13 Books for 10 Kinds of Nerd
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If you’re looking to get a present for someone who ranks high on the geek-scale, then you might want to consider one of these recommendations. I'm nerdy about a lot of stuff, so chances are I've read a great book that you might be interested in!
The Physics Nerd
If you’re interested in physics and you haven’t yet read Stephen Hawking or Richard Feynman, then you’re really missing out. Even though Hawking’s books are written for anyone to read, I think they are great even for people studying Physics and science at higher levels. Why? Because it lets you take a step back from the numbers and the formulas and actually think about the ideas.
Stephen Hawking: A brief history of time
I also have to mention another one that is a must read for any Physics nerd, and that’s The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. This one has a bit more to chew on than Hawking’s book, and goes into String Theory in detail. It’s a great read though and a must-have for any geek.
There are so many great books out there for people interested in the planet and the environment. I particularly like The World Without Us by Alan Weisman because it’s basically a thought experiment about what the planet would be like without human beings.
It also, in concept, reminds me a lot of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake series which is a fictional story about what would happen if people were largely wiped off the planet.
The History Nerd
Wow there are so many great books about history to draw upon it’s hard to pick here, but one of my favourites combines spyware, cryptography, and history. I came across The Code Book a number of years ago and trust me it’s a great read. If you want to know more about cryptography, from the Navajo Code Talkers of the second world war to the story of how Mary, Queen of Scots was trapped by her own code, then this is the book for you.
Also for History nerds there’s a great book I read by Tom Standage called A History of the World in 6 Glasses. Culturally, so much of our lives revolves around what we eat and drink. Standage tells the history of the world, from the Stone Age to present time, through our favourite beverages: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Great read and makes you think about what you drink!
The Biology Nerd
This might seem like an odd choice of book for biology considering the wide range of options, but I think everyone should read this book. When I first read The Promise of Sleep many years ago, I was under the firm belief (and I even still say this sometimes) that “You can sleep when you’re dead.” However our quality of life, health, and happiness is so rooted in this physical process. Learn it from the expert.
The Space Nerd
Being that I started out so interested in aerospace engineering, and that I’m Canadian, then it’s no surprise that I have to recommend this great book by our own Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. Hadfield is witty, entertaining, and has so many great stories about what it’s like to train your whole life to go into space. He’s logged nearly 4000 hours in space, and has done some pretty crazy things - including breaking into the International Space Station with a swiss army knife!
The Computer Nerd
I don’t know what put me onto it this year, but I had a sudden urge to learn everything about the history of the Internet. We take it so much for granted in our lives today, but it started out as something very different - did you know the Internet was built as a military system called ARPANET? I read a great book called Inventing the Internet written by Janet Abbate that tells it all.
The Economy Nerd
If you’re into economics and you haven’t read Freakonomics, then what are you waiting for? This book is such a good read and applies economic theory to all kinds of diverse topics, including the economics of drug dealing, teaching, child rearing, and even the Ku Klux Klan and Sumo wrestling. It’s a controversial book that many people have refuted parts of, but whether you take it or leave it you need to read it to have a good debate.
The Video Game Nerd
If you’re a video game nerd and you can take some time away from gaming to read a book, then reading Extra Lives - Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell should be top of your list. Bissell is an excellent writer, his narrative style is engaging and genuine. He discusses how video games are a form of “popular” art and don’t get a lot of recognition for the beautiful artwork. He also ponders why it is that we like playing games. It’s well worth a read!
The Lord of the Rings Nerd
If you’re a lover of Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, then you’ve probably wondered how these geniuses came up with these stories. Tolkien was a keen historian and linguist, and the forefather of a whole genre of literature. He is known as one of the most influential British authors - even up to today. The Oxford Inklings is a story that goes behind-the-scenes to describe the lives of the men behind the books.
…And now, a book about Dinosaurs!
Since all nerds at some point in their lives love dinosaurs, all nerds should read The Great Dinosaur Debate by Robert Bakker. This was the sensational book that turned a lot of heads when Bakker suggested that dinosaurs were agile, fast, warm-blooded animals. Bakker was the consultant for the first Jurassic Park movie. This book has lots of nice illustrations and describes in great details how dinosaurs lived.