Holiday geek gifts galore!

By Phil Plait | December 21, 2011 1:34 pm

So the clock is ticking, and you’re panicking. You wanna get a gift for the geek in your life (which, in all fairness, may just be you) and you don’t know what to do!

Never fear. Here’s some ideas for you. I understand it’s pretty late in the game, and you may not be able to procure some of these by Christmas, but hey, Hannukah still has a week to go, and if you’re really late, then you can claim it’s a gift for perihelion (January 5th). So there’s still a chance.


Chances are, someone you know can read. Here are a few books from this past year I liked.

Tattoos are not the social stigma they used to be. Many incredibly intelligent, talented, and wonderful people get them, (cough cough). Of course, a subset of those folks will be geeks, science or otherwise. Carl Zimmer, who writes the blog The Loom for Discover Magazine, collected a bunch of sciencey ink and put them in a photo book called, oddly enough, Science Ink. It has lots of pictures of science-based tattoos, and explanations by Carl on the meaning behind the ink. It’s a pretty interesting book, and I was surprised to see two friends of mine in it (including Scott Sigler). And no, I’m not in it. That’s a story for another blog post.

It’s available at Barnes and Noble (for half price!) as well as everywhere else that sells books (though I’ve been told Amazon is out of stock). I can’t wait for the audio book version!

If you follow @FakeAPStylebook on Twitter, then you may already know about Write More Good, a very funny satirical guide to journalism. However, given the state of journalism today, it’s only barely satire; most news organizations are self-satirizing. Still, the book has a lot of great advice, especially if you’re just starting out in muckraking as a blogger/writer: for example, on social networking, it says, "A fad, safely ignored". It also discusses science blogging: "Write about exciting new technological advances and cutting-edge science endeavors for a public that thinks creationism is accurate." The section on pseudoscience alone is worth the price of the book.

The folks who put this together sent me a copy, letting me know they really like my blog, but I’ll note that nowhere in the book am I mentioned, even obliquely. Because of this slight, I will recommend you only buy one copy. Here’s where it’s available online.

If you’ve followed my blog for more then 60 nanoseconds, then you know the mancrush I have on Zach Weiner and his Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal web comic. Unlike those thoughtless jerks who did Write More Good, Zach has put me into his comics several times, and is responsible for my avatar on Twitter, in fact. But even without that, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you to go buy his latest book, The Most Dangerous Game, a collection of his comics. It’s really really funny and maybe just a wee bit NSFW.

He also has a shop with t-shirts, bumper stickers, and a poster of his "Dear Human" strip which, like all his existential comics, is extremely funny and biting.

I’ll add that Randall Munroe of the brilliant xkcd also has a store with tons of great stuff like books, posters, and shirts. You should buy stuff there, too.

This is a bit awkward, but I’d be remiss not to plug my pal Chris Hardwick’s book, The Nerdist Way. Why is this awkward? Because, um, I haven’t precisely read it yet. I really want to, as Chris is nothing short of freaking brilliantly hilarious, runs one of the best and funniest podcasts in the known Universe, and is also a major Doctor Who fan, barely edging me out in that category. And it’s also a bit ironic, as the book is about how to manage your life as a nerd, and it’s all my nerdly things getting in the way of me sitting down and reading the book. Maybe if I read it first, then I’d figure out how to have time to read it.

Still, I’m so sure this book is fantastic that if you buy it and don’t like it, Chris will personally come to your house and lick any piece of furniture you choose*.

You should buy my book, too. And the other one as well. And, by coincidence (really), my Hive Overmind co-blogger Sean Carroll just put up a list of science books he recommends, too.


My friend Marian Call is one of the most talented singer/songwriters in existence, and all I need for evidence is her latest album, Something Fierce. Go to that link, listen to it for free, then buy it. Just to show you how cool she is, she was getting notes from people who were saying they couldn’t afford her album, so she set up a pseudoscholarship where you can buy the album for someone else less fortunate. Like I said, she’s cool.


Sticking with the redheaded friend theme, Emily Lakdawalla, who writes The Planetary Society Blog, is a great writer but what I didn’t know is that she has impressive Photoshop skillz, too. She put together a really cool poster of all the planets and big moons to scale, a perfect gift for a kid who wants some spacey goodness on their bedroom wall. She’s created a lot of posters for the Planetary Society, in fact, any of which would make a great gift.

Speaking of which, the European Southern Observatory just made a 2012 calendar (hey, why does it end on December 21?) featuring gorgeous images of and from the ESO facilities. It’s huge — 42 x 42 cm — and is really nice (I have one they sent me). My favorite shot is the one showing lightning bolts equipped with friggin’ lasers.

Also, The Planetary Society put out a 2012 desktop calendar called The Year in Space which has tons of beautiful photos, and an essay by… Emily Lakdawalla! I have a copy of this as well, and it’s really cool.

Other Geekery

Got a skeptic/geek/scientist in the family? Then I strongly recommend getting some of Amy Roth’s wonderful SurlyAmy ceramic jewelry! She has a vast variety of extremely cool stuff, and it’s a great way to display your nerdlitude. My wife and daughter have quite a few of Amy’s pieces, and they always generate interest and comments from people.

Think Geek is now selling Len Peralta’s complete Geek-A-Week card set, which includes many of your favorite people like Veronica Belmont, Wil Wheaton, Brea Grant, the Rifftrax guys, and…me! I’ve written about all this many times, so go here, click the links, then buy lots of these decks for your friends.

I wrote about this last week, but I’ll mention it again: My Robot Nation lets you design and create your own adorable robot using their 3D printing techniques. Check that link for pictures of the one my daughter and I designed. It was a lot of fun!

That’s it for me; I could list lots more but this should be enough to get you started. If you have things you like, then please leave a comment below for others to investigate.

And, of course: Happy Holidays!

* Offer not available within +/- 1000 km of the Earth’s surface.


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