As a New York Times critic-at-large, Maya Phillips has one of the more unusual (and to many, most enviable) beats: writing about comics, superheroes, anime and fan culture, among other wide-ranging but culturally relevant topics. Phillips’ Nerd: Adventures in Fandom From This Universe to the Multiverse (9.5 hours) collects nine essays on everything from New York City as a superhero haven to the evolution of Saturday morning cartoons. She explores the intersections of race, sexuality and mental illness through the characters and tropes she knows and loves, and this cultural context means there are plenty of entry points to her essays, whether listeners are already part of a dedicated fandom or just enjoy smart cultural criticism.
Phillips, who narrates her book, unabashedly confesses to her own fandoms, and her voice conveys not only her clear fondness for these characters and worlds but also her appreciation for the growing acceptance of so-called “nerd” culture. Some of Phillips’ essays are strikingly personal, all are deeply thoughtful, and her passion is contagious. Perhaps Phillips will make fans of us all.