For Christmas, I want to give my Dad a collection of thought-provoking, idea-filled things to read or listen to - things that inspire discussion, reflection, imagination, and curiosity. His specific preferences and a few ideas I've had already are inside.
My Dad likes big ideas. He'll get grabbed by a theory (I think he talked about The Tipping Point and Panarchy for a year), a novel (he told everybody he knows to read A Gate at the Stair by Lorrie Moore), a cause or theory (he's currently HUGE on the science of resilience, and also water conservation), an artist (could be a musician, a painter, etc), or a philosopher (last I checked it was William James) and really dive in for a time. He loves debate, good discussions and challenging ideas.
For Christmas I want to get him a collection of things to read, look at or listen to that will be thought-provoking and full of great ideas. I will read the stuff I give him so we can discuss it during vacation.
Relevant info about my Dad: his profession is in the arts; he very much enjoys reading about science but is by no means a scientist himself (but I am, so I often talk to him about sciency stuff). He has a degree in a subtype of classical music, and while he's not closed minded about ALL other types of music (Mongolian music? Great!), I have yet to hear him admit that modern pop or rap is even music at all. He's a bit snooty about literature and so far claims that there is no science fiction or fantasy writing - NONE - that is literature in any way (but as you'll see, I'm not giving up). He will not read anything that is "self-help" in any way.
So far, I am planning to get him:
collection of Ted Chiang stories. As I mentioned, he claims that there is no such thing as good science fiction, but I am attempting to change his mind. (Don't worry - we often attempt to convince each other of things. He won't mind.)
2. Several episodes of Radiolab ("Time", "Memory and Forgetting", "After Life", "Limits", "Words")
3. This book
about willpower (probably).
Things in the right spirit that he's already seen/read/heard (just to give a better sense of what I'm looking for):
1. The Ken Burns series on America's national parks.
2. A book of Andy Goldsworthy's work.
3. A CD of Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road ensemble.
Any genre is good. History, politics, biology, ecology, cosmology, philosophy, visual art, music, novels, essays, biographies... anything that's got great ideas and lots to think about.