We geeks love us our books. That’s why we had to split our picks into two lists! Check it out, there’s some good stuff here. Click on the gift guide logo on the right side column to see the aggregated GeekDad Gift Guides of this and prior years.
Neal Stephenson’s latest masterpiece, it takes awhile to get into, but once you do, you can’t put it down. A “hard” SF novel that takes its science and mathematics seriously, and leaves you with ideas and thoughts that don’t readily leave your mind. Buy it on Amazon.
Crankioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius
This captivating book investigates the 18th & 19th-century weirdos who graverobbed the skulls of geniuses in order to perform a phrenological study of the craniums’ bumps. Meticulously researched and authentic as hell, it could be mistaken for some particularly warped gothic fiction but for the plentiful footnotes. Buy it on Amazon.
The Gathering Storm
The latest Wheel of Time book was meticulously recreated from an outline and extensive notes after the death of author Robert Jordan. The new writer, Brandon Sanderson, is an accomplished fantasy author in how own right and by all accounts has done an awesome job of turning Jordan’s notes into a book (actually a trilogy) that will close out the epic. Buy it on Amazon.
Refactor Your Wetware
Author Andy Hunt, who wrote this book for programmers, aims to help the reader boost his or her creativity, problem solving abilities and learning skills. He provides tons of suggestions and exercises as well as many lengthy discussions on how the mind works. Buy it on Amazon.
Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss
New in paperback this year, Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss by Danica McKellar is her second math book aimed at middle school girls. This book follows McKellar’s popular Math Doesn’t Suck and sticks with the same format, this time dealing with Pre-Algebra. The covers of both books look like teenage girl magazine covers, and the chapter titles could be the names of articles in those same magazines. The content is sound, however. These books seem to be geared toward girls who are intimidated by math, have lost interest in it or need some real life context for what they are learning.
If you’re a parent or kid interested in learning about electronics, this is the book for you. Author Charles Platt starts you off right: your first experiment is to zap your tongue with a 9-volt battery. You also burn out an LED, fry a resistor and kill a AA cell. But these aren’t mere tricks, along the way, Platt educates us on voltage, resistance, current and so on. Every chapter provides progressively more complicated projects, with close-up shots of solderless breadboards provided to help you get your circuits in order. An absolutely vital resource for ‘tronics nooks. Pre-order on Amazon.
Kull: The Shadow Kingdom
This Dark Horse graphic novel expertly evokes the Robert E. Howard hero-king. A little more cerebral than Conan, the Atlantean axe-wielder nevertheless would rather brawl than attend a court function. My favorite character is Brule the Spear-Killer, Kull’s pict ally, who gets to act impulsively when the king yields to his responsibilities. Buy it on Amazon.
Memories of the Future: Volume 1
Though he’s been working on it for a while, Wil Wheaton’s Memories of the Future: Volume 1 is finally for sale at Lulu.com. Wil’s humorous take on the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s first season from “Encounter At Farpoint” to “Datalore” will give you a whole new perspective on the series. He includes behind the scenes information and plenty of snarky commentary. Buy it on Lulu.
Scary Go Round
Everything I know about the Brits I learned from imported popular culture. Monty Python. Doctor Who. Benny Hill. The Kinks. In recent years, however, my misinformation has come almost exclusively from John Allison’s epically weird web comic Scary Go Round. It is from this source that I learned all quaint English hamlets are, like the series’ own Tackleford, surreal hinterlands populated by sinister children, hapless elected officials, promiscuous art students and Devil Bears. Though the series recently went the way of the dodo (making way for Allison’s newest creation Bad Machinery), Scary Go Round lives on in a stellar series of collected editions.
Best Served Cold
This novel of sword and sorcery skullduggery is set in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law world. Follow mercenary captain Monza Murcatto’s blood-drenched quest for vengeance against the backstabbing duke! If you liked Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy you’ll love this one too. Buy it on Amazon.
Charlie’s Playhouse Flip Books
Check out the brand new evolution flip books from Charlie’s Playhouse. They’re only $4 and they demonstrate in a fun way how creatures have evolved over time. The first book in the series, See It Evolve from Fins to Limbs!, is now out and available for inquiring minds everywhere. More books in the series to follow.
The Dock Five Books
Author Linnea Sinclair is, so far, the best I’ve read at combining action, science fiction world-building, and believable romance. These three books are stand alones but with connected characters. Gabriel Sullivan is a former rich boy turned space pirate fighting corruption in a rotting empire and struggling with mental powers not always in his control. Chaz Begren is an uptight former Imperial Fleet Captain who’s caught in the middle of the corruption and eventually comes to love and trust Sully. The first two books focus on Sully and Chaz, the third a character from the first two books, Admiral Philip Guthrie, who’s suddenly in charge of a rebel fleet that may have more problems than he has solutions. Buy Hope’s Folly, Shades of Dark, and Gabriel’s Ghost on Amazon.
D&D Player’s Handbook and PHB2 Set
I have a memory of buying my first AD&D Player’s Handbook in 1981, shelling out $12 of my hard-earned allowance dollars for this vital gaming resource. Ha, you can’t find $12 game books any more! Not unless there’s an abso-frickin-lutely amazing deal involved, like, oh, this one. This twofer deal will start you off right. Two books, together packing a MSRP of $70, for under $24, just like the good old days. Buy them on Amazon.
The Secret History of Tom Trueheart
If ever there was a perfect book, The Secret History of Tom Trueheart by Ian Beck may be it. Taking place in a land where all the fairy tales are written and take place, this story follows Tom, the youngest of the Trueheart brothers, on his first adventure. It is a magnificent story, every moment a delight. It is funny, clever and familiar at the same time. It is aimed at ages nine through twelve, but kids of all ages, young and old, will love it. There is also a second book, Tom Trueheart and the Land of Dark Stories. Another of Beck’s books, Emily and the Golden Acorn, is aimed at five to seven year olds and is a picture book. It is another favorite and makes you want to be carried away with Emily and her brother.
Deus Ex Comica
A must have for any comic book fan, Deus Ex Comica explores one mans journey through his youth via his newly found comic book collection. Author Adam Besenyodi doesn’t go light on the details, picking out specific parts of his childhood in relation to the comics he was holding at the time. Check out the GeekDad interview with Adam, our review of the book or just go ahead and buy it on Amazon.
Goodman Games D&D Modules
The GG cats say it better than I ever could: “Remember the good old days, when adventures were underground, NPCs were there to be killed, and the finale of every dungeon was the dragon on the 20th level? Those days are back. Dungeon Crawl Classics don’t waste your time with long-winded speeches, weird campaign settings, or NPCs who aren’t meant to be killed. Each adventure is 100% good, solid dungeon crawl, with the monsters you know, the traps you fear, and the secret doors you know are there somewhere.” Buy them on Amazon.
For gamers of a certain age, while game systems have come and gone and rules have been updated, then updated again, then had rules variants and errata released, there has been one true constant in our lives: Dork Tower. John Kovalic’s ongoing tale of the lives of a group of gamers and the people around them touches hilariously on every absurdity and joy of a geek’s life with equal parts affection and rue. If you have a geek in your family who can’t help themselves when it comes to RPGs, Comic Books, Miniatures, Renn Faires, or video games, you should pick up one or more of the following collections of Dork Tower comics.
Absolute DC: New Frontier
If someone asked me what superheroes are all about, I’d hand them this book. Originally a maxi-series from DC Comics, the New Frontier is an alternate reality where all the new DC heroes (Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter) appear in the fictional world about the same time as they appeared in print, the 1950s. The book ends with John F. Kennedy’s inaguaration and is a series of connected tales not only featuring the best known heroes but also more obscure DC characters like The Losers (who begin the book), King Faraday, and the Challengers of the Unknown. It’s a tale of how people came to be heroes and how America tried to live up to its ideals. Probably my favorite superhero story ever. Buy it on Amazon.
The Best of 2600: A Hacker Odyssey
This book tackles the infamous hacker magazine’s 24-year run the best way it can — by being encyclopedic. Weighing in at 871 pages and rivaling a phonebook’s size and heft, the book covers the ups and downs of hackerdom’s brief existence: discoveries, busts, jokes, conflict. Buy it on Amazon
The Harry Dresden Series
I would recommend this urban fantasy series not only for adults but for older teens as well, particularly those ready to move up from YA Fantasy. Harry Dresden is a consulting wizard in modern-day Chicago, where supernatural being have a habit of showing up and causing mayhem. The books got a boost from the short-lived television series but the show didn’t do either the characters or the world-building justice. My 14-year-old son loved them and, bonus for me, it actually took him longer than two days to finish each book. Buy them on Amazon.
An Awesome Book
Clayton’s poem and drawings encourage both kids and adults to dream big and have fun. For every book sold, Clayton will give one away: so this would make a doubly great gift! Buy the book or read the GeekDad review.
Lego Mindstorms NXT Robots Alive!: Endangered Species
An educator and mentor for kids interested in NXT, Fay Rhodes, has made a name for herself by designing animal-themed robots. This book shows off five robots with attendant step-by-steps, programming instructions, and even lesson plans. These are awesome projects for dad to do with — or without — the kids. Buy it on Amazon.
And Another Thing
Improbably, this is the sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy. I know, most people believe the story ended with the last book and with the death of Douglas Adams. Did you really want that to be it for Arthur, Ford, Trillian, Zaphod and Marvin? Did you really want to never hear the artful and awful Vogon poetry again? Of course not. While it’s not Adams, author Eoin Colfer does a fantastic job picking up the vibe and feel of the series. Read the GeekDad review and if you think it’s froody, buy it on Amazon.
Getting Started With Arduino
The Arduino may be the most awesome tool available to amateur electronics buffs. It’s not the only noob-friendly microcontroller, but its popularity means there are countless projects and articles discussing it, easing the learning curve. This book, written by one of the project’s founders, lowers that curve even more — it has everything you need to get started, knowledge-wise anyway! Buy it on Amazon