Dad book gift filter: Great topics in easy to digest booka
November 29, 2010 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Dad gift filter: Hive mind, what are your favorite books I can get as a gift for my father that are easy-to-digest-in-snippets kind of book? Topics such as self-help, wisdom, psychology, philosophy, biography, and creativity are all great.

While books such as "The Tipping Point" and "Freakonomics" are super-easy reading, they are still not "snippet-y" enough. (Though I recall he did like "How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci", which is a great book on creativity.)
posted by parma to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm, it appears it may be out of print, but you might be able to find a copy in the bargain section at your local Borders/Barnes & Noble (which is where I found mine) - The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies is a surprisingly straightforward and factual survey of lots of obscure fraternal/secret societies... minimal conspiracy and/or mystical commentary, and in true encyclopedia form it's broken into many easily digestible snippets. A good pick-up-and-browse sort of book.
posted by usonian at 7:38 AM on November 29, 2010

Taxi Driver Wisdom is a fave of mine. You can check some of it out.
posted by dbiedny at 7:39 AM on November 29, 2010

Other Colors by Orhan Pamuk - a mixture of essays, anecdotes and observations. Most aren't more than a few pages, and run the gamut from innocent childhood stories to interesting pieces of history or culture that you probably never knew.
posted by smokingmonkey at 7:40 AM on November 29, 2010

How about What The Dog Saw - which are some collected essays by Malcolm Gladwell - I find his longer stuff a bit overwrought, but enjoyed his shorter pieces.

Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat was good too - although it's been a long long time since I've read it.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:45 AM on November 29, 2010

Bill Bryson: A Short History of Nearly Everything covers science. It's fabulous and you can read it in any order.

Gombrich: A Little History of the World covers history from antiquity to WWI and recently became popular after only lately being translated into English. The fact it only goes to WWI offers an interesting perspective we no longer have, having subsequently been through WWII.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:49 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Intellectual Devotional series is pretty much what you're looking for. Short articles on a variety of topics, all bound up in a nice looking book.
posted by cosmicbandito at 7:52 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Intellectual Devotional, I got it for Christmas a few years back and still enjoy it in snippets.
posted by ldthomps at 8:21 AM on November 29, 2010

What constitutes a "snippet" here? I look for books that can be read out loud within 5 or 10 minutes, for example, or books that have nicely self-contained chapters. Given your rejection of Freakonomics, though, those still might not be what you're looking for.

He might like something like the Book of Lists. The Schott's Miscellany/Almanac series is kind of similar, but I found it TOO snippety, if possible. It was too easy for my brain to jump around.

Charles Panati's books have always been super fun reads for me. I could read Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things over and over (and have, thus necessitating a new copy).

How about Ken Jennings' Trivia Almanac? It's arranged more nicely, but it's still "readable" in a way that the Schott's books aren't.

(I realize that these come off as trivia books, but they're well-written enough that they stimulate me to think about different things, and that inspires my creativity, wisdom, self-help, etc. YMMV!)

This book is another sort of almanac-y book by a local author, but it has a lot of interesting, relatable stories about classical music and musicians. He has another more recent one in the same format.
posted by Madamina at 8:51 AM on November 29, 2010

The Greatest Stories Never Told series is nothing but snippets. So far there are 3 or 4 of them, I think. My own dad loved the one I gave him for Christmas 2 years ago. :)
posted by AllieTessKipp at 9:32 AM on November 29, 2010

I've had "An Incomplete Education" in my bathroom for ages; it's ripping good snippet-reading.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:14 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Classics: The Book of Questions, Fulghum's Life's Little Instruction Book or Everything I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten, a daily devotional if he's an organized religion guy.

The Tiny Art Director book is great and very snippet-y.

If your dad enjoys any columnists, a book that collects their columns would work. Andy Rooney, Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck...
posted by brainwane at 10:30 AM on November 29, 2010

Response by poster: Some great recommendations - thank you all. I guess I should have clarified/done a better job in my initial post: I was actually hoping for more 1) wisdom rather than knowledge about historic or scientific fact and 2) not so much essays - even essays are probably too long. Short ultra mini-stories - a paragraph or two, might work well, though. At times I see something like this or those small Zen Buddhism mini-stories books one sees by the checkout line at your local big ticket bookstores and wonder if there are similar books out there that you all recommend.
posted by parma at 11:22 AM on November 29, 2010

Yay, another chance to recommend Tales of the Dervishes. Based on your last response, this is pretty much exactly what you are looking for.
posted by carsonb at 12:35 PM on November 29, 2010

Is he interested in architecture, design or construction? If so, he might enjoy books on these topics which are easy to digest in snippets, such as Danish Chairs, Finnish Summer Houses and The Genius of Japanese Carpentry. That's the tip if the iceberg but these all are easily digested in bits and are strong thematically. And while you did just say not too sciency, the one snippety book that I've enjoyed was Molecules at an Exhibition.
posted by Dick Paris at 4:33 PM on November 29, 2010

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