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Book Review: That Book about Harvard: Surviving the World’s Most Famous University, One Embarrassment at a Time by Eric Kester

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Eric Kester is a funny guy. You will laugh at That Book about Harvard if you have a bit of humor in your body. And, if you have ever gone to college, you will identify with it, whether your college was a super-competitive Ivy League school or not.

Kester arrived at Harvard anxious yet optimistic. Anxious because he was not a genius, just a kid fresh out of high school with decent enough grades and enough skill at football to make it into Harvard. Optimistic because he was determined to study hard and he believed he might be able to find a way to fit in with the other students.

That optimism lasted less than a day after his arrival on campus. In fact, it ended when he locked himself out of his room shortly after he got to his dorm and had to walk across campus in his Incredible Hulk boxer shorts.

For most of the freshman year, it was all downhill from there. From being used in place of the tackle dummy for football practice to trying to adjust to an Irish roommate he could barely understand, from comtemplating cheating to participating in bizarre rituals to try to get accepted into a “final club” (Harvard’s version of a fraternity house), from nearly failing calculus and falling for the perfect girl, Kester recounts his every misadventure with devastating honesty.

Not all of the things that happen to Kester are that common. He almost missed his calculus exam because he got “stage fright” and could not provide a urine sample for the NCAA and could not leave until he did) but for the most part, we can all at least imagine ourselves in his situation, and be glad that’s all we have to do.

Along the way, Kester humanizes Harvard and its students. He does not downplay the devastating competitiveness, and despite the many laughs this book delivers, he also illustrates the real problems of trying to succeed at any cost and the harm that perceiving oneself as failing to live up to expectations can do to a young person.

As it happens, Kester did manage to graduate Harvard in 2008, probably because of his ability to see the humor in things. Perhaps the best thing he took away from the experience is this book, which is both hilarious and touching, and which is recommended reading for anyone who has been to college or is going to college, and should be required reading for anyone planning to go to Harvard.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.
  • Mike Viall

    Wow, *extremely funny!* My son (a 2013 Stanford baseball commit) and I read most of this book today on a plane and we laughed for hours. Glad we found you, Eric!
    P.S. Pretty raunchy, caveat emptor . . .

  • http://www.rhettaakamatsu.com Rhetta Akamatsu

    It is about college, after all:) Freshmen boys in college do get raunchy!