Follow TV Tropes


Book Smart

Go To

A character is shown as getting really good grades in school, and being all around academically competent.

Often it's a way to quickly establish them as so intelligent in general that they are able to master the academia without effort. Other times, it's more to showcase their diligence, at studying in particular. Either way, kids need role models.

When more than one character who is Book Smart is at the same school, a competition of who gets the best test scores is pretty much inevitable.

Almost always seen in family shows, which usually feature at least one book smart sibling with a Book Dumb sibling as a foil, typically in Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling and The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry dynamics.

In common parlance, the phrase "book smart" tends to imply that a person is sheltered or lacking in street smarts. That can be the case with characters to whom this trope applies, but it isn't a prerequisite.


In a Sensitive Guy and Manly Man duo, the Book Smart character tends to be the Sensitive Guy. In a Tomboy and Girly Girl duo, it depends on the media: in Anime and Manga, the Book Smart character is often the Girly Girl, but in Western media, it can be either.

Super-Trope to Nerd, which is this plus social incompetence, Academic Athlete, which is this plus athleticism, Academic Alpha Bitch which is this plus Competition Freak attitude, Badass Bookworm, which is this plus fighting abilities, Ditzy Genius, which is this plus lack of common sense, Gentleman and a Scholar, which is this plus politeness, and Teen Genius, which is this played to the extreme. Often tends to overlap with Bookworm and Go-Getter Girl. It can overlap with Brilliant, but Lazy if the character is not particularly studious but gets good grades without much effort.


Sub-Trope of The Smart Guy. The inversion is Book Dumb, the Overdosed Trope. Compare also Street Smart.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Chihayafuru: Tsutomu Komano studies so much that everyone calls him Desktomu, and is #2 as a result. He is still not able to surpass Taichi, who is #1 without as much effort, and it's one of his major gripes.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Unlike his uneducated father, Son Gohan is very good academically.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: Haruhi Suzumiya gets excellent grades without any real effort.
  • Miyuki Shirogane from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is not a multi-talented genius like his Love Interest, Kaguya, but he makes up for his lack of prestige by his academic achievements, earning the best grades among the entire student body during exams, and is consistently placed as the top-scorer in the national mock exams—save for one time where he got pushed down to second place by a certain Mikado Shijo. However, the series later acknowledge that he's not naturally that intelligent (being less bright than his younger sister Kei), and when he allows himself to slack off a little after getting together with Kaguya, his ranking drops to the 12th place.
  • In Lucky Star, Miyuki and Kagami get the highest grades out of the main characters (Miyuki due to her high intelligence, Kagami because she's a hard worker in general). By comparison, resident Otaku Konata is Brilliant, but Lazy (she can get good grades, but normally doesn't bother to study until the last minute) and Tsukasa is Book Dumb due to being a forgetful ditz.
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, all three of the Moriarty brothers of Moriarty the Patriot:
    • William graduated university at a younger age than most people even begin and was a famously star pupil.
    • Louis, while perhaps not as brilliant as his older brother, was also a King's Scholar at Eton like his older brothers.
    • Albert was valedictorian of his class at Eton when he was 14, and like his brothers, was a King's Scholar.
  • My Hero Academia: Yaoyorozu has the best grades in Class 1-A by a long shot, to the point that a quarter of her class comes to her for tutoring. This also ties into her usage of her Quirk, which requires her to memorize the exact formula of whatever object she's creating. However, her abilities as The Strategist are rivaled or surpassed by her classmates, Midoriya and Bakugo, whose grades are fourth and third in the class respectively.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Ami is one of the most well-known anime examples. She's so smart that she's often referred to as one of the best students of the country.
    • While he can be goofy, Umino is one of the best students in Miss Haruna's class.
    • In contrast to his Book Dumb sister, Shingo effortlessly gets excellent grades at school.
  • Seitokai Yakuindomo: All three female members of the Ousai school council with Shino and Aria being rivals at their grade, #1 and #2 respectively, and Suzu being a Teen Genius with an IQ of 180.
  • Shakugan no Shana: Shana excels academically as well as athletically on her first day at school, being a superhuman and all.
  • In When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace, Mirei and Sayumi are ranked #1 and #2 at school in terms of grades, respectively.

    Comic Books 
  • Riley Wilder of The New York Four is this. The daughter of literati parents who who have pushed her hard for academic success, Riley has lived a very sheltered life with lots of academic achievement and intellectual development, (even her college roommate Lona, who is a fellow straight A student, comments rather bitterly on how easy Riley makes their classes look and seems born to succeed in academia) but has been very limited in most other ways. This comes with some predictable pitfalls in terms of shyness and low confidence, less than stellar social skills, being more connected with books or computers than people around her, and worst of all, being easy prey for people looking to emotionally manipulate her.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot: Jason is extremely smart, especially compared to his older siblings Peter and Paige. He drives his teachers to exasperation, though, because he does far more schoolwork than any other 10-year-old (and in fact probably more than most college students) should.
  • Peanuts:
    • Charlie Brown's friend Linus is the most knowledgeable of the kids.
    • Marcie is a very good student, in contrast to her Book Dumb friend Peppermint Patty.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Booksmart: Funnily enough, given the title, being book smart is central to the two lead characters’ identities. The opening scenes of the movie deconstruct the trope somewhat, however, showing that many other students at their school are also quite academically competent and the lead characters sacrificing their social lives so they could maintain their perfect grades caused them to miss out on teenage life experience opportunities they can never get back.
  • The Breakfast Club: Brian is a deconstruction of this trope. While a brainy student, he still doesn't meet the standards of his Education Mama.
  • High School Musical: Gabriella and her friend Taylor are very good students. Also, minor character Martha describes herself as a brainiac during the song "Stick to the Status Quo".
  • Mean Girls: Cady Heron is established as Good with Numbers when she first goes to school in order to contrast with her transformation into a seemingly book-dumb Plastic later in the film. She still manages to clinch the win for the Mathletes, despite being months out of practice, at the end of the film.

  • Anne of Green Gables: Though she struggles with geometry, Anne Shirley generally excels at school, in spite of having never gone before the age of 11, and competes with Gilbert Blythe out of spite for the top spot in the class. Anne later wins the Avery Scholarship at Queen's Academy, awarded to the top student in English.
  • Harry Potter: Hermione is very knowledgeable due to reading a lot.
  • A Little Princess: Sara impresses her teachers at her boarding school with her intelligence. Despite being seven years old, she spends much time reading books and can speak French fluently.
  • Matilda: Matilda is only 5 but has exceptional reading and mathematical skills, to the point that she Surpassed the Teacher at school.
  • Race to the Sun: Nizhoni's best friend Davery is a very good student, has a lot of knowledge about various topics and reads books above his (middle grade) school level. Even his magical weapon, given to him by the Sun, is a book.
  • Roys Bedoys: Maker has the most general knowledge out of the kids, having a larger vocabulary and knowing, for instance, how rainbows work.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh: Owl has an education and is relatively knowledgeable, but as far as actual intelligence goes, he's actually pretty dumb.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • All the main characters except Penny are brilliant when it comes to science and academics.
    • The Spin-Off Young Sheldon shows Sheldon has always been this way, attending high school at the age of 9 and showing the same Insufferable Genius tendencies even towards his teachers.
  • Boy Meets World: Topanga is an overachiever who gets straight As.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow is the studious, bookish member of the Scoobies who excels at research. Giles is also excellent at research, being a librarian and watcher.
  • Gilmore Girls:
    • Rory Gilmore and her rival Paris Geller are hard-working and excellent students who eventually go to Yale.
    • April Nardini is later introduced doing a science fair experiment, which wins her second prize. She attends M.I.T. in the revival.
  • The Good Place: Chidi, with his vast knowledge of ethics and philosophy, is the most educated of the main characters.
  • Malcolm in the Middle: Malcolm is a Brilliant, but Lazy example. He's a troublemaker like his brothers, but unlike them, he's also a prodigy who excels in school, even in his class for gifted students.
  • Modern Family: Alex is academic and studious, in contrast to her Book Dumb siblings.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: While Ned himself is Book Dumb, both his best friends Cookie and Moze excel academically. Moze is a very clever girl in general (in both academics and common sense), while Cookie only has book smarts but is otherwise completely clueless.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Harriet Conklin, usually scoring marks in the 90% range. In the episode "The English Test", a whole row of students tries to copy off her! In contrast, her Love Interest Walter Denton is a shrewd High-School Hustler but very much in the Book Dumb category.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Despite being a clumsy Naïve Everygirl, Sabrina is notably good at school. She writes for the school newspaper, and also excels at math and science.
  • Saved by the Bell: The main cast has two examples, Go-Getter Girl Jessie and Extraverted Nerd Screech. Even if Screech is even better at academics than Jessie, he's a Ditzy Genius who lacks common sense outside of school.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Data, being an android, has encyclopedic knowledge and can learn extremely quickly.
    • Wesley is exceptionally smart even by the higher standards of the 24th century, but by the third season it's pretty clear he also feels a lot of pressure to always be an overachiever.
  • Supernatural: Sam Winchester is smart enough to have gotten into Stanford despite his transient upbringing and is the brother who is more focused on lore research. Bobby Singer, despite being a junk dealer, has an enormous well of knowledge and can read texts in multiple languages.
  • The X-Files: Both Mulder and Scully are book smart and educated, though Mulder knows more about UFO lore while Scully is educated in the hard sciences.

  • A Very Potter Musical: Hermione Granger, like her book counterpart, is this - in this exaggerated parody universe, she is in fact the only person who actually studies at Hogwarts.
    Hermione: I may be frumpy
    But I'm super smart.
    Check out my grades
    They're As for a start.
  • Heathers: The Screen-to-Stage Adaptation establishes Veronica in the second verse of the opening as this, as she is reasonably confident she will get into "Harvard, Duke, or Brown." She also later quips she'll have to get her SAT scores sent to "San Quentin instead of Stanford."
  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: The eponymous county bee is made up of winners of local school spelling bees (with second-runner-up Leaf Coneybear being the only exception), so basically all of the main contestants, plus emcee and past contestant Rona Lisa Peretti, are this.

  • Sleepless Domain: Tessa, Undine, and Sylvia all get better-than-average grades. Tessa is rumoured in-universe to have straight A's, and according to Word of God, the other two exceed her in terms of pure GPA, Sylvia in particular.
  • Sticky Dilly Buns: Being book smart (but otherwise inexperienced) is very central to Ruby's characterization. She's also modern enough to extend this to being "Google smart"; whenever she runs into something she doesn't understand, she pulls out her mobile phone and hits the internet — a habit which serves her well.

    Web Videos 
  • Critical Role:
    • Campaign 1:
      • As Percival de Rolo is described in his intro, "With so many siblings to share the burdens of lordship, Percy turned his attention to the sciences, engineering, and naturalism."
    • Campaign 2:
      • Caleb Widogast, as the wizard of the group, is this by default. He also attended the Soltryce Academy in his youth, described as a difficult magic school to get into.
      • Beauregard Lionett is established early on as a member of the Cobalt Soul, an order of "warrior librarian monks" who value knowledge and truth.
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: This version of Lizzie Bennet establishes her intelligence by introducing herself in the first episode as a grad student, with the series being an In-Universe assignment for her masters program. Charlotte is also reimagined as a fellow grad student, and Gigi Darcy is described by her brother as a good student long before she is shown on screen.

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur: Brain is the smartest student in Mr. Ratburn's class. He is regularly shown getting As, and knows a lot about science, astronomy, and literature.
  • As Told by Ginger: Ginger is an excellent student, being especially good at writing.
  • Charlie and Lola: Minnie is Lola's go-to source of general knowledge despite her being no older than Lola.
  • Daria: The show has two main examples. Apathetic Teen Genius Daria and active Go-Getter Girl Jodie are both very good academically compared to most of the other students.
  • Ducktales 2017: While the show never portrays the kids going to school, Huey Duck's detail-oriented nature and dedication to the Junior Woodchucks is portrayed as this - he even keeps a copy of the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook under his hat. Violet Sabrewing also counts as this.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Even if the characters are never seen at school before season 5, Edd is very knowledgeable and well-spoken, besides being a Gadgeteer Genius. Season 5 confirms him to be an active and responsible student.
  • The Fairly OddParents: AJ is the only straight "A" student in his class, despite having an insane Sadist Teacher like Mr. Crocker.
  • Family Guy: Brian, the college-educated Intellectual Animal. He's the most well-read member of the family, despite Stewie being the smartest.
  • Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs: Sid knows a lot of stuff because he reads a lot of nonfiction.
  • Kim Possible: Kim is a straight-A student, while also being a popular cheerleader and an athletic superheroine. Her nerdy sidekick Ron, on the other hand, is Book Dumb.
  • The Loud House: In addition to being highly intelligent, Lisa is also very academically competent.
  • The Magic School Bus: Dorothy Ann is always the student who correctly answers to the questions asked by the teachers.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: This is the defining trait of Twilight Sparkle, especially in the early seasons. Many of her early focus episodes involve learning lessons about how not every answer is found in books- in fact, that's one of the main reasons that Princess Celestia sent her to Ponyville in the first place.
  • Recess: Gretchen is very good at school and helps her friends thanks to her knowledge.
  • Scooby-Doo: While it varies depending on the adaptation, Velma is generally portrayed as being very knowledgeable due to studying in books and, in series produced after the advent of the internet, online. She generally knows math, and in What's New, Scooby-Doo?, she knows a bit of history.
  • The Simpsons: Lisa is a hardworking bookworm who excels academically. Martin also qualifies as a Teacher's Pet. Averted with Milhouse who, despite being stereotypically nerdy, is not a particularly good student.
  • What's with Andy?: Lori is a straight-A student.