2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Books

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Gizmos and gadgets make great gifts, but there’s nothing like sinking into a good book to escape the holiday madness.


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter - Celebrate ALL the holidays
Dark Matter – Celebrate ALL the holidays

Suggested By: Robin Brooks
Mfg: Crown Publishing
Price: $17
Purchase: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Not just an average science thriller, but a mind bending trip into alternate universes. An exciting read that delivers on all its promise. Books that thrill rarely makes you think, but Dark Matter manages both. Exciting from page one, and a finish that we leave you breathless, teary and awed. It’s the perfect escape from the holiday hubbub. Full review here


The Fractured Europe Trilogy by Dave Hutchinson

A Fractured Europe. Speculative Fiction or Prophecy?
A Fractured Europe. Speculative Fiction or Prophecy?

Suggested By: Robin Brooks
Mfg: Solaris Books
Price: < $10 each
Purchase: The Fractured Europe Trilogy by Dave Hutchinson

If Le Carré and China Miéville wrote a book about a post-Brexit dystopia, then they couldn’t make it any better than the Fractured Europe Sequence. Not a particularly festive choice, but sci-fi lovers should take time amongst the holiday hubbub, to relax with this extraordinary sequence of books. An enthralling mosaic; speculative fiction with a Cold War feel. They offer a vision of the future, which at one time may have seemed crazy, but now feels a little like prophecy.

The first two books are reviewed here, and the third Europe in Winter has just been published.


Super Mario Adventures

super-mario-adventures
image: VIZ Media

Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: VIZ Media
Price: $13.48
Purchase: Super Mario Adventures

Having trouble getting your hands on the NES Classic Edition? Then relive those halcyon days of your youth with this amazing collection of comics originally appearing in Nintendo Power magazine circa 1992-93. Presented in full color with illustrations by famed manga artist Charlie Nozawa (AKA Tamakichi Sakura), this collection marks Nozawa’s only work ever presented in English. Long out of print, VIZ has lovingly resurrected the graphic novel that, in addition to many other Mushroom Kingdom adventures, affords us a rare glimpse at the backstory behind the long-lived Mario/Wario rivalry! [Review materials provided by VIZ.]


The Legend of Zelda: Legendary Edition, Vol. 1 Ocarina of Time

loz-ocarina
image: VIZ Media

Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: VIZ Media
Price: $12.32
Purchase: The Legend of Zelda: Legendary Edition, Vol. 1 Ocarina of Time

This Legendary Edition of the Ocarina of Time manga series pairs both original volumes with new covers and color art pieces by Akira Himekawa. Presented in the traditional manga format—meaning you read it back-to-front—this gorgeous graphic novel follows Link’s adventures from the video game of the same name… more or less. Whether you were lucky enough to check out VIZ’s original English publication back in 2008 or you’re brand new to this interpretation, it’s a phenomenal read that all fans of our Hero of Time should enjoy–and it will surely whet their appetites for Vol. 2 Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, slated for release in January. [Review materials provided by VIZ.]


Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie

Star Wars Art. Image: Abrams Books
Star Wars Art. Image: Abrams Books

Suggested By: Jonathan H. Liu
Mfg: Abrams
Price: $250
Purchase: Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie

Ralph McQuarrie’s artwork was an essential part of the creation of Star Wars – he designed characters and costumes, painted backdrops and posters and book covers. His iconic artwork is what we recognize as Star Wars today. This two-volume set is a perfect gift for the Star Wars fan in your life: it is the most complete collection ever published of McQuarrie’s Star Wars work, accompanied by interviews and other writing.


Time Travel: A History by James Gleick

Image: Pantheon Books
Image: Pantheon Books

Suggested By: Jonathan H. Liu
Mfg: Pantheon Books
Price: $27.95
Purchase: Time Travel: A History by James Gleick

If you love time travel, this deep dive into the history of time travel stories is a must-read. Gleick investigates how our understanding of time affects everything from literature to physics to theology; and how our stories about time travel can influence our understanding of time. For more about the book (and other time travel stories), check out my Stack Overflow column on the subject.


Letters of Note: Volume 2: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience

Image: Chronicle Books
Image: Chronicle Books

Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Chronicle Books
Price: $28
Purchase: Letters of Note: Volume 2: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience

Following up on the success of the original Letters of Note and Lists of Note, editor Shaun Usher brings us even more letters from history. Some by the famous, some by the infamous, and some by the unknown, all have historical significance and will move you to laugh, cry, or contemplate. This quality hardback book, complete with ribbon bookmark, deserves a place on your personal library shelves. See my full review.


Engineering: An Illustrated History From Ancient Craft to Modern Technology

Shelter Harbor Press
Shelter Harbor Press

Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Shelter Harbor Press
Price: $22
Purchase: Engineering: An Illustrated History From Ancient Craft to Modern Technology

Engineering is the seventh book of the Ponderables series from Shelter Harbor Press, each of which highlights 100 things in a discipline that changed history. Set up roughly chronologically, this book covers everything from Stone Technology to Solar Power. Learn about Simple Machines, Airships, and E-Ink, among others. Each page includes photographs, diagrams, drawings, and other artwork that illustrate each of the developments. See my full review.


Storm King’s Thunder

Image: Wizards of the Coast
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: Wizards of the Coast
Price: $31.42
Purchase: Storm King’s Thunder

The Ordning is broken, the King of the Storm Giants is missing, and the six Giant races are in a battle for supremacy. Unfortunately for the citizens of the Sword Coast, giants care little for the lives of “little folk.” Can your heroes travel to the North and restore order to the Giant kingdoms before the little folk are wiped out?

Storm King’s Thunder is a Sword Coast adventure to take players from level 1-10, but maybe as high as level 12. Storm King’s Thunder fills out the realms for both DMs and players. NPCs, races, and unique species of animals can all be great hooks for future play in the North. Years of fun are sure to follow with this great gift for the well-prepared DM.


The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book

Image: No Starch Press
Image: No Starch Press

Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: No Starch Press
Price: $16.20
Purchase: The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book

No Starch Press is already thrilling readers with it’s recent release, The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book. LEGO lovers can build their own ornaments for the tree, door, or anywhere else, and learn interesting building techniques along the way. Don’t worry — these aren’t your kids’ average yellowing paper snowflakes. LEGO ornaments don’t sit in a box in the closet when the holiday is over. Instead, they go back to the toy bin for more fun. This gift is an adventure through 15 elegant and quirky ornaments ranging from snowflakes and wrapped presents to cameras and old-school computers. Ornaments and LEGO make a great family activity, and these crafts are designed to be taken apart again, meaning the book is useful every year!


Epic Big Nate

Andres McMeel Publishing
Andres McMeel Publishing

Suggested By: Randy Slavey
Mfg: Andrews McMeel
Price: $32.27
Purchase: Epic Big Nate

Celebrate 25 years of Big Nate with this gigantic collection of comics and behind the scenes stories about Nate and his creator, Lincoln Peirce. Includes a Q&A with Peirce’s friend and creator of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney.


Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2: The Hammer of Thor

Disney Hyperion
Disney Hyperion

Suggested By: Randy Slavey
Mfg: Disney Hyperion
Price: $11.35
Purchase: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2: The Hammer of Thor

Thor has lost his hammer…again. It’s up to Magnus, Sam, Blitz, and Hearth – aided as always by Jack, Magnus’s sword and the titular character of the first book – to return the missing weapon before the giants take over Earth.

Author Rick Riordan, creator of the popular Percy Jackson series, hits his stride with this second book of the Magnus Chase series. He has wholly embraced an absurd hilarity with his Norse mythology series reminiscent of Douglas Adams or Monty Python without losing what made Percy Jackson so successful: exciting tales of adventure, friendship, and sacrifice.


Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth: Three Decades of Amazing Marvel Comics Art

Insight Editions
Insight Editions

Suggested By: Randy Slavey
Mfg: Insight Editions
Price: $34.99
Purchase: Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth: Three Decades of Amazing Marvel Comics Art

This gorgeous collection of artwork from Insight Editions highlights thirty years of Rob Liefeld’s greatest creation. Long before Marvel and Ryan Reynolds brought him to the big screen, Deadpool was entertaining and offending comics fans for decades. From parodies of famous comic book covers to his epic battles with some of Marvel’s favorite heroes, this oversize hardcover book is a fantastic addition to any comic fan’s collection.


Dark Horse Adult Coloring Books

Serenity and Avatar Coloring Books
Serenity and Avatar Coloring Books

Suggested By: Will James
Mfg: Dark Horse
Price: $10 to $15
Purchase: Dark Horse Adult Coloring Books

If you’re like my wife and I, you have probably tried your hand at one or more of the adult coloring books on the market. Dark Horse just published a whole slew of geekcentric coloring books that are just beautiful. We nabbed the Serenity and Avatar ones ourselves, but there are also plenty for other fandoms like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Buffy, and Star Trek (TOS and TNG). If you’ve been wanting to get in on the coloring craze but haven’t found a geeky enough book, now’s your chance!


The Star Trek Book

Strange New Worlds, Boldly Explained
Strange New Worlds, Boldly Explained

Suggested By: Jamie Greene
Mfg: DK
Price: $25
Purchase: The Star Trek Book

There’s certainly no shortage of Star Trek books on the market, and there are quite a few that make great gifts. But few are as beautiful as this one. DK has a reputation for gorgeous books, and this book is part of their “Big Ideas Simply Explained” series. This reference book is fully illustrated throughout with photos spanning 50 years of the franchise, 13 films, and 5 series. The text also goes deep with character descriptions, episode summaries, technology profiles, and cultural analyses. This stunning book is perfect for any Trek fan.


DC Super Hero Girls graphic novels

Both Books Available Now
Both Books Available Now

Suggested By: Jamie Greene
Mfg: DC
Price: $9.99
Purchase: DC Super Hero Girls graphic novels

The availability of high-quality graphic novels for young readers (thankfully) isn’t as desperate as it once was, but the number of great superhero books for that audience is still painfully small. That’s why DC Super Hero Girls is such a treat. Shea Fontana delivers some truly exceptional stories that recasts most of the DC universe characters as high schoolers. The stories (obviously) focus on the female characters, friendships, and the value of hard work and cooperation. There’s no “dark and gritty” here. And the characters aren’t defined by their male counterparts. If you’ve got young kids looking to get into superhero comics, THIS is the place to start.


Marvel: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

Interior Spread about Doctor Strange
Interior Spread about Doctor Strange

Suggested By: Jamie Greene
Mfg: DK
Price: $19.99
Purchase: Marvel: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

Have a budding Marvel fan who was drawn into the fandom through the cinematic universe? Maybe he or she really likes one or two characters and wants to learn more? Perhaps they’ve picked up a few of the recent comics and been blown away? Or maybe you’re also gifting a Marvel Unlimited subscription and want to also provide a guide? This stunning book literally doesn’t waste an inch of space – it’s fully illustrated from cover to cover. It’s basically an information tidal wave about Marvel characters, teams, locations, science and magic, and key events.


The Expanse Boxed Set by James S. A. Corey

Your new sci-fi addiction, conveniently collected
Your new sci-fi addiction, conveniently collected

Suggested By: Anthony Karcz
Mfg: Orbit
Price: $39.99
Purchase: The Expanse Boxed Set by James S. A. Corey

If you’ve caught the (quite excellent) SyFy series The Expanse you already know that it’s a head-rush of hard science fiction, political intrigue, rogue spaceship crew antics, and a little hard-boiled detective drama all writ large on a broad backdrop of interplanetary turmoil. The books that the show is based on, Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, and Abaddon’s Gate are three of the best science fiction books I’ve read in 2016 (yes, I know they were published years ago, my fiction backlog is gargantuan). It was all I could do to take a breather in between each one instead of instantly downloading the next book in the series (there are five so far, plus novellas and short stories, with four more novels on the way). The characters are diverse and engaging. They might be familiar tropes (the reluctant and scruffy captain, the P.I. who has nothing left to live for but his last case), but James S. A. Corey gives them life with relatable motivations and emotional hooks that will keep you flipping pages well into the night. Even better, the science behind the alien technology, the space battles, even just maintaining their ships and getting from planet to planet is satisfyingly chewy. This three-book box set collects the novels the first season (as well as the upcoming Season 2) of the show is based on. If you prefer eBooks, Amazon has a collected page of the current books in the series (though you’ll still have to track down the shorter works). Give the sci-fi (and SyFy) fan on your gift least a treat. Just be prepared to lose them for a while as they burn through this expertly-crafted space opera.


Foamsmith: How to Create Foam Armor Costumes

Foamsmith: How to Create Foam Armor Costumes
Foamsmith: How to Create Foam Armor Costumes

Suggested By: Will James
Mfg: Punished Props
Price: $30
Purchase: Foamsmith: How to Create Foam Armor Costumes

Bill and Brittany Doran at Punished Props have been one of my biggest inspirations for getting into cosplay and prop building, and, thankfully, they have put a ton of their knowledge into a couple of books to share with aspiring foamsmiths. I highly recommend both books for anyone wanting to get into cosplay and foam armor and weapon making. I know a couple of budding cosplayers we are giving these books for Christmas! For more details, check out the interview and review I did with Punished Props.

Get the Official GeekDad Books!