This year, I got so pumped about several different non-fiction titles, which is rare for me (I’m more of a fiction kind of girl). So I wrote up a list of some great gifty ones. Christmas may be over, but birthdays are all year!
When I give someone a gift, it is usually accompanied with their sarcastic, “Geeeeee, I wonder what this could be!” Yeah, they know it’s a book. Even people who aren’t big readers inevitably receive one from me, often something non-fiction that fits their interests. Being a bookseller, it’s basically my job to shove books into the hands of unsuspecting reluctant readers, and I take that responsibility very seriously.
Here are my 2015 picks for some awesome non-fiction titles that every nerd in your life will love. There’s not much time left, so call your local indie today so they can hold or order it!
Science & History
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Monroe
The latest awesome science title from the creator of the webcomic xkcd, learn about the other worlds around the sun (the solar system), the big flat rocks we live on (tectonic plates), planes with turning wings (helicopters), and much more with only line drawings and common language to teach you.
It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright
A history of the worst breakups in history and their consequences throughout time, including Emperor Nero, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, and of course the most infamous heartbreaker (and head-remover), King Henry VIII.
Superbetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient — Powered by the Science of Games by Jane McGonigal
In 2009, McGonigal created a game to help people in the recovery process get healthier and happier. In her new book, she reveals her research into how games affect our responses to stress and pain. She shares stories and data from players who have followed the SuperBetter rules to get stronger, happier, and braver in the face of depression, anxiety, illness, and injury, as well as to achieve major goals like losing weight or finding a new job.
Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science—and the World by Rachel Swaby
Swaby profiles centuries of under-represented but incredibly significant female scientists who helped create the world as we know it. She also separates them by their fields of study, such as Medicine, Physics, Invention, and Technology.
Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton
Another great installment of comics by Kate Beaton, inspired by history, classic literature, and art. My favorites are the Wonder Woman and Straw Feminist comics. Just as funny as her first collection and well worth it!
Pop Sonnets: Shakespearean Spins on Your Favorite Songs by Erik Didriksen
Ever wondered how the Bard would write a Backstreet Boys tune? Starting a Tumblr, Didriksen re-writes pop songs from Bon Jovi to Beyonce in Shakespearean sonnet format. The results are hilarious and leave you wanting more.
Thug Notes: A Street-Smart Guide to Classic Literature by Sparky Sweets, PhD
Way better than CliffNotes, Thug Notes is based on the hit YouTube series with plot breakdowns and masterful analyses of beloved classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Hamlet, and Lord of the Flies. Perfect for the straight-up literary gangster in your life!
Felines of New York: A Glimpse into the Lives of New York’s Feline Inhabitants by Jim Tews
A hilarious parody of Humans of New York, learn about the secret lives of cats living in New York City with over 100 pictures and quotes from these glamorous and opinionated felines.
Tolkien: An Illustrated Atlas by David Day
This gorgeous book with a heat-burnished dragon on the faux-leather cover is the perfect gift for the Tolkien nut in your life. Full-color maps and illustrations make for a fascinating journey through Middle-earth and the Undying Lands.
Last Night’s Reading: Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors by Kate Gavino
Gavino chronicles attended author events with memorable hand-lettered quotations and portraits of the author. This book is a testament to reading, bookstores, and writers, celebrating the joy of attending book readings, meeting admired authors, and sharing the experience with other book lovers.
Harry Potter: Magical Places from the Films: Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and Beyond by Jody Revenson
I can guarantee that every person knows at least one HP nerd, and this is the gift for them. It provides a comprehensive look at all the locations in the films that brought the story to life, from design and creative process to final results and behind-the-scenes photographs. The keepsake book is bound in a debossed leatherette with a removable poster and interactive booklet. (Yeah, my bookseller is showing.)
When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning
An inspiring story for book lovers and history buffs alike, Manning tells the story of librarians’ crusade to send free books to soldiers in WWII, as well as the joint venture between the War Department and publishing companies to produce 120 million lightweight pocket-sized paperbacks for the troops.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
The star of The Guild and fan favorite from Supernatural delivers in her much-anticipated memoir. Learn about Day’s homeschooled childhood, her struggle with gaming addiction, and of course her take on the GamerGate debacle.
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
This feminist pioneer has inspired millions with her liberating truthbombs and strong persona. This new book chronicles Ginsburg’s life as well as her historical sitting as Supreme Court Justice. Remember, you can’t spell Truth without Ruth.
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped History…and Our Future! by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl
As hard as it must’ve been to narrow down one awesome woman per letter, somehow Schatz and Stahl came up with this diverse and brilliant list about some of America’s greatest innovators, from A is for Angela (Davis) to Z is for Zora (Neale Hurston). Though technically a book targeted at children, Rad American Women has lots of accessible information and great illustrations for any age. You can even buy a corresponding t-shirt for any letter!
Cranky Ladies of History edited by Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner Roberts
Created with the help of crowdfunding, Cranky Ladies is a celebration of 22 women who challenged “appropriate” behavior. The book is comprised of short essays by various writers, including Jane Yolen, Juliet Marillier, and Garth Nix, with a diverse range of cultures, historical periods, and reasons for notoriety, plus a gorgeous cut-paper silhouette cover done by Kathleen Jennings.
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs
Maggs gives the ultimate guide to geekdom for any ladies living the nerd life, with a fun and feminist take on an often male-dominated culture. With great illustrations by the talented Kelly Bastow, this book provides cheat codes for everything from finding nerdy friends to attending conventions to rocking cosplay. It even includes interviews with other geeky girls like Kate Leth and Kate Beaton.
Geeky Chef Cookbook: Real Life Recipes for Your Favorite Fantasy Foods by Cassandra Reeder
Geek out with recipes from movies, TV shows, video games, and books that are uncomplicated and also delicious! Reeder, a self-described bona-fide mega-geek, creates real-life foods from franchises that span all levels of nerd, from Doctor Who and Game of Thrones to Legend of Zelda and Star Trek. Over 60 recipes and photos are included!
League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History by Jon Morris
Ever hear of Bee Man? How about Doctor Hormone, or the Spider Queen? There’s probably a reason for that. Learn about one hundred of the comic book industry’s biggest flops and oddest superhero ideas, complete with backstories and vintage art.
Geek Knits: Over 30 Projects for Fantasy Fanatics, Science Fiction Fiends, and Knitting Nerds by Joan of Dark (aka Toni Carr)
With projects ranging in difficulty, this book teaches knitters how to make a Doctor Who Blue Box Scarf, Dragon Rider shrug, and even a knitted direwolf. It includes careful detailed steps and even photos of nerdy celebrities with relevant items, among whom are George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Adam Savage. Not only is the book itself a great gift for any nerdy knitter you know, but the projects inside would all make great gifts as well!