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The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  4,564 ratings  ·  737 reviews

When school lunchroom doors open, hungry students rush in, searching for tables where they wouldn't be outsiders. Of course, in middle school and high school, almost everyone is an outsider: the nerds, the new girls, the band geeks, the loners; even the "popular" cheerleaders. Alexandra Robbins' The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth takes us inside the hallways of real schools

Hardcover, 448 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Hachette Books
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P. Aaron Potter
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: geek
The title is, unfortunately, simply wrong.

This *should* have been much more compelling. As an academic, an educator, a past and present (and future) geek, one with geeklings of my own, and a guy who genuinely wants to be optimistic about our future as a country and a species, I'd love to read about how the geeks - intelligent, semi-obsessive nerds who get way too into some abstruse knowledge - are going to take over and turn our overly pragmatic and materialistic society into the Star Trek unive
Alexandra Robbins
Apr 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
To thank you awesome Goodreads friends for the Best Nonfiction win, I'll be giving away FREE COPIES of the new Geeks paperback. Just head on over to for a bunch of giveaways over the next week or two. There's a contest up there right now, based on the new Geeks video.

take care!

Jul 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
I really struggled to get through this book.

Nuance doesn't sell.

I've been an educator for 10 years now, and I've become increasingly frustrated with our culture's mythologizing adolescence. The myths are based in truth - teenage years are awkward, there are bullies, peer approval/disapproval takes precedence - but our mainstream culture has bent and skewed and enlarged the truth to epic proportions, whether to sell books, movies, videos, merchandise, or a way of life. Alexandra Robbins is
Joy D
Non-fiction recounting the author’s analysis of a plethora of reference materials, along with results of interviews of both students and experts, showing the long-term value of non-conformity. The author has coined the term “quirk theory” to describe the results of her analysis.
In the author’s words: “Quirk Theory: Many of the differences that cause a student to be excluded in school are the same traits or real-world skills that others will value, love, respect, or find compelling about that pe
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
This was clearly written by someone who wanted to be more popular than she was. I understand the sentiment. Her thesis is accurately encapsulated by the title, and she gives in boring detail the stories of a number of quirky teenagers who may or may not ultimately thrive, but we don't follow them into adulthood (with one exception) so we don't know. She falls prey to stereotypes. In her world being popular is a synonym for not too smart, but bitchy and manipulative. So it is not that suprising t ...more
Dec 23, 2011 added it
I have enough to say about this book that I could write a good ol' fashioned book report on it, but I will try to keep my words to a minimum since I lack eloquence.

This is an interesting book, albeit with an idea that isn't revolutionary. Geeks rule the world? Shocker. In an age where technology is king, it only makes sense that the skinny, albino computer nerd will one day become the next Silicon Valley employee and the popular jock will be seriously disappointed when he can't go pro. And altho
Gary Anderson
Apr 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth is an important book for parents, educators, and any students who feel marginalized in their school or social life. Alexandra Robbins once again has her finger on the pulse of a critical issue faced by countless young people: persecution or ostracism because of being different from those who are considered popular. Robbins takes readers inside the lives and perspectives of “geeks, loners, punks, floaters, dorks, freaks, nerds, gamers, weirdos, emos, indies, scen ...more
Andrea Borod
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
As a high school teacher, I was excited to read this book after reading an eloquent interview with Alexandra Robbins in The problem with the book lies not with Robbins' sharp and accessible social analysis (this is her strength and, why she strays from it to include unbelievable dialogue, remains a mystery), but with the central characters: while trying to promote an understanding of the Cafeteria Fringe, Robbins follows a bunch of teenagers who speak as though their dialogue were wri ...more
Kressel Housman
No matter how old I get, school politics, i.e. the tensions between the cliques and the cafeteria fringe, never cease to fascinate me. Since the title and thesis of this book declare victory for the fringe, it was pretty much irresistible. Though it wasn’t as life-changing as I’d hoped, it was definitely a compelling read and particularly uplifting at the end.

The book tracks six young people over a year of high school. Most of them are oddballs who fit into the stereotypical labels: the loner gi
Colleen Martin
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book both broke my heart and made it soar. The author followed a handful of high school outcasts for a year and chronicled their experiences, and the stories they tell are so reminiscent of what I (and quite a few other people, I'm sure) went through that the long-dormant, but very familiar, feelings of anger, resentment and despair bubbled up inside me as I read. Danielle, the "Loner", is almost my perfect foil. When she detailed how her books were better friends to her than most people ha ...more
May 04, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a great follow-up to reading It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living. While It Gets Better provided a great illustration of the far-too-precious expression of compassion to kids in crisis, this book explores just what that crisis feels like. Through the lives of 6 varied high school students and one teacher, Robbins presents the concerns, obstacles, weights and terrors of high school hierarchies. Every high school has its cliques, and we all mea ...more
Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ken by: Dana Huff
As the title indicates, the final score is Geeks 1, Jocks 0. Well, they're called "Populars" here, but you get the idea and you probably had your own name for them. The "Means," maybe.

Though non-fiction, Alexandra Robbins writes it like a novel, following seven story lines (six students, one teacher, all outsiders for one reason or another) and utilizing thoughts, dialogue, and actions, often with settings like the dreaded school cafeteria, hallways, and parking lots. Or parties. You know -- whe
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
The book begins by introducing the reader to Danielle, a shy junior who feels uncomfortable during lunch. She has nobody to sit with. There is also a history of bullying in Danielle's past. The author then introduces the reader to a total of 7 "cafeteria fringe" and follow them throughout the year. These are the quirky people who are artistic, emotional, gay, shy, or geeky. Gathering data from sociological studies, the author ascertains that the skills used for popularity in high school are not ...more
Jul 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I checked this book out from the library because it looked like it might apply to me :)

The author interviewed about 7 students (and one teacher), talking about how each person is excluded from school cliques, but how their unique interests and courage to go against the crowd are positive qualities. She then gave each person a challenge. For Danielle, a loner who barely spoke to anyone, it was to simply speak to others. For Noah, a band geek, it was to take a leadership role. For Whitney, who was
Jun 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Reading Alexandra Robbins' non-fiction is kind of like eating candy that you later find out is good for you. Her writing is story-like so that you're absorbed by every real life person she writes about as if it were a great novel, and later you realize that you have learned from the book without realizing it.
With that in mind, I was glued to the book, and eager to find out how the characters would be doing by the end of the book (particularly Blue and Whitney, although all were appealing).
The O
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: human-behavior
I never quite understood that whole "High school is the best time of your life!" mantra, and after finishing this book, I can say with even more gusto that I'm so, so glad high school is over.

In my high school days, I wasn't cafeteria fringe, but I was - to pick one of Robbins' descriptors - a floater: Lots of acquaintances and a few close friends, but no single, branded group I identified with and latched onto for social validation. At the time, I was sure it was my floater status that caused
Brian Eshleman
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was going to be an objective study of the qualities that make those on the fringes of high school society stand out in later life, and it does contain snippets of data like that. Most of it, though, follows a handful of students on the fringes of their particular high school.

As demonstrated by the four stars I gave the book, I ended up liking the direction it took. Following outsiders longitudinally as they reflect on the pain of being on the fringes and as some of them make
This was an interesting read; I would consider myself a geek and an outcast so it was interesting look at high school Sociology. It was fascinating to peer into the different cliques and find that no matter who you are and what group you are in there is always the same gossiping and backstabbing. It’s sad but everyone was dealing with the same issues. For a non-fiction book I thought the narrative was excellent and Alexandra Robbins did of good job of telling a story; but I wish there was more a ...more
I read her book on sororities years ago so I'm interested to see her take on the other end of the popularity spectrum!

Update: So, I didn't finish it. I got over 1/3rd of the way through and it just wasn't doing it for me. It was very heavy on the individual narratives and while I realize the author got very close to her subjects and found them to be fascinating, I didn't need to hear every detail of their existence. I guess I felt like there was too much narrative and not enough analyzation.
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone in high school
Dear Jocks, Populars, Plastics and all those who belittle nerds/geeks/outsiders for the fun of it:

Thank you!


Sabrina, one of the biggest nerds in existance, representing the entire nerd/geek/outsider population (and there's a lot of us)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I was supposed to be studying for exams when I picked up this novel but I figured if I was going to read something, I might as well read something non-fiction and educational.

Before reading this book
Aug 31, 2011 rated it liked it
I was expecting more of a focus on the adult lives of formerly bullied teens, but this book follows the travails of teens currently dealing with cliques and ostracism at school. Some of their stories are interesting, but ultimately the title is deceiving--we don't know whether or not these particular students "thrive" later in life because we don't see them into adulthood. I think the book's premise might have been more convincing had it been based on a long-term study. All we really see here ar ...more
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in social science
Goodreads readers picked wisely choosing this book as the 2011 Readers Choice Winner for non-fiction. Although my edition was 396 pages I wasn't bored for a second. Robbins introduces the reader to 7 "outcasts" of the public school system and follows them through their school year: Joy, the new girl; Whitney, the popular bitch; Blue, the gamer; Eli, the nerd; Noah, the band geek; Regan, the weird girl and Danielle, the loner. The author did a wonderful job of finding diverse subjects with entire ...more
Dec 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
I picked up this book because I enjoyed The Overachievers that much. The Geeks turned out to be a disappointment. While the individual character plots still read great, the analytical portion of the book is a whole different story. It is almost like it was written by another person - the writing is unstructured, hard to follow, lacking substance and factual content, while the topics do not seem well-researched (or even well-defined, for that matter). It feels like the author just slapped it toge ...more
This is both a humorous and light hearted yet serious and heart felt look at how non-conformists (as Robbins terms us) suffer in high school yet kick ass as adults. She looks at the different types of non-conformists from gamers to unhappy prep kids, looks at why they are labelled as such and how they are treated by their peers, their teachers, their families and their friends. She also includes the results of interviews with various teens that fit the varied and numerous outsider labels. I do h ...more
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
I'm still not sure who this book was for. If it was intended for outcast students, maybe it's just me, but I know that I wouldn't have been able to read through the entire book if was actually a social outcast in high school. If it was for school teachers and administration, the book doesn't really rpovide any new interesting information. If ti was for parents, I guess the could take the time to read it, but then find out the book is saying the same thing they've been telling their kids: wait it ...more
Sep 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book languished on my bedside table for 6 weeks before I finished it, which is never a good sign. If it had a different title I might have liked it better. As it is, the author gives a series of case studies of teens that she observed over the course of a year while they were in high school. She uses little in the way of evidence that either the geeks she observed or geeks in general go on to thrive, beyond citing celebrities who have self-identified as former geeks. She does cite the geeks ...more
Jenn Estepp
Although I think this book sometimes suffers from "using (social) science to justify things that are obvious, I still found it to be an engrossing and worthwhile read. And, for anyone who has forgotten just how serious things can be in high school, it's a good reminder. At the same time, some of the highlighted behaviours - w/r/t cliques, group think and passive aggression - are ones that we are lucky if we leave behind in school. Unfortunately, I've found the same sort of activities to be true ...more
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in teenage dynamics
Shelves: 4-star, nonfiction
Author Alexandra Robbins gives us case studies of many students who are on the fringe and some students that are the "popular" ones.

Some of the background on students is so detailed that it gets a little slow, but things pick back up as individual stories progress. I did find that at times I got a little confused with who was who in which stories, nothing major though.

I think this topic is very interesting and I found Robbins findings and thoughts very relevant. I do think that schools across th
Aug 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Alexandra Robbins follows seven individuals through high school. All seven feel like loners, outsiders, and just don't see how they fit in with the rest of the school. They have personality traits, and interests that don't seem to be highly valued by other students, by their teachers, or the administration. The book advances a so-called "quirk theory", which states that those very personality traits and interests that make a student an unpopular "outsider" are the ones that are highly valued out ...more
Erin Ott
Jan 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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The author of Goodreads BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR and of the blockbuster book PLEDGED

The author of five New York Times bestselling books, Alexandra Robbins is an award-winning journalist and speaker who writes nonfiction books in the style of fast-paced beach reads. (Reviewers have called her smart, entertaining writing style "poolside nonfiction.")

Her newest book, FRATERNITY, is the only

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“Unruly geeks change the world” 9 likes
“Conformity is not an admirable trait. Conformity is a copout. It threatens self-awareness. It can lead groups to enforce rigid and arbitrary rules.” 7 likes
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