Third in our series of 2011 Holiday Gift Guides lists over two dozen books that we have discovered in the past year. Some are for grown-ups, some are for kids, and some are for babies. Some are educational, and some are just for fun. What are your favorite geeky books from the past year? Share your favorites for any age in the comments.
Bonnie Burton’s Star Wars Craft Book
If your craftiness has a geeky or Star Wars bent, don’t miss Bonnie Burton’s fantastic book, the Star Wars Craft Book. She has created Star Wars-themed crafts ranging from crochet to paper crafts to planters. There is something in there for all skill levels and relating to all Star Wars movies and shows.
Collect All 21 by John Booth
Geeky people of a certain age, usually those of us born in the late 1960s or early 1970s, have great nostalgia for the original Star Wars movies and all of the cultural references and personal experiences that came along with them. If you’re wishing to relive your childhood, or wanting to learn about what it was like for those of us who lived through that time, John Booth’s Collect All 21 is a must read. John takes us on his own personal journey, from the original Star Wars movie until the present, of all his experiences with Star Wars, from a young child, to being a parent of a young child.
Evolution by Daniel Loxton
Teaching critical thinking skills from an early age is vital, so that kids can make their own decisions and not get sucked in or persuaded by emotional arguments or fallacies. Daniel Loxton’s excellent children’s book on evolution, called Evolution oddly enough, is a perfect place to start. It is quite lengthy, and addresses all of the arguments that people may try to use to dismiss evolution. Read this one with your children, and discuss the many questions that will likely come up afterward. This is an important read for all families.
Ankylosaur Attack by Daniel Loxton
For kids who love dinosaurs, and especially love looking at pictures of dinosaurs, check out Ankylosaur Attack by Daniel Loxton. In the book, he weaves a storyline together that is filled with information and facts about the ankylosaur, alongside visually appealing digitally created illustrations that any dinosaur lover will enjoy. This book is aimed at young children, but parents will also enjoy reading it with their kids.
Jane Austen Comic Books From Marvel Comics
$14.99 to $19.99 each
If you prefer your Mr Darcy in comic book form, or you like a bit of very traditional romance in your graphic novel, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and now Emma from Marvel comics should appeal to you. With beautiful artwork and masterful retellings of the original stories, these aren’t to be missed.
My Little Geek
An adorable board book for your little nerdling. Or a great gift for the geeky mother or dad to be!
The Cult of Lego
Just when you thought you knew all there was to know about Lego bricks, along comes a new book called The Cult of Lego, by John Baichtal and Joe Meno. These guys have done their research and compiled it in an interesting and organized way. The book is thick, and filled with pictures and fun facts, so even those who dread books with long text (and pre-reader kids) will enjoy it. From how the bricks are made, to the fan clubs associated with the brick, just about every category you can think of is included. This is a must have for any Lego lover, young or old. It sells on Amazon.com for $24.80 and is worth every penny.
Just under $13
Who doesn’t like pancakes on a lazy weekend morning? The perfect book for any pancake lover in your family was recently released. It’s called OMG Pancakes, by Jim Belosic. We reviewed it at GeekMom.com and it just has to be mentioned here in our gift guide. If you’ve been looking for a new family tradition, pancakes may be your answer. From airplanes to space ships, Jim makes it look easy, with strategic photos and specific directions. At just under $13, this one should be a gift to yourself, as well as your favorite pancake loving friend.
The Monster Doodle Book
Just over $11
If you have any long drives over any rivers or through any woods this holiday season, this may be the book you need. It’s called The Monster Doodle Book, by Travis Nichols, and can be found for just over $11 at Amazon.com. Filled with partially finished monsters and monster themed challenges, it will keep your kids busy for hours. On our drive across the country a few months ago, we passed it around, from kids to adults. Everyone found a challenge they were willing to accept. Never underestimate the fun of a good old fashioned doodle!
Stargazer Volumes One and Two by Von Allen, Graphic Novels for Children
Three girls are transported to a magical world by an amulet that one inherited from her grandmother. Not only is this an incredibly imaginative world well-rendered by Allan’s art but, at its core, it’s about the friendship between the girls in the face of adversity. There just aren’t enough girl friendship comics in the world and to find one that’s also a well-written fantasy is a real find.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This is a must-have book for anyone who grew up in the 80’s or has a healthy appreciation of the Big Hair Decade and the classic games it spawned. It tells the story of Wade Watts, a high school kid in 2044 who spends his time in a virtual reality called the OASIS where you can be anyone and anything you can imagine. When James Halliday, the genius behind it all, dies, he leaves behind the ultimate Easter Egg. Find it and you get his company and his fortune. Wade and thousands of others obsessively study Halliday’s life and his love of the 80’s as they make their way through a virtual world laden with pop culture and video game references. It’s not all virtual though, as there are very real world consequences to their actions that will keep you guessing right up to the last page. Oh, and if you prefer your books in audio, this one is read by ubergeek, Wil Wheaton.
Owly & Wormy, Friends All Aflutter by Andy Runton
Want to introduce a young child to comics? This is the first picture book outing for Owly & Wormy who have been appearing in Andy Runton’s series of graphic novels since 2004. This beautiful full-color book will captivate pre-readers with its charm and even the youngest of children will understand the story through the expressions of the characters. Once they’ve digested this picture book, they are primed and ready for the first graphic novel, The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer.
The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists
Much like the previous Geek Dad books by Ken Denmead, publisher of GeekDad.com and GeekMom.com, this one will inspire you and your kids to try new things as you explore and learn. And although it’s a GeekDad book, you’ll find plenty of projects based on ideas from our very own GeekMom editors Kathy Ceceri, Natania Barron and Jenny Williams, so don’t think it’s exclusively for the dads of the world. Projects are rated for cost, difficulty and duration so you know exactly what you’re in for before you start. Whether it’s a weekend full of fun or an idea for a science fair project, this is a book parents and kids will both enjoy.
The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide
This beautifully illustrated guide details the animal population of the Star Wars universe. Organized by planet, it contains a brief description of each ecosystem, before delving into a more detailed account of individual species. Annotated and rendered in pen and ink, it is a beautiful and informative guide to the backdrop of the movies.
Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)
Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) is a great book of activities you might normally not encourage your child to take part in – let alone learn from.
Robot Building for Beginners (Technology in Action)
Robot Building for Beginners is a book for the high school student who wants to learn about robotics by building robots from scratch. This book takes you through electrical engineering concepts and teaches how to recycle old computer parts into cool new robots. (Full disclosure, one of our GeekMom writers is a published Apress author.)
Best of MAKE
MAKE is one of the hottest reads in the geek community. If you are just catching on to the MAKE craze and wonder what you have missed. This book gives you 75 of the best do-it-yourself projects from the first ten magazine issues.
Goodnight iPad: A Parody for the Next Generation by Ann Droyd
This Goodnight Moon parody is a sweet story of putting our electronic devices to sleep. It reminds everyone young and old that we need to disconnect sometimes.
Nursery Rhyme Comics
$18.99 retail, $12.26 Amazon (hardcover book)
An incredible assortment of artists contributed drawings to this gorgeous, contemporary hardcover collection of Mother Goose rhymes. Each poem is its own little one- or two-page comic strip. The format is genius and will appeal to both little ones and older kids. In the hands of some of the finest illustrators in the business—people like Gene Luen Yang, Raina Telgemeier, David Macauley, Dave Roman, and living legend Jules Feiffer, for Pete’s sake!—the familiar rhymes take on a dynamic new life. See our GeekMom review.
X-Files/30 Days of Night Graphic Novel
For those of us whose favorite shows have ceased to be and gone to join the choir invisible, getting new canon stories is a rare and joyous thing. This year saw the publication of a new X-Files comic, crossed over with horror franchise 30 Days of Night giving Philes new material to enjoy. This excellent horror story is great for fans of both franchises and even general horror fans will enjoy it.
The House at Chew Corner by James Hance
James Hance is the creator of “Relentlessly Cheerful Art” and his Wookie the Chew series of prints have been hugely popular with geeks. Follow the adventures of Chrisolo Robin & Wookie the Chew over 24 pages inspired by the work of A.A. Milne, George Lucas and E.H. Sheppard.
The holidays bring an end to the old year and a look ahead to new resolutions–and at the top of most resolution lists is a desire to “eat healthier and lose weight.” If you’re like my family, you are still interested in eating meat but are experimenting with part-time veganism or vegetarianism by participating in meatless Mondays. The Big Vegan cookbook by Robin Asbell is a primer on preparing vegan meals that look beautiful, taste amazing, and are easy-to- prepare. Author Asbell gently leads the reader in preparing meals that bring grains and vegetables to the fore of the dinner plate in an informative resource appropriate for the lifelong, committed vegan as well as the sustainability-minded noob.
Have any girl makers on your gift list interested in:
• Learning how to construct and wire their own beaded LED lamp?
• Repurposing and rewiring their old Gameboy charger instead of throwing it away?
• Learning how to work with polymorphic plastic (which is, frankly, a really cool, easy-to-use medium)?
• Making jewelry that glows, earphones that double as winter earmuffs, or whimsical interactive toys fuelled by solar power?
Well, first they’re going to have to learn how to solder, sew, and calculate resistor value—but Suzy Pakhchyan’s book, Fashioning Technology, makes all of these tasks seem do-able and exciting! Her book provides clear, comprehensive instructions for each of the dozen projects listed and includes lots of helpful color photos for visual learners. Additionally, the book is affiliated with an online community where young makers can find guidance, tutorials, and links to resources as well as view videos and photos of completed projects.
Can You See What I See? Toyland Express
I never thought I would say this…but now that my sons are teenagers, I miss their preschool obsession with trains and can’t help but get a little weepy-nostalgic whenever I see a preschooler in striped coveralls and an engineer’s cap… If you’re lucky enough to have an engineer-in-training on your gift list this year, know that they will adore Toyland Express, the latest addition to Walter Wick’s “Can You See What I See” series of picture-find books. The book works on a number of levels, from a simple reader, to a picture-find adventure that reinforces vocabulary and listening skills, to a sweet story of old toys that find a second life among new children, depending on the needs of the reader.
Shopping for a fan of manga? Introduce her to famous historical figures with the manga biography series from Penguin. The lives of the 14th Dalai Lama, Gandhi, or Che Guevara pop off the pages in these easy-to-read paperbacks.
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
The idea of having kitchen skills has been largely lost in the fast food, ready-to-eat American household. If you’ve got a young person in your life who could benefit from learning the basics, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is an excellent introduction to becoming adept at putting good food on the table.
Math for Grownups
If you’re shopping for a young adult who’s heading out in the world, consider a gift that will keep on giving. Math for Grownups offers up solutions to some of those real life problems that may leave you scratching your head. The author discusses the math behind big issues like figuring out just how much you can afford to pay for a new home and smaller problems like what size turkey you’ll need to feed your Thanksgiving guests. With clear and concise instructions it’s easy to calculate whether or not a big warehouse membership is worth the cost, how much carpet you’ll need to cover your floor, or (maybe more importantly) how many miles you’ll need on the treadmill to burn off one doughnut. Read the full GeekMom review.
Weslandia by Paul Fleischman
Unlike the other children at school, Wesley dislikes pizza and soda, and he refuses to cut his hair in the style worn by all of the other boys. He is an outcast, much to the dismay of his parents. Call him a geek, even. Wesley spends his summer vacation creating his own civilization complete with its own alphabet. Weslandia is a captivating picture book that is among my family’s favorites.