harvard  boasts bad architecture, worse food, elitist clubs and an administration woefully out of sync with its student body.

Worse, he portrays the place as a seething pool of  stressed out overachievers combating acute  performance anxiety with drugs, cheating and  inane rituals, and ceaselessly  all the usual markers of conventional success – test scores, pretty girls, entry into all the right clubs. ‘Students’, he glibly notes,’ don’t go to Harvard because they want fun oozing out of their ears; they choose it because they want a Harvard degree and the future opportunity to land a job they may not deserve.’

 Kester claims to be no different – the euphoria of getting admitted to Harvard (to play football, no less) evaporates soon after he moves onto campus, and he  finds himself struggling to fit in and  be noticed.   He sets a single goal for himself – DO NOT EMBARRASS  YOURSELF. Precisely the sort of temptation fate cannot resist, for on day one of his life as a freshman, he manages to lock himself out of his dorm clad in nothing but Incredible Hulk boxers.

Now if this were your average Hollywood flick about campus life, that would be cue enough for the girl of Kester’s dreams to make an appearance.  And if that were cue for you, discerning reader, to consider  abandoning this book, I couldn’t blame you. For, 'That Book About Harvard' rapidly becomes ‘That Book About Obsessing Over A Girl Who Doesn’t Know You Exist While The Rest Of Your Life Goes To Pot ‘, as Kester’s life becomes a  string of cringe-inducing social situations caused by his hapless attempts to meet, woo and win Ms. Perfect .

Other suspiciously familiar cues follow. Kester  acquires an appropriately oddball posse – breast milk-swilling Irish room mate Dermot, geeky Indian child prodigy Vikas Gupta, a flock of wildly eccentric teachers and  possibly the world’s worst therapist. Some of them go on to spout the kind of advice that will help Kester regain his self esteem, discover his calling and refrain from venting his ire – and bladder – on  public monuments. Adding a dash of frat boy menace is Tripp, recreational drug peddler and sperm donor, whose sins against humanity (well, mostly just Kester) include being rich, popular and the ultimate chick-magnet.  You just know what will happen next – loser boy will befriend girl, loser boy will lose girl to evil frat boy, loser boy will endure another hundred pages of social ridicule before one final cinematic flourish that will leave him with the right girl, renewed self esteem, a chance to get back at fratboy, a reason to stay on at Harvard– and one last excuse to lose his clothing in public. 

Despite its resemblance to all things American Pie, ‘That Book..’ still makes for enjoyable reading, thanks to Eric Kester ‘s wry and relentless self deprecation and his keenly  observed description of  life at Harvard . Sure, he takes swipes aplenty at his alma mater, but there is no disguising his admiration and very real affection for the school, or the fact that he reserves all his sharpest jibes for himself.  Harvard, he shows us, is as much a victim of its mythical status as the thousands of students struggling to cope with its insanely competitive ‘pressure cooker’ conditions and live up to  its formidable reputation for excellence. ‘If anything’, he notes, ‘people here deserve more leeway and more patience as they try to survive this hyper-intense atmosphere.”

That Book..’ just might become essential reading for every bright eyed, anxious student heading out to college. But it’s hard to miss the universal appeal of the author’s cheerful message – Loosen up, take yourself a little less seriously, allow yourself to fail. And yes, drop those pants.

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