Archive for December, 2015


Brother gifts

December 24, 2015

Another Christmas Eve is upon us so it must be time to get gifts for my brother. As usual, I’ll be getting kindle books and, as usual, I don’t really know what he likes. I know he very much enjoyed The Martian last year and was pleasantly surprised by Ken Jenning’s Maphead (so was I, actually).

This post makes more sense if you understand that I don’t really know my brother. Sure we grew up in the same house but had a very Bart and Lisa Simpson vibe: sibling rivalry at its worst. But I do care about him even though I suck at showing it; I fret about how to show that through books.

There have been some Kindle sales so I bought a few books earlier in the year when they were cheaper and set them to deliver today.

  • Statistics Done Wrong by Alex Reinhart: Statistics are really important in today’s world. It isn’t just about scientific significance, reading the newspaper without being able to see how to lie and hide information through stats is critical. I thought this was a good intro book, quite amusing for a topic that is usually a slog.
  • The Annotated Build-It-Yourself Science Laboratory: This was written in the sixties by Raymond Barrett, a teacher and museum exhibit developer. It is a great book but showed its age (you can’t go to the local pharmacy and pick up mercury anymore). So Windell Oskay updated it to reflect modern safety practices and some different resources for trying out the experiments. I was trilled to see this book on sale since it is a pretty amusing read and because I had Windell on (124: Please Don’t Light Yourself On Fire) so I could mention my podcast to my brother.
  • The Quantum Story: A history in 40 moments by Jim Baggott: I almost always buy books I’ve already read so I can believe I’ve done the due diligence to know he’d like them. But this one was on sale and so I got one for him and one for me. I’m about half way through and put it down… it is a good mashup of physics, characters, and history but the short-story-like nature makes it easy to put down and pick up. I’m glad I got it ($2!) but it isn’t Maphead.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein: This was the best book I read this year. Don’t read the summary, don’t read the reviews about it being sad. Just go read the book. I hope he likes this one though it is a bit of an outlier as far as genre goes.
  • 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris: I picked up this book about meditation earlier in the year, having heard Dan Harris on an NPR show being open about his recreational drug use. It was a good book. I liked many parts of it and was only irritated by a few. It didn’t make me start meditating but it might have made me more mindful, at least for awhile.

Now I have to wade through my ideas to figure out what else to get him.

I think yes to Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. It was my introduction to Cherie Priest and still probably my favorite of her books (though I Am Princess X was fantastic but it is a young adult book targeted at women).

I just started The Moth, written versions of some of the stories told on The Moth Radio Hour. I really like the radio show, whatever they are about they are good stories. The ones I’ve read so far share the same level of goodness so I’ll take a chance that it continues despite the preface, forward, and introduction chapters all being long and less interesting.

In that same vein, I noticed that Terry Gross’ All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists is also on special this month. I’ve been wanting to read that so one for him, one for me.

So that covers all the on-sale things. But I can’t buy only on-sale gifts. You can return Kindle Gifts and get the credit. And I’ve told him I don’t mind him doing that but it seems like all <$4 is odd. Despite the amount of time (and, seriously, all sorts of fretting), I should get a couple books that maybe come out of the normal bin.

I quite liked Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, a sci-fi/dystopian/superhero book. I got him the Mistborn trilogy last year. The packing is different enough that if he hated that, he still might like Steelheart (though if he liked that he’ll probably also like Steelheart).

I haven’t read The Peripheral by William Gibson but it people have been saying it is the best thing he’s written since Neuromancer. I’ll send this as a little cyberpunk to balance out the steampunk.

Realistically, this is probably enough books for my brother. Though I asked a friend for suggestions and he suggested Microserfs, The Peripheral, and Suarez’s Daemon. That’s the second person to suggest Daemon to me in the last two weeks. You know, I think I’ll just get that one for myself instead of my brother. And given the news that Microserfs was better than Ready Player One, well, that’s going high on my wish list.

Clearly I’ve stopped buying gifts for my brother and devolved into something else.

One more for him because I think it is neat: Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe. The creator of the truly excellent xkcd comic and the hilarious What If blog wrote a book explaining complicated things in the most common thousand words. It is a strange blend of “huh” and “neat!” so I’m hoping he enjoys it.