Having recently moved into a new place, my shelfie game is a little weak at the moment. But when our editor-in-chief and head nerd Clave broached the idea of a full-on shelfie assault—as many of our writers as possible, writing about the nerdery that brings them joy, all over one incredible week in November—I couldn’t say no. Take a peep at my shelfie, ya nerds!
1 My Brother, My Brother and Me
I stumbled across the McElroy brothers in the wake of the 2016 election. I’d read that their podcast was so jammed packed with joie de vivre that I decided to give it a try. My desperation for joy in the aftermath of the presidential race has made my life so much richer, funnier, and filled with laughter. The elaborate tangents these good, good boys mine from listener questions and the question-filled abyss we call Yahoo! Answers are funny, insane, and surprisingly earnest. MBMBAM led me to other parts of the McElroy empire, like The McElroy Brothers Will Be in Trolls World Tour (a meta quest to land rolls in upcoming Trolls films) and Til Death Do Us Blart (a once-a-year podcast in which the brothers watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 for the rest of their lives). The cherry on top has to be their TV show, which debuted in 2017 and can be seen for free on the streaming service VRV.
2 New Girl
Don’t let the name, bad word-of-mouth, or reviews of the first season fool you—New Girl is one of the best comedies of the 2010s. I’m talking top 3 comedies, right up there with Parks & Rec or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, deserves six seasons and a movie, all that jazz. New Girl took an unappealing premise (“What if Zooey Deschanel played her adorkable stereotype every Thursday night for 24 episodes?”) and struck comic gold. That original germ of an idea—which undersold Deschanel and the talents of her fellow cast members, particularly Jake Johnson (Nick) and Max Greenfield (Schmidt)—quickly grew into one of the best hangout shows since Friends. I know this list is about my nerdy pleasures, and New Girl is truly nerdy; watch “Keaton,” where an elaborate, decades-long grift involving the Batman actor falls apart in the face of a hard breakup, or “Walk of Shame,” in which our girl Jess goes home with a strange man named Bearclaw (played by Josh Gad of Frozen and Beauty & The Beast fame) and ends up creating a musical about a gay wolf, to see what I mean.
3 Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
I’ve had a sweet spot for tactical RPGs ever since this game dropped for the Game Boy Advance waaaaay back in 2003. A perfect blend of Advance Wars-style grid combat, Final Fantasy’s famous jobs system, a great soundtrack, and a story juuuust cute enough to tie it all together, FFTA is a game I can still pull out and sink hours into. And to make it even better, its sequel, FFT A2: Grimoire of the Rift, is even better and more detailed. Pick these bad boys up on Amazon for cheap and prepare to dedicate a significant amount of the coming months into leveling up your team of assassins, mages, and fighters.
4 Thor: Ragnarok
This is the movie that brought me back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, I’ve seen all the Avengers films, and yes, I loved Spider-Man: Homecoming, but Thor: Ragnarok is the movie that convinced me Marvel has gas left in their creative tanks. An absolute fever dream of a movie, Ragnarok is filled with the kind of moments DC would sell a kidney to think up and Lucasfilm is too scared to put in a Star Wars flick. The full-throated glee with which the movie greets its characters, its jokes, and its absolute weirdness is a breath of fresh air in superhero films. Where else can you find Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins urgently mumble, “Oh shit,” under his breath, or an unexpected tribute to “Pure Imagination” from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory? Not in any other major studio tentpole release, that’s for sure.
5 The Wayfarer books
Becky Chambers’ novels are a recent discovery for me. Having read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet at the beach, I couldn’t wait to burn through A Closed & Common Orbit. Now that the third book in the series, Record of a Spaceborn Few, has dropped, I need to hop back on the Chambers train and read that one, too. Aside from being tightly written and filled with excellent, unforced world-building, this series is filled with a sturdy positivity and natural happiness that is missing from most modern fantasy and sci-fi novels. Seriously, these books are just the best.
6 The music of John Williams
Growing up the son of a professional musician, playing music throughout childhood and into adulthood, and generally being bathed in its positive benefits afforded me the opportunity to hear and experience music from a very early age. Music of all kinds, but particularly film scores, was a constant presence in our home, and John Williams’ soundtracks were always being hummed or sung aloud. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., Hook, Home Alone, the Olympics theme, the Sunday Night Football theme, the NBC Nightly News theme, Harry Potter—Williams seemed to be an omnipresent, almost mythic musical giant to young Kerry. My love and reverence for John Williams hasn’t faded with adulthood, but has ripened into a more mature appreciation for both his melodies and his musicality. On top of that technical excellence, everything I’ve ever heard or read about John Williams indicates that he’s a genuinely good and kind person, a man who has left the world irrevocably richer and better. With a baby right around the corner, I find that Williams to be an inspiration for me as a person, as a teacher, and as a father.
7 Stardew Valley
I was reading an NPR article last week that mentioned “a blissfully engrossed mental state that psychologists call ‘flow.’” The basic idea is that whenever an activity completely absorbs your attention, you enter the flow state: a supremely chill place where hours pass in happy captivation. Stardew Valley is the main home of my flow state at the moment (and judging by the amount of farming tips the NOE crew has been slinging on our Slack channel the past few weeks, I don’t think I’m the only one!). This deceptively addicting farming simulator brims with stuff to do (people to befriend, dungeons to crawl, fish to catch, fields to clear). When you factor in the amount of detail that ConcernedApe, the game’s creator, packed into every screen and menu and piece of music, I find the green grass of Stardew Valley a happy place to flow.