Growing up in Houston, J. C. Herz spent much of her time defending the city from incoming ballistic missiles. She accomplished this while sitting in front of her family’s television and playing Missile Command—just one of the many video games lovingly described in her second book, Joystick Nation (Little, Brown; $23.95), a well-researched history of the video game industry and also a look at the lingering effects of Pac-Man fever on her generation. “Playing video games made people used to being self-sufficient on computers,” she says. “Plus, they satisfy the human drive to goof off.” Lucky for Herz, she has been able to parlay her goofing off into a paycheck—though after this summer’s book tour the 25-year-old Harvard graduate says she’ll enter her “shuffle mode,” which means she’s not sure what comes next. “For every one idea I pursue, there are at least thirty I’ll never get to,” she says. “All I can do is keep working, keep writing.”