`Tis the season to buy a book for that nerd or geek in your life! Let GNN help you pick the right one!
Christmas is just around the corner. If you have a geek or nerd in your life, you can’t go wrong with buying them a good book. Sure, you can grab them gift cards, but I’ve always felt that handing someone a good book that they can touch and feel is always better.
Before I get to some recommendations for this holiday season, I’d like to give a shout out to independent bookstores. Instead of hopping on Amazon, you should try to Google your local independent bookstores. Buying a book (or two…or three…) from an independent, small business is like giving two gifts: one to your friend or loved one and one to the small business owner who can use every dollar, especially in these difficult times. I tried to link each book to different booksellers to “spread the wealth” this holiday season, but don’t be afraid to search for these books at your local, independently-owned bookstore.
So, without further ado, here are some recommendations of books to purchase for that geek or nerd in your life.
For Fans of Biographies
On a recent trip to a local bookstore, I noticed that there are a lot of geek-focused biographies available this holiday season. One that looks extraordinarily interesting is No Time Like the Future, Michael J. Fox’s recently released biography. In it, Fox shares personal stories and observations about illness and health, aging, the strength of family and friends, and how our perceptions about time affect the way we approach mortality. While the book might not be as heavy on Back to the Future stories as some would like, it’s an interesting and surprisingly humorous look into the life of an 80s icon.
Another recent release that looks like an excellent read is Alex Trebek’s The Answer Is…Reflections on My Life. While the book was published in July 2020, with Trebek’s recent passing, this book has returned to the forefront. In the book, the long-time Jeopardy! host recounts his life and relationships, as well as his work in television. Alex Trebek has been a mainstay in American pop culture for over 30 years. His memoirs would most likely make for excellent reading for anyone who’s a fan of pop culture, Jeopardy, or Alex Trebek himself.
Finally, another biography for the geek in your life is Jerry Seinfeld’s Is This Anything, the first book from Seinfeld in 25 years. For this biography, which released in October, Jerry selected his favorite material, organized decade by decade. In page after hilarious page, one brilliantly crafted observation after another, you’ll witness the evolution of one of the great comedians of our time and gain new insights into the thrilling but unforgiving art of writing stand-up comedy.
For Fans of Weird Al
If you’ve got a “Weird Al” Yankovic fan in your life, 2020 has been a fantastic year for books. This year, three books centered around the pop culture musical icon have been published, each with a different theme.
The Weird Accordion to Al, written by Nathan Rabin (with Al’s help), covers the weird one’s career, album by album, in “obsessive detail,” according to the cover. If your friend or loved one is a true Al-oholic, you can plunk down a few extra dollars for the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Edition of the book, which does a deeper dive of the King of Parody.
Another Al-centric book that released this year is Weird Al Seriously, written by Lily E. Hirsch. In this book, for the first time, the parodies, original compositions, and polka medleys of the Weird Al universe finally receive their due respect. Hirsch weaves together original interviews with the prince of parody himself, creating a fresh take on comedy and music’s complicated romance. She reveals that Yankovic’s jests have always had a deeper meaning, addressing such topics as bullying, celebrity, and racial and gender stereotypes.
If you’ve got a Weird Al fan in your life that isn’t a big reader, you can always grab them a copy of Black & White & Weird All Over. This book presents hundreds of images of Al, culled from his drummer, Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz’s personal collection of black-and-white photography. The book contains rare photos, including behind-the-scenes shots taken on the sets of Al’s iconic videos for “Ricky,” “I Love Rocky Road,” “Eat It,” and “Living With A Hernia,” and studio sessions for Al’s IN 3-D and Polka Party! LPs. This unique book is a great gift for the Weird Al fan who has everything.
For Fans of Action, Adventure, and Thrills
If you’ve got a nerd in your life who lives vicariously through the heroes in books and video games, 2020 has been a great year for action-packed books that will keep the book lover in your life happy for months.
If you know someone who was a fan of the bestselling novel Ready Player One, they’ll most likely love Ernest Cline’s sequel, Ready Player Two. This new novel, which released in November, picks up almost immediately after the events in the first novel, and finds hero discovering a hidden secret that will once again change the world and make the OASIS virtual world a thousand times more wondrous—and addictive—than even Wade dreamed possible. However, an unexpected, impossibly powerful, and dangerous new rival awaits, one who’ll kill millions to get what he wants.
If someone you know loves pop culture, the first book was full of fun pop culture references and tributes to video games, movies, television, and comic books from the 70s through the present. While the reviews of Cline’s new novel have been a bit harsh, if you know someone who loved the first novel and all the pop culture goodness it contained, grab them a copy of this new adventure…odds are, they’ll love it.
If you have someone in your life who’s a fan of shows like Law and Order or any of the CSI offerings, author Michael Connelly is worth checking out. If they’re a fan of the movie The Lincoln Lawyer (starring Matthew McConaughey), Connelly released a new book in the Lincoln Lawyer series this year: The Law of Innocence. In this entry, defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is charged with murder and can’t make bail. Mickey elects to defend himself and must strategize and build his defense from his jail cell. Mickey knows he’s been framed, so with the help of his trusted team, including Harry Bosch, he has to figure out who has plotted to destroy his life and why. Then he has to go before a judge and jury and prove his innocence. I’ve read every entry in the Lincoln Lawyer series and can highly recommend every book in the series. If you have a family member or friend who loves fast-paced books filled with action, twists, and turns, they’ll love The Law of Innocence.
If you or someone you know loves Michael Connelly, there’s a second new release available for purchase this Christmas: Fair Warning. This novel features lesser-used Connelly character Jack McEvoy, an investigative reporter in Los Angeles. While a book about a reporter doesn’t sound super thrilling, this novel has McEvoy tracking down a vicious killer who targets women, using genetic data to select and stalk his targets; this novel sounds amazing. If it’s anything like Connelly’s other works, it’ll be sure to have plenty of twists, turns, and amazing moments.
If a good scare is what the nerd in your life is looking for, an interesting choice would be the works of Impractical Jokers star James “Murr” Murray and co-writer Darren Wearmouth. His recently released novel, Don’t Move and his Awakened trilogy are the perfect gifts for the reader who loves jump scares and edge-of-your seat thrills.
In Don’t Move, a woman with a tragic past looks to move past the tragedy by taking a camping trip with her church group. When the group takes a wrong turn, they go up against an unseen enemy who is seemingly everywhere. It’s a great read that a voracious reader could finish on a cold evening next to a fire or tucked warmly in bed.
The Awakened trilogy is equally thrilling. In this trilogy, a small group of people, led by the mayor of New York City, fight back when subterranean creatures are unearthed with the opening of a new subway line. The creatures are vicious and seemingly invincible killing machines. The trilogy is a fast-paced adventure that has some great surprises and a lot of action. If you know a reader who loves a good, gripping thriller, these novels will fit the bill.
Another author who’s written some real action-packed page turners is David Baldacci. Baldacci has crafted several unique characters, including an assassin with a conscious, an investigator who suffered a traumatic brain injury that leaves him with a perfect memory but a stilted personality, and an FBI agent whose sister was kidnapped when they were young. Baldacci’s characters are deep and interesting, and he’s released a couple books recently that are worth a purchase for someone who’s looking for adventure this holiday season.
One such Baldacci novel is Daylight, which brings two of his characters, Atlee Pine and John Puller, together to investigate the kidnapping of Atlee’s sister when they were children. I’ve read dozens of Baldacci novels, and he always delivers thrilling stories and interesting characters. I highly recommend his novels to anyone in your life that loves a good thriller.
Speaking of thrillers, Baldacci’s latest offering in the Memory Man series, Walk the Wire, sounds amazing. In it, Amos Decker (the titular “Memory Man”) and his FBI colleague Alex Jamison are called to London, North Dakota, where they instantly sense that the thriving fracking town is ripe for trouble. The promise of a second gold rush has attracted an onslaught of newcomers all hoping for a windfall, and the community is growing faster than houses can be built. The sudden boom has also brought a slew of problems with it, including drugs, property crimes, prostitution — and murder. Baldacci’s stories start fast and end explosively…sometimes both literally and figuratively. If you’re looking for a good thriller with plenty of action, the Memory Man series is a great place to start.
If you have a fan of The Hunger Games in your life, odds are they ran out and grabbed The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel to the series we all know and love. This new entry in the series by Suzanne Collins takes readers back to the tenth Hunger Games, where eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute. If, by some chance, a fan of The Hunger Games in your life hasn’t picked up this book, which dropped in May, it would make a great gift for the holiday.
The final author I’d like to recommend for the geek or nerd in your life is pretty much a given: Stephen King. King released a collection of longer form short stories titled If It Bleeds earlier this year. While King’s novels are usually fantastic, some of his short stories are amazing, as well. Many have been made into iconic films, including “The Body” (Stand By Me) and “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” (Shawshank Redemption). Like Four Past Midnight, Different Seasons, and most recently Full Dark, No Stars, If It Bleeds is a uniquely satisfying collection of longer short fiction by an incomparably gifted writer.
If you’d like to pair If It Bleeds with a more traditional King novel, The Institute, which released late last year, is a recommended choice. In this sci-fi thriller, children with special abilities are being kidnapped and sent to “The Institution,” where the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. As each new victim disappears, a group of children becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute. Simply put, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.
Some Other Authors Worth Checking Out
Before I wrap this up, I’d like to recommend some authors and series that might not be new but are definitely worth checking out for the reader in your life.
If you’ve got a friend or family member who’s a fan of zombies and superheroes, one series I highly recommend is the Ex-Heroes series by Peter Clines. In this series, which takes place in a world where both zombies and superheroes exist, a group of heroes have bunkered down in an old movie studio in California and fight not only the undead, but supervillains as well. The series is fun; the characters are creative and deep; and the action is fast paced. I can’t recommend this series enough.
If you’re looking for another series with unique characters and fast-paced action, you should check out Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series. Myron is a lanky, self-deprecating, former NBA basketball star, who becomes a sports agent after a shattered knee ended his basketball career. His big heart and generous manner often lead to him playing detective for his clients who have problems that need solving. Myron’s colleague, Esperanza, and his billionaire best friend, Win, often help him out with his cases. This unique group of misfits have some great adventures that have spanned a dozen novels. Grab a copy of the first novel in the series, Deal Breaker, for the thrill-seeking reader in your life!
A final author whose works I highly recommend is Robert Crais. His bestselling series focuses on detective Elvis Cole and his stalwart partner Joe Pike. Cole is most definitely one of the most unique detectives around. He has a Mickey Mouse phone and a Pinocchio wall clock in his office on Santa Monica Boulevard, drinks his coffee out of a Spider-Man mug, quotes Jiminy Cricket and claims he wants to be Peter Pan. He’s been known to drive a bright yellow 1966 Corvette, and has one of the coolest P.I. homes around, a “redwood A-frame perched on a narrow road off Woodrow Wilson Drive near the top of Laurel Canyon.” Joe Pike is the polar opposite; he’s an ex-Marine and part-time mercenary. The duo is the perfect odd couple and each book (case) that features them is better than the next. The series starts with 1987’s The Monkey’s Raincoat but gets stronger as it goes. 2019’s A Dangerous Man is certainly an evolution of an already fast-paced, interesting, action-packed, and surprisingly humorous detective series.
Hopefully, these recommendations will help you grab some last-minute gifts for the book lover in your life this holiday season. I won’t tell anyone if you pick up a copy of any of these books yourself. If you can’t spend the holidays with your loved ones for whatever reason, there are far worse ways to spend your time than curled up with a great book.
Thanks for reading! From me and the rest of the GNN team, have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season!