Book recommendations for a nerdy, super smart, often silly uncle?
December 10, 2013 9:18 PM   Subscribe

What newly released books would my nerdy, geeky, incredibly smart, completely rad uncle enjoy?

I want to get my uncle three or four books for Xmas. He's amazing, but his interests are very different than mine, and I have a hard time picking out things he'd like. He's nerdy: he writes about tech stuff for a living. He loves strong male figures: James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, George Washington, but he's nowhere near a "bro" or the stereotypical masculine identity. He loves David Foster Wallace. He's so smart I sometimes trip up talking to him because he thinks in such complex ways. He's also totally goofy: he loves webcomics and absurd Sci-Fi B movies (Mansquito!). He has a dark sense of humor. He likes both fiction and non-fiction. I'm hoping for newer releases, preferably in the last few years. One book on my list is Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half, which I know he would connect with and enjoy.
What are some book recommendations for my totally awesome uncle?
posted by missmary6 to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
If he likes David Foster Wallace, he might appreciate reading Nabokov's Pale Fire, which is about a fake biography of a fake poet and his fake poem. Nabokov was also an influence on DFW. To make the book special, you could pair it with this separate set of commemorative cards that breaks out the poem into index cards as they're described in the book. While Pale Fire is not new, the cards are a new release and long-awaited by Pale Fire fans and book lovers.
posted by shivohum at 9:27 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm a 50 yo nerdy uncle type and my favorite book of the year (although published in 2012) is The Orphan Master's Son.
posted by Edward L at 9:32 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

read any Mary Roach? she writes single-subject books on complicated topics that are painstakingly researched and, in my opinion, hilarious without being insensitive about topics like death and sex.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:34 PM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Maybe something from NPR's Best Books of 2013?
posted by bluecore at 9:48 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ready Player One?
posted by kbuxton at 10:00 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Story of Your Life - Ted Chiang. Best sci fi I've read in a long time.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:06 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nexus by Ramez Naam, and Mr Penumbra's 24 hour bookstore by Robin Sloan.
Both geek-friendly, both awesome. Nexus is very sci-fi and food for thought. Mr Penumbra is light enjoyable nerdy fun.
posted by Joh at 10:27 PM on December 10, 2013

Rice Boy - the collected run of a weird and wonderful webcomic.
posted by moonmilk at 11:37 PM on December 10, 2013

The futility closet blog has a book out now.
posted by meijusa at 11:47 PM on December 10, 2013

Maybe some selection(s) from the Best American Series. DFW edited Best Essays in 2007 and I recall reading his work in other volumes, but don't remember which series or years.
posted by she's not there at 12:00 AM on December 11, 2013

I would recommend This Is How You Die (Volume 2), edited in part by ├╝ber nerd and all-around awesome dude Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics (apparently Vol. 2 is more refined than Vol. 1). It's a compilation of short stories about how people deal with a machine that can predict exactly how you'll die -- perfect for someone with a dark sense of humor!
posted by thebots at 1:00 AM on December 11, 2013

Mr Penumbra's 24 hour bookstore by Robin Sloan

Second this one. It's great for a fun-loving nerd who's enthusiastic about smart people. It basically reads like Douglas Coupland suggested the topic for a novel by Neal Stephenson and Kermit The Frog.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:59 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Among books I liked this year, one that might fit your criteria is Countdown City, the sequel to The Last Policeman. They're science fiction crime novels with a simple premise, male protagonist, and a dark but slightly ironic tone. Countdown City is on the NPR list, and I think it's a tiny bit better than the first book, but the first book is the place to start.

I also agree with the recommendation of Ramez Naam's Nexus, mostly because your uncle writes about tech, and it's a solid techno-thriller that gets a lot of tech jargon right (the author formerly worked at Microsoft).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:41 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get him "Night Film" by Marisha Pessl. Fascinating literary mystery that's almost a multimedia experience (the prologue, for instance, is told in the format of printouts of a fake slideshow from Time magazine).
posted by jbickers at 5:07 AM on December 11, 2013

I just finished Night Film and would absolutely recommend it for your uncle, given your description. I'm getting "S" for my partner, and something like that might also go down well if your uncle might not mind something slightly experimental in format. (And if he doesn't have J. J. Abrams Issues. I sort of do, but must admit this sounds like a really fun book anyway, so I may steal it back from my partner to read.)

In the nonfiction realm, I think 100 Diagrams That Changed The World may be a super-fun gift book for a nerdy type, although it hasn't arrived yet so I can't vouch for it personally. If it's as fun as I think it's going to be, I'm getting a couple more copies for a couple of relatives for Christmas this year.
posted by Stacey at 5:12 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to tap into the James Bond-ish side, try the classic series by John D. MacDonald featuring the character Travis McGee (full disclaimer- these books are the source of my username :)
Smart, thoughtful, action-packed, and while a little dated in social attitudes, there're not nearly as bad as the Bond books!
posted by PussKillian at 5:27 AM on December 11, 2013

It's mostly centered around a female protagonist, but Chris Ware's "Building Stories" is one of the most amazing, sharpest, geekiest books I know and got fantastic reviews when it came out last year. It's a box of 14 various-sized comics in a variety of formats (one's a huge board that folds out, one's a fake children's book, one's a tiny minicomic, one's a newspaper, e.g.) that together tell a decades-long story about the inhabitants of a Chicago building. The best part is that they can be read in any order; you open the box, pull out the various comics, and dive in wherever you want and pick whichever next one you want. Check this post to the blue for more.
posted by mediareport at 6:15 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm enjoying The Fiery Alphabet by Diane Lefer. It's an on the road adventure set in the 18th century with the historical rogue "Cagliostro" and a female math prodigy.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:34 AM on December 11, 2013

I'll add my recommendation for Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. I'm currently listening to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoying it.
posted by stampsgal at 7:01 AM on December 11, 2013

Seconding Ready Player One.

Maybe something by Sergio De La Pava? Personae reminds me of DFW in some ways; he also has a more epic-length novel I hear good things about, A Naked Singularity. Personae ostensibly has a female protagonist but is ultimately largely about a very strong male character. It's also a playful, if complicated, read.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:47 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

If he drinks even a little, he'd probably love The Drunken Botanist, which came out earlier this year.
posted by troika at 7:55 AM on December 11, 2013

Seconding "S". It seems like this year's gift for the nerdy (I just gave it to myself & started reading it this morning).

Maybe also Middle C, by William Gass. I've only scratched the surface of this one, but I'm really loving it so far and I think that a DFW fan would also love it.

This isn't new but if he hasn't read it, The Diviners, by Rick Moody is really a delight -- it is very funny and it moves quickly but there are a lot of smartypants jokes in it. I really like Moody and he and DFW were contemporaries.

Finally, another not-new book that deserves to be read by nerds. There's nothing computery or SF-y about this one, but it is so funny and so well written and so thoughtful and it just sneaks the fuck up on you. Citizen Vince, by Jess Walter. I pretty much guarantee you that once he reads it, he'll search out everything else Walter has written. Tell him his next choice should be The Zero. I couldn't tell you which one I like better.
posted by janey47 at 10:40 AM on December 11, 2013

Seconding the FUTILITY CLOSET book, which I read last week, and which is delightful.
posted by wittgenstein at 10:55 AM on December 11, 2013

For the goofy/nerdy/funny side: Where'd You Go, Bernadette Really enjoyable, though if he's a writer about tech who reads a lot, he may have run into it already. For the smart/complex side: A Tale for the Time Being. On several of the best books of the year lists, deservedly.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:29 PM on December 11, 2013

Reamde by Neal Stephenson. Techno-stuff, strong male and female characters. My sister got it for me and it was awesome.
posted by the big lizard at 1:55 AM on December 12, 2013

What about Chris Hadfield's autobiography, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth?
posted by carolr at 8:36 AM on December 12, 2013

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