Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Books for Geeks
We've scoured the internet for the best books to get for the nerd in your life this holiday season.
The holiday season is probably going to look very different this year, but there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: the sacred ritual of gift-giving. While we might not be able to gather in the same way for the 2020 holiday season, we can still let the people in our lives know how much they mean to us with the perfect gift (and maybe get ourselves something nice while we’re at it—we deserve it).
We here at Den of Geek believe there is no better gift than a good book and, with nerd culture still very much mainstream culture, there is no shortage of geeky books to get the nerd in your life. From Star Wars and Star Trek to Outlander and Wheel of Time to those speculative fiction books that broke into the zeitgeist this year without a franchise to support them, here’s a list of books we recommend for every kind of geek…
Editor’s note: Den of Geek may receive a small commission from items purchased through the links in this story.
The Eye of the World 30th Anniversary Edition by Robert Jordan
For the “Wheel of Time” fan in your life.
We’re all excited about the forthcoming Amazon Prime adaptation of the Wheel of Time series, especially long-time fans of Jordan’s fantasy epic. It’s been 30 years since the series launched, and this special 30th Anniversary Edition of the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, helps capture all the magic of reading the book for the first time. This edition features a new introduction by Brandon Sanderson, a hardcover stamp of the snake-wheel symbol so important to the series, redesigned jacket art, and a ribbon bookmark. Whether you want to give this to a longtime fan or whether you’re hoping to hook an epic fantasy reader on the series, the high production value on this special edition makes for a great gift.
Buy The Eye of the World 30th Anniversary Edition by Robert Jordan
The Wintertime Paradox: Festive Stories from the World of Doctor Who by Dave Rudden
For the Doctor Who fan in your life.
This spin on Doctor Who features twelve stories in the “Whoverse” all set on or around Christmas. While the holiday doesn’t play an important feature in many of the stories, visions of the Doctor’s Christmas Past, Present, and Future are sure to entertain. Though most likely to appeal to fans of the series, this is also a collection marketed toward children, which makes it possible to share your love of the series with a young person in your life.
Buy The Wintertime Paradox: Festive Stories from the World of Doctor Who by Dave Rudden
Heroes’ Feast: The Official Dungeons and Dragons Cookbook
For the gamer in your life.
While cooking these recipes isn’t as simple as casting the titular spell, it does contain eighty recipes for fantasy inspired feasts. In addition to the recipes—some of which may be a little challenging for beginners, as they start from scratch rather than premade ingredients—the foods come with lore about the foods from the familiar Dungeons and Dragons cultures. Included are recipes for Feywild Eggs, “Orc” Bacon, Dwarven Mulled Wine, and Halfling Heartland’s Rose Apple and Blackberry Pie. Making some of these for game night might be a challenge, but Halfling-style Melted Cheeses with Chunky Tomato Broth sounds so good, your giftee won’t even mind if some spills on their character sheet.
Buy Heroes’ Feast: The Official Dungeons and Dragons Cookbook
Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi
For the anti-war, YA fan in your life.
It’s been a big year for Onyebuchi, with this second book in his “War Girls” series and his first adult novel, Riot Baby, hitting the shelves. Onyebuchi’s Afrofuturist YA features nineteen year old Ify as a respected medical officer on the Space Colonies, and Uzo, a synth who’s working to preserve the memories and history of wartorn Nigeria. When a virus hits the Space Colonies, Ify must return to Nigeria for answers—even though she’d pledged to leave her homeland behind. For readers who love strong Black girls leading the action in a space-bound future, this is a fantastic pick.
Buy Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
For the Eragon and space opera fan.
Fantasy readers remember Christopher Paolini from “The Inheritance Cycle,” published for YA readers, which were filled with dragons and magic. But Paolini’s first adult novel heads into space, introducing the Fractalverse setting, and focusing on a xenobiologist whose encounter with an ancient, alien artifact sends her across the galaxy, where the fate of humanity rests on her shoulders. This is a great choice for fans who grew up on Paolini’s YA novels, or for readers who like doorstopper sci fi.
Buy To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
The Hollow Ones by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
For fans of The Strain.
The Strain had four seasons on FX, and the horror drama procedural won fans and awards. The show was based on a trilogy of novels from master of horror Guillermo del Toro and literary heavyweight Chuck Hogan, who have now reunited on a fresh series. The Hollow Ones follows a young FBI agent who discovers an otherworldly evil when it takes over her partner—and forces her to kill him in self defense. For fans who love their procedurals with a heavy dose of horror, this is sure to keep their spines tingling.
Buy The Hollow Ones by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian by Phil Szostak
For fans of Baby Yoda.
The Mandalorian has clearly been a breakout show for Disney+, putting new life into the Star Wars universe, and featuring everyone’s favorite new character, The Child (aka Baby Yoda). The end of each episode features concept art designed for the show, and for viewers who love seeing where the ideas germinated, The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian is a fantastic way to dig into the details of the first season.
Buy The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian by Phil Szostak
Cemetery Boys by Aidan Thomas
For queer paranormal romance lovers.
Yadriel is determined to prove himself as a brujo—even though his family hasn’t accepted him as a boy. But when he raises the wrong spirit while trying to solve the mystery of his cousin’s death, everything gets more complicated. In our review, we praised the book for its groundbreaking depiction of trans identity in Latinx culture and called it “a riveting, romantic read filled with paranormal wonder.” Fans who loved the queer romance reveal in She-Ra won’t be able to stop turning pages.
Buy Cemetery Boys by Aidan Thomas
Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard
For the lover of science fiction sleuths.
This latest in de Bodard’s Xuya universe features an unlikely pair of detectives teaming up to solve a murder. Vân is a poor scholar hiding her possession of an illegal implant. Sunless Woods is a mindship who is also a thief and master of disguise. The pair have to work together to solve a murder—and unravel their own secrets. For readers who enjoyed de Bodard’s previous The Tea Master and the Detective or enjoy a good detective tale in space, this is a sure hit.
Buy Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard
Super Mario: Manga Mania by Yukio Sawada
For the NES nostalgic.
It’s the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros! This is the first Super Mario manga ever available in English, and for classic NES fans nostalgic for the good old days of their vintage system, the zany adventures contained in this volume hit all the right notes.
Buy Super Mario: Manga Mania by Yukio Sawada
Sal and Gabi Break / Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
For the young reader in your life.
The Sal and Gabi duology (Sal and Gabi Break the Universe and Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe) are ostensibly about a boy who can reach through the multiverse and bring things through to his part of reality—but they’re also about friendship, finding common ground, being your best self, and sentient AI. Most middle grade books depict middle school as an evil horrible place, as much an antagonist as the book’s real villain. The Sal and Gabi books do away with all of that. Not only is Culeco Academy the coolest middle school ever, the series manages to ramp up all the tension and drama needed without having an actual villain. (Even the people who seem villainous at first turn out to be different from expected.) These are a delight for adult readers who love middle grade fiction, but they’re even more important for middle schoolers, who deserve to see kids their age saving the multiverse in communities full of hope and love.
Buy Sal and Gabi Break / Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
Outlander Knitting: The Official Book of 20 Knits Inspired by the Hit Series by Kate Atherley
For the crafter in your life.
For fans of either Diana Gabaldon’s time-travel romance novel series or the hit Starz adaptation, this collection of patterns inspired by the show will transport your crafting friend into the Scottish Highlands. Featured among the projects are clothing, accessories, and decorations for the home.
Buy Outlander Knitting: The Official Book of 20 Knits Inspired by the Hit Series by Kate Atherley
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
For horror fans.
Compared favorably to horror-master Stephen King’s It, this classic revenge horror seamlessly combines elements of social commentary and drama. The story follows for American Indian men who, as childhood friends, experienced a disturbing event together. Now, the past has come back with a vengeance, and there’s no avoiding the violence they tried to leave behind. Jones is making his mark in the world of horror, and this is a not-to-be-missed thriller.
Buy The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Teen Titans: Raven and Beast Boy box set by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo
For DC fans.
Garcia and Picolo’s Raven and Beast Boy origin stories reinvent the characters for an audience who may have already met them in kid-friendly Teen Titans Go! or adult-aimed Titans. While the comic versions presented here draw on those previous incarnations, the stories are self-contained, giving readers both familiar and new to the DC series a chance to experience them for the first time. This hardcover box set gives the books an extra gift-worthy feeling.
Buy Teen Titans: Raven and Beast Boy box set by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo
Thorn by Intisar Khanani
For the friend who needs a fresh fairy tale.
In this retelling of “The Goose Girl,” reluctant Princess Alyrra is happy to have escaped royal life. But when she learns of a plot against the prince, she must decide whether to reclaim the heritage she wanted to leave behind, or let the kingdom fall. This beautiful hardcover edition also features an additional short story set in the same world.
Dinosaurs: The Grand Tour, Second Edition: Everything Worth Knowing about Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops by Keiron Pim
For Jurassic World and other dinosaur fans.
While the 2020 entry into the Jurassic World franchise, Camp Cretaceous, was geared toward younger viewers, plenty of adults never grow out of their love of dinosaurs. And why should they? These prehistoric terrors continue to be amazing—and modern scientists continue to make new discoveries on an almost weekly basis. This huge guide to dinosaur species offers references for more than 300 species full of colorful illustrations that show these titans in all their (feathery!) glory.
Buy Dinosaurs—The Grand Tour, Second Edition: Everything Worth Knowing about Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops by Keiron Pim
The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
For the SFF connoisseur.
This series starter is set in a contemporary New York—but the city is coming to life. But a city killer is trying to stop New York from evolving, and the city’s mortal avatars are the target of its plans. It’s not uncommon to hear people considering N. K. Jemisin the best modern writer of speculative fiction, bar none, so picking up The City We Became, her most recent novel, is a no brainer if you’re buying for someone who likes smart, quality SFF.
Buy The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
Cyber Shogun Revolution by Peter Tieryas
For the mecha enthusiast.
This triumphant conclusion to Tieryas’s United States of Japan trilogy, which can be read as a stand-alone, takes place in an alternate reality where Japan and Germany won World War II and divided the United States between them. An assassin known as Bloody Mary is determined to eliminate corruption from within the United States of Japan, regardless of the cost. It’s up to a secret police agent and a star mecha pilot to stop her, but determining enemies from friends is almost impossible. Tieryas balances the super cool world of mecha battles and spy action with searing social commentary and ethical questions, making this a challenging but imminently worthwhile read for fans of Pacific Rim.
Buy Cyber Shogun Revolution by Peter Tieryas
Star Trek: The Wisdom of Picard by Chip Carter
For the Star Trek fan in your life.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard has always been quotably wise. In this collection, Chip Carter pulls together some of the greatest lines, featuring Picard’s thoughts on leadership, justice, and space exploration. The quotes are accompanied by photography from iconic scenes of The Next Generation, making this a perfect gift for the Star Trek fan who already has everything.
Buy Star Trek: The Wisdom of Picard by Chip Carter
Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis
For fans of Arrival and Stranger Things.
This first contact story from Hugo-nominated video-essayist Ellis is set in an alternate 2007. In the world of the novel, Cora’s father has blown the whistle on the first contact cover up. Cora herself wants nothing to do with aliens, but when one of the aliens decides Cora is the only human he’ll talk to, she’s stuck in the middle of everything. For lovers of aliens and conspiracy theories, this is one to pick up.
Buy Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis
Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud
For lovers of YA court intrigue.
In this sequel to Daud’s Mirage, Amani, who has been forced to serve as the body double for Princess Maram, is on her last chance. The princess discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion, and now Maram is suspicious of anything Amani does. Yet Amani is dedicated to the cause of seeing her people free, which means she has to make a choice: continue to work from within the palace and risk her life, or flee and risk her people. For a female-centered plot that deals with consequences of colonialism, this series conclusion and its predecessor are a sure hit.
Buy Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud
Star Wars From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back
For the Star Wars fan.
Called “one of the best Star Wars books released this year” in our Den of Geek review, this anthology is packed with stories from authors both well-known and unfamiliar, whose works delve into the lives of central and side characters from The Empire Strikes Back. While some explore relationships between key characters (Luke, Leia, Obi-wan), others tackle the points of view of previously unnamed creatures (Sy-O, the space slug that swallows the Millenium Falcon). The stories are sometimes delightfully weird, other times grim or tender, and all a good gift choice for the Star Wars fan whose favorite film is still Empire.
Buy Star Wars From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back
Remina by Junji Ito
For the manga fan.
This science fiction horror story centers on Dr. Oguro, who discovers a planet that has emerged from a wormhole and names it after his daughter, Remina. But as the girl Remina rises to fame, the planet shifts its course, threatening all life on Earth. Could Remina herself be the cause? This chilling story is a classic from Eisner-winner Junji Ito newly released for an English-reading audience.
Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee by Shannon Lee
For the martial arts enthusiast.
For friends who like a little more grounded, real-world take, this exploration of Bruce Lee’s philosophies, written by his daughter, offer insight into the legendary martial artist. Although this title offers no martial arts tips, it is full of philosophy, untold stories, and inspirational takes from the cultural icon.
Buy Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee by Shannon Lee
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
For the lover of gothic horror.
When her cousin begs her to come rescue her from a mysterious doom, Noemí heads to a house in the Mexican countryside. As she looks into the secrets of both the house and her newly-wed cousin’s husband, Noemí finds that there’s more danger—real and supernatural—than she ever imagined. Set in the 1950s, this supernatural horror blends elements of Rebecca and science fiction for a chilling novel perfect for lovers of classic gothics.
Buy Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Marvel Greatest Comics: 100 Comics That Built a Universe
For the Marvel fan.
In a collection that spans the entire history of Marvel comics, characters like the Human Torch, Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the Guardians of the Galaxy show their historical origins. If you have a fan who’s waiting impatiently for the next MCU offering, this collection of some of Marvel’s defining comics from the company’s history may be just what they need to tide them over.
Buy Marvel Greatest Comics: 100 Comics that Built a Universe
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
For lovers of mythology and fairy tales.
Billed as Neil Gaiman’s Stardust meets Hindi mythology, this debut novel centers on the daughter of a star and a mortal. Sheetal tries to be normal, but when her starfire accidentally hurts her mortal father, she must travel to the celestial court in order to save him. The combination of court intrigue, mythology, and a fairy-tale like tone is perfect for YA lovers.
Buy Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews
For the romantic who needs a great stocking stuffer.
Although better known for the popular Kate Daniels series, the Ilona Andrews team (husband and wife Ilona and Gordon) has knocked it out of the park with the most recent installment in their “Hidden Legacy” series. There are now five novels and a novella in the series, with Emerald Blaze as the second book of a second arc, but while the book is most likely to resonate with readers already introduced to the character, it’s also a stand-alone magic-spy-action-adventure-romance. Despite that blend of genres, Team Andrews melds it all together in a world with both super cool magic and an alternate-reality Instagram, featuring characters you want to hang out with regardless of the stakes. The mass-market size also makes it perfect to slip into a stocking!