Books are something that I believe all geeks have in common. Some geeks love the books themselves, the smell of the paper, the feel of the spine, and the sound of a turning page. Others are beholden to the story, characters, and imaginary worlds that lay beyond the pages, regardless if they be ink on paper or pixels on a screen. Still another group is enamored by the knowledge passed down through books, the facts and history that have taken a (somewhat) permanent form for future geeks to enjoy. I’m mostly of the latter two camps. I care most about the story, the worlds, and the knowledge passed through the book, regardless of medium. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the feel and smell of a new or old book, just that I value the content more than the physical thing.
Below we feature some of our favorite books that we’ve discovered this year. Many of these have been reviewed on GeekDad or GeekMom, and a few of them are authored by a few of us. This list includes submissions by Jenny Williams, Z, Jonathan Liu, Dave Banks, James Floyd Kelly, Tony Sims, Corrina Lawson, Nathan Barry, and myself. In many cases we received review copies, know the author personally, or both.
I’ve been following fellow GeekDad Erik Wecks’ writing since he published his short story, Brody Since then he’s developed an entire universe filled with wonderful stories of space, travel, and most of all people. His characters have a soul and emotions that you can sense through the pages. The Far Bank of the Rubicon is the first book of a trilogy, and a follow up to Aetna Adrift. Erik’s novels are published in paperback and ebook, and The Far Bank of the Rubicon is available as an audiobook. (AO)
John Baichtal had always heard one should write the book they would like to read. Failing to find a book about thieves, monsters, intrigue, duels, assassins, and sorcerers he chose to write it. Thus was born The Locksmith’s Apprentice, a swords & sorcery novel sure to warm the circuits of your loved one’s Kindle-compatible tablet. Follow the adventures of plucky burglar Rivek the Pick as he navigates the alleys of Ziggur’t, the City of Five Thrones. If you like Michael Shea’s Nifft the Lean, Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales, Fritz Leiber’s Nehwon series, and Michael Moorcock’s fantasies, there is a good chance you’ll like the Locksmith’s Apprentice. (AO)
Filled with personal letters and other correspondence from throughout history, Letters of Note is a wonderful, stunning book. Because each letter is its own short section, this book can be picked up and put down at your leisure, so you can reflect upon its meaning. This book is brimming with history, and gives perspective to us in the modern day.
Buy it at Amazon. (JW)
Start the new year right with plenty of project and activity ideas to do with your kids. Written by the founding editors of GeekMom, this book is also full of insightful essays on being a geek and a geeky parent, and about people and topics of interest to the geek world.
Buy it at Amazon. (JW)
If you love hip-hop and comic books, you’re likely already following Ed Piskor’s series Hip Hop Family Tree over at Boing Boing. Still, even if you are a loyal reader with an intimate familiarity with classic rap culture, the new box set from Fantagraphics Books is well worth the price of admission. Gathering together Ed’s first two collected volumes, covering the events of 1975 through 1983, along with a bonus 24-page comic created exclusively for this set, it’s the perfect marriage of retro art, old school hip-hop and good, ol’ fashioned research. (Z.)
My coffee table is littered with oversized hardbacks devoted to all my pop culture favorites, and it seems like an overwhelming majority of these are from the team at Insight Editions. Their latest, DC Comics: Super-Villains: The Complete Visual History, is another exquisite example. Divided into sections like “Gotham City’s Rogues Gallery” and “Evil Overlords,” it examines all your favorite bad guys in excruciating detail, combining panel and pin-up art alongside canonical biographical information and insights from relevant comic writers, artists and editors. With more than 150 colorful, glossy pages, it’s perfect for old fans and passionate newbies alike. [Review material provided by: Insight Editions] (Z.)
What if the brilliant, wacky mind behind the xkcd webcomic wrote an online column answering your bizarre hypothetical questions with real science and stick-figure drawings? Well, you’d get What If? … and eventually a book of the some of the best answers, updated and annotated. A fantastic book that’s part advice column, part science blog, part cartoon, and all awesome. Available from Amazon. (JL)
Nick Harkaway’s latest novel sits somewhere between literary fiction and science fiction, and it’s quite possibly the best book I’ve read this year. It’s set on a remote island slated for destruction because of toxic output—which makes it ideal for all sorts of extralegal activities. But the heart of the book is the relationship between Sergeant Lester Ferris and a young street kid with an internet-fueled imagination, and Ferris’ slow realization of what it is he really wants to be. Available from Amazon. (JL)
Two years ago, Theodore Gray published The Elements, a gorgeous book featuring photographs and facts about the elements. Molecules is the follow-up, and it’s another visually striking volume about how those elements combine to form, well, everything. A beautiful way to learn about chemistry and how things work. Available from Amazon. (JL)
After 25 years (!) of The Simpsons there’s a chance you’ve forgotten more than you recall. The Simpsons Family History can change that. This 300 page scrapbook is jammed packed with facts and trivia defining the lives of our favorite animated family, all presented in chronological order. What was Marge like before marrying Homer? What was it like when Bart entered the world? All will be remembered in this fun romp down memory lane.
Buy it from Amazon. (DB)
It’s been an empty year for Rush fans. No new albums, no tour … pretty much just the Clockwork Angels comic to tide us over. Which is why I’ve been reading and re-reading this fantastic visual feast from Voyageur Press lately. Spanning all the albums and the entire history of the band right up to the last tour, this book is an absolute must for Rush fans. Page after page is decorated with behind the scenes photos, concert posters, backstage passes, ticket stubs, memorabilia, and so much more — and their story is lovingly chronicled by Martin Popoff. (R41 anyone?)
Buy it from Amazon. (DB)
When I was 12, I asked for the board game Dungeon for Christmas. My parents ended up getting me the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. That mistake changed my life… for the better. From the Basic Set I moved into AD&D as both DM and as a player in some amazing campaigns, and I credit D&D for helping me with both reading and writing as well as boosting my creativity skills. Jump forward more than a couple decades, and the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons was released this year with the new 5e Player’s Handbook in August. That was followed by the 5e Monster Manual in September, and in just a few short weeks I’ll have the new Dungeon Master’s Guide in my hands. Just Google any of those books and you’re going to find an abundance of glowing praises. D&D is back, and it’s awesome. If you’ve got kids and you’re out of practice in the RPG world, grab all three books and consider a family D&D night once a week… 5th edition is perfect for an introduction! (Or, if you’re looking for a group to play with, visit the Adventurer’s League website to find a gaming group in your area.) (JK)
This new reference type book gives fans a unique, in-depth look into the hidden lives and mysteries of the monsters from the hit TV show. This full-color guide includes the creatures and machines that have been scene in Doctor Who since the very beginning. The Secret Lives of Monsters shows behind the scenes looks at the beings from the show and includes tons of trivia type information. Packaged with removable artwork commissioned exclusively for the book, this visual collection is the perfect gift book for any Doctor Who fan. (TS)
One of the very first comics I picked up off the spinner rack was an issue of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, featuring a team-up between Batman and Wildcat (Ted Grant, now appearing on Arrow.) I fell in love with Aparo’s art, his kinetic action and his distinctive style, especially for hair. He’s one of the vastly underrated Batman artists and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Marshall Rogers, Jim Lee and Neal Adams. This volume is a great trip through the DC universe as Batman teams up with so many heroes. Some stories are tense, some hokey, some fascinating but all are elevated by Aparo’s art. And be on the lookout for Volume 2! (CL)
A twisted zombie story that manages to be sick, twisted and hopeful at the same time. When I reviewed the Kickstarter edition last year, I said it was the best thing Gail Simone had ever written and that’s still true. Calafiore’s art creates the atmosphere and the horror of citizens stuck in a city where the superheroes have been turned into zombie. (CL)
Look at the American Civil War through the eyes of a soldier. See the images, in 3D stereoscopic delight, of battlefields, life in camp, and scenery. Read the included detailed book telling of soldier life, about their uniforms, food, fear, camps, and letters home.
Buy it at Amazon. (JW)
A 12-month subscription to a magazine is the gift that keeps on giving and, with Storytime Magazine, every month you get to enjoy awesome stories for both boys and girls with no tacky plastic toys on the cover and no annoying adverts. What you do get is an impressive mix of myths, legends, fairy tales, fables, poems and folk tales – with story activity ideas and puzzles too. Aimed at parents and children, there’s something for the whole family in this magazine and it makes for inspiring bedtime reading. Both dead tree subscriptions and iPad editions are available. (NB)