Welcome to one of my favorite sections of the Holiday Gift Guide: Books! Below you'll find a good variety of stuff, from comics to biographies to popular fiction to short stories to Making Ofs to coloring books.
Cheap ($24.99 and under)
Die Hard is already a Christmas classic and now you can sit by the cozy fireside and read it for the kiddies too young to watch the movie! Now you have an illustrated Die Hard book. Ho. Ho. Ho.
Yes, Greg Sestero's book has been out for a few years, but since the movie adaptation directed by and starring James Franco is out this holiday season you might want to consider reading the original source material now (or gifting it to another The Room lover in your friend circle).
You'll notice a trend going on in the guide right now. This batch of books is all geared to getting you ready for upcoming films. The above was for Disaster artist, this one is a book that was adapted by Ex-Machina's Alex Garland starring Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Ragnarok's Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Gina Rodriguez. The story focuses on a biologist who goes into an alien decimated dead zone when her husband is infected by something mysterious. Jeff Vandermeer has a few of these books out, but you don't to jump too far ahead of the story, do you?
Molly's Game is the true story of a woman who ran a celebrity filled poker room and made millions doing it. Aaron Sorkin adapted this one and Jessica Chastain stars as the Molly in question. This one is in a good position to be a major awards contender (the subject matter is right, great cast and writer/director), so why not read the actual account?
Ready Player One is perhaps the geekiest book ever written and it continues to blow my mind that Steven Spielberg directed the adaptation. We don't get that until next year, but you can prepare your brains for the nostalgic nerdery that awaits over the holidays if you wish.
Josh Boone's movie version of The New Mutants hits screens next year as well. He's making a superhero horror movie (we'll save the arguments about whether or not Blade counts as the first superhero horror movie or not... I'd say it's more of an action movie, myself) set in the X-Universe and if you want to know how that's possible then make sure to read this TPB. Demon Bear is the main threat in the film, according to Boone in interviews, and you'll see how he could twist that into a creepy rundown asylum looking haunted house thriller.
Now that we're done looking at reading up on stuff happening in the near future, let's take a look at some podcast-related books, shall we? Of course we have to start off with Waiting for the Punch, Marc Maron's WTF sourced book where he takes a ton of his celebrity interviews from throughout the years and breaks them into different categories so you get a wealth of stories from everybody from Barack Obama to Bruce Springsteen talking about their relationships, life experiences and crazy asides.
Unqualified is on my regular podcast rotation and has been since it started. I'm way late to the game on 99.9% of podcasts, but can proudly claim to have been there since the beginning for this one. On the podcast Anna dishes out unqualified relationship advice. In this book she opens up about every unflinching detail of who she is as a person. This should come as no surprise to anybody who listens to constant frankness on the podcast, but it's still refreshing.
Based on the podcast LORE, this illustrated companion book takes a dip into some of the creepy, crawly myths explored on the show. They got to some dark places in the show, so I'm excited to see what this looks like. Now if only we can get an illustrated My Favorite Murder companion book that'd get me automatically added to some sort of watch list for ordering...
Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds have taken their comedic, absurd, but true history Dollop show and made this book out of it, detailing American history through the most ridiculously true stories they could find.
PRE-ORDER. I didn't realize until I started actually writing this that the Adventure Zone graphic novel doesn't come out until the middle of 2018. Well, shit... I don't usually put pre-orders that far out into the guide, but screw it, I love the McElroy brothers (and Pops McElroy, too, of course) and The Adventure Zone too much to leave it out. The Adventure Zone is their D&D podcast and this graphic novel is an adaptation of the first chunk of their campaign, which ended up going into some epic territory story-wise, but at the beginning they were more about fucking around for laughs. Eventually you can get this, but in the meantime do your earholes a favor and listen to the entire run of TAZ.
Segue master here! The Adventure Zone's Griffin McElroy contributes a Star Wars story to this really cool book celebrating 40 years of Star Wars by asking a ton of cool people to retell key events from that movie, but through the eyes of a supporting or background character (like the Rebels left behind on Yavin during the Death Star battle and the trash compactor monster). You got some cool folks like Wil Wheaton, Ashley Eckstein, Gary Whitta (Rogue One), Lucasfilm's resident SW expert Pablo Hidalgo, Paul Dini, some great comic writers like Charles Soule and many more contributing. This will for sure be one of my holiday reads.
PRE-ORDER, December 15th. Of course you can't flip through this Art Of book until the movie comes out. They're not gonna ruin the movie in an Art of book! It's becoming tradition for me to see a new Star Wars Saga movie and then obsess over the visual dictionaries and art of books getting whatever fresh details I can, but I'm nerdy like that. The Last Jedi looks gorgeous and I can't wait to pour over this when I finally see the movie.
PRE-ORDER, December 15th. Pablo Hidalgo knows everything there is to know about Star Wars, so of course he's tasked with making sure these Visual Dictionaries are accurate and awesome (they are). His latest is tied to The Last Jedi and it promises a deep dive into the new worlds, creatures, ships and locations featured in Rian Johnson's flick. I am excite, as the kids say!
PRE-ORDER, December 15th. This Last Jedi book focuses on the new ships, offering detailed cross-section artwork of all the cool flying things in the new Star Wars movie. You get this kind of book to know what certain laser-firing mechanisms are called and where exactly the engine is located so you can “well, actually” your nerd friends with confidence.
PRE-ORDER, December 5th. This is one of the “lead up to The Last Jedi” books that fills out some of the new worlds and characters on display. Canto Bight is a casino city and tells four interconnected stories that take place over the course of a single evening amongst smugglers, scoundrels and posh elite.
This one's not a pre-order, but out now! Hooray! We can all agree that Phasma was underused in The Force Awakens, so getting more of her character is a good thing. The story seems more about backstabbing going on in the First Order than Phasma hunting down enemies, but that sounds pretty cool to me.
Leia got her book and so does her good for nothin' brother. I actually dig the set up to this one a lot. It takes place on a cargo ship headed to Canto Bight and the deckhands are trading stories of Luke Skywalker. Not necessarily true stories, mind you. Some claim he's half droid, for instance. I like that this touches upon the mythmaking that was clearly going on across the galaxy in the aftermath of the death of the Emperor, as hinted at in The Force Awakens.
PRE-ORDER, December 15th. This one looks to shed some light on the new character, Rose. Other than that I can glean that there's a squadron that is codenamed Cobalt (don't ask me how I know these things. It's hard to explain my Sherlock-level deducing magic to an outsider) and... that's about it.
PRE-ORDER, December 15th. I hope this book answers how many Porgs Chewie eats during his time on Ahch-To. That's the real question on everybody's mind. Not who Rey's parents are, not what Snoke's backstory is... How many Porgs does Chewie eat and what do they taste like? I'll be really pissed if I order this book and that's still a mystery.
What's BB-8 on the run from? A hungry Chewbacca who ran out of sweet Porg meat? Does BB have the answers to my questions about the last book and is avoiding me to keep me spoiler free for Episode VIII? Maybe his own personal droid demons? WHAT ARE YOU RUNNING FROM, BB-8?!?
The Star Wars comics have been pretty solid since their canon relaunch circa-The Force Awakens. You'll see a few of them listed below, but one of the biggest fan characters to come out of the new books is Doctor Aphra. Think of her a little bit like Indiana Jones, but with evil R2-D2 and C-3PO as her compadres. She began working with Vader to hunt down this Luke Skywalker fella and naturally that didn't work out to well and now she's on the run in her own book, hunting down rare artifacts and other fun stuff. Give it a shot if you haven't already. It's worth it for the asshole droids alone, trust me
PRE-ORDER, December 5th. This storyline by Charles Soule takes us back to Vader's beginning, just after the events of Revenge of the Sith. Ever wonder how he got his red lightsaber? You get all that and more in Darth Vader: Imperial Machine
This one's a prequel that fills in some backstory for Maul as he prepares to finally confront the Jedi circa The Phantom Menace. The horned apprentice's path crosses with bounty hunters Cad Bane and Aurra Sing amongst others.
Baze and Chirrut get their own graphic novel spin-off, throwing the pair into another adventure on Jedha just prior to the events of Rogue One. These two were one of the bright spots of Rogue One and it's about time we get a little more detail on these servants of the force.
More Poe Dameron is a good thing. Sadly it's hard to convey his dancing skills in the graphic novel format, but that doesn't make him any less cool. Again written by Charles Soule who did a kick-ass job with the Lando spin-off story a while back (seriously, it'll make you get misty eyed when you see Lobot on the next Empire Strikes Back rewatch). You have three trade paperbacks available right now.
This is just a postcard book, but it's a Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars production art postcard book which means it's totally rad. Ralph McQuarrie's art absolutely shaped the world we all love so much now and if you've got 100 friends who are worthy of a written note from you one, lucky you, and two, lucky them.
Admiral Thrawn celebrated his triumphant return back into real deal Star Wars cannon thanks to Rebels and even got a brand new book from his daddy, Timothy Zahn, that is back in the “it counts” part of Star Wars lore, gaining hundreds of accolades and thumbs up reviews in the process. Good to have you back, Admiral.
Why spend the ungodly Lego prices when you can look at pretty pictures of all the geeky Star Wars Lego sets? I guess you're missing out on the frustration of missing pieces and the foot pain associated with the finding of said pieces. I'll give you that, but still it's a decent option.
I made a pact with myself when I was in 9th grade to read every Stephen King book ever made and so I have. I've still got to finish the last of the Bill Hodges books and then I have to attack this massive tome. Sleeping Beauties is King writing with his son Owen and I'm excited to crack it open. It's about a world where women are falling asleep and then surrounded by a mysterious cocoon. If awakened prematurely they're feral and violent. What the hell is going on?!? Well, that's why you read the book, silly pants! It's a big 'un, clocking in at 720 pages! That's nothing compared to the next book on the list, though...
If you've never read King's best book now's the time to do it while Pennywise permeates the cultural zeitgeist once again. This book paints such a vivid picture with such rich characters you'd almost mistake it for real life. Thankfully it isn't because then Pennywise would be real and that would be supremely fucked up. The movie was great, the book is still better. At this price you should feel guilty for buying it.
We'll forget for a hot second that The Dark Tower adaptation missed the mark so goddamn hard and I'll throw this out there for my fellow Dark Tower nerds. If you've read the books you know why it's awesome we actually have this kid's book in our reality. If you haven't you're probably like “Why's this children's book so off-putting?” The Dark Tower series is filled with different realities and they mirror each other. In a reality close to ours this book exists. In Roland's reality that's a real, malevolent train. I highly suggest putting this in your kids or nephews or nieces' rooms as they grow up (it reads just like any random kids book, but uses the art actually featured in the Dark Tower) so they could possibly have a badass meta moment should they ever dig into King's magnum opus later in life.
We've had papa King and Owen, now here's the latest from King's other son Joe Hill. I'm a big fan of Joe's work (Heart-Shaped Box in particular is awesome) and his latest novel is called Strange Weather and features four different novellas (much like Different Seasons, which has some of his father's best work). Each novella is a different kind of supernatural situation and this is yet another one on my holiday to read list.
The latest entry in Hill's comic book series Locke & Key, a Neil Gaiman-ish story of a house filled with doors that are only open with special keys. Hill and his illustrator partner in crime Gabriel Rodriguez wrapped up the series for good recently, so this isn't a continuation, but it is the first time all the one-shot and limited off-shoot printings have been brought together in publication, so you get a bit more of this really cool universe. If you're intrigued you can also get the full run of Locke & Key in a fancy slipcased edition for $63.99.
Paperback covers are designed to draw you in and make you impulse buy, just like VHS covers back in the day. So they're bold, colorful, inventive and in your face. This book collects some of the most badass, crazy genre paperback covers of the '70s and '80s. I'm sure there'll be quite a few that trigger some library memories of my youth.
Ghostland chronicles the author's travels to the most haunted places in the US, exploring the unique mythologies that have spawned around these haunted hotels, prisons, homes, etc. Great idea. The hows and whys that spring up around these places are inventive and fascinating, sometimes rooted in real life events, sometimes not. In Austin we have a haunted hotel called the Driskill and I've interviewed people while they've stayed there and had no idea of its reputation and had them freak out when I told them about the little girl that supposedly haunts it (the daughter of the architect that designed if my memory isn't betraying me) because they had weird stuff happen overnight that they couldn't explain. I imagine this book is a bunch of that kind of stuff.
This is David Wong's third John Dies at the End book. You may have seen Don Coscarelli's adaptation of the first insane book, but if you haven't read them you're missing out. Wong is so smart and funny and weird that you never know what's coming next. He's like if Douglas Adams and Stephen King had a baby.
Richard Matheson was one of our great genre writers. Outside of his legendary novels like I Am Legend he also scripted some of the best Twilight Zone episodes. This man's brain was wired unlike anybody else's. He was stupid talented and now Penguin has assembled a bunch of his short stories, some very rare. It's like reading new Twilight Zones if that appeals to you and it goddamn well better appeal to you or else you and me are done professionally.
Shirley Jackson is also unsung for much of her incredibly influential work. They teach one of her short stories, The Lottery, in some schools, but much like Matheson her stuff incredibly smart and biting, not just the one some of us were forced to read by a particularly overzealous English teacher. This is much like the above Matheson book, a collection of her best and scariest short stories.
PRE-ORDER, November 28th. Dashiell Hammett, the Godfather of crime fiction, wrote a whole lot of stories centered around The Continental Op and now all of that hard-boiled detective fiction has been gathered in one massive nearly 800 page tome. Very cool.
Tom Hanks has tried his hand at short stories as well, which is pretty neat! It'll be interesting to see if he's as talented at the keyboard as he is in front of the camera. That's all I have to say about that.
This is pretty neat. You have Mary Shelley's original words with hundreds of illustrations and annotations from Frankenstein scholar Leslie S. Klinger. Guillermo del Toro wrote the introduction as well. A must own for any Frank fan.
You may know Metallica's Kirk Hammett is a hell of a guitar player, but you might not know that he's a mega massive crazy huge horror and sci-fi nut and has spent a lot of heavy metal money on horror posters and props. This book documents his collection, which was actually on tour in Salem when I happened to wander through town on my way up to Bangor for my first Stephen King pilgrimage earlier this year. I stuck my head in and everything looked great, but I didn't get a close look at all the coolness on display. Thankfully this book has got me covered! As a poster collector myself I'm very curious what kind of cool shit Hammett has!
Odd McIntyre was essentially the proto-blogger. He was a pop culture columnist in 1920s and '30s New York that wrote extensively about the Hollywood and Celebrity beat, ending up close friends with many of the power players of his era, including Charlie Chaplin, Will Rogers, George Gershwin and Ernest Hemingway, among others. How could you not want to be friends with a guy named Odd? A fascinating character almost lost to history.
This is Andy Weir's followup to his massively popular book The Martian. It's a film noir-y crime story that takes place on Artemis, the one and only human colony on the moon. This one's already been optioned and the movie adaptation is in the works as we speak.
JRR Tolkien has been dead for many, many decades, but he's still got new material coming out thanks to his son expanding on some of his father's various scribblings and notes. This particular story was instrumental in The Silmarillion and referenced many times in Lord of the Rings since it's a love story that parallels Aragorn and Arwen's romance. Aragorn even sings a song about it in the movie! Christopher Tolkien takes that original story and shows how it changed as Lord of the Rings took shape.
Neil Gaiman tackles Norse Mythology! How exciting is that? The dude is so talented in bringing his own unique flair to the average myths, wait until he tackles this crazy shit! Thor, Odin and Loki via Gaiman is pretty awesome.
An illustrated version of Gaiman's popular Neverwhere. I've actually never read this one. I'll have to change that mistake soon. Pardon me while I go whip myself in front of a mirror as penance for failing my geek brethren.
A biography of the great Jack Kirby. Stan Lee is more famous, but you can't give Jack Kirby enough credit for his hand in shaping the look, feel and characters of comic books on the whole. Especially right now, Kirby's influence is all over the modern Marvel films (Ragnarok might as well have been art directed by him).
Here titans of the comics industry pay respects to the master and his work with people like Bruce Timm, John Byrne, John Romita, Dave Gibbons and more offering up key Kirby art and talking about how awesome it is.
Look, a lot of people didn't like Adolf Hitler. I know it's difficult to believe that looking around today, but believe it or not he wasn't a popular dude. But damn did the comic book industry hate the guy. American pop culture on the whole entered the war with the allies. Even Walt Disney sent Donald Duck after him! The comics routinely went pro-America in this time and did everything they could to belittle one of the most evil men the world has ever produced. This book takes a look at over 500 comics from 1941-1945 that took aim directly at Der Fuhrer. Fascinating time capsule.
A biography of Stan Lee? Yes please! This book tells Lee's story from the beginning all through his climb through the funny book ranks to becoming one of the most influential storytellers of his generation. Seriously, I can't think of someone else who has had a bigger impact on pop culture in that time. Maybe George Lucas has come close, but the character Lee has either created or helped create have taken over all of pop culture and are more popular today than they were 40 years ago. Excelsior and what not!
Frank Miller's back in The Dark Knight Returns territory with a new tale called The Master Race. I was a bit burned by the first sequel Miller did, but I'm hearing good things about this new story.
Ooo, this gotta be interesting. This book takes a deep dive behind the scenes of the most geek rivalry in history: Marvel Vs. DC. Dig into how the comic book giants have sought to compete and one up each other over the years
Mad Magazine was a force of nature when it debuted. So much so that a bunch of rip-offs sprang up, many of them using the same writing and illustrating talent as Mad! This collection gathers previously un-reprinted material from some of Mad's most genius voices... just not actually from Mad Magazine itself!
Over 30 years of Zelda art is included here, up to and including Breath of the Wild! This oversized Art Of book is built to really show off the entire history of Zelda's distinct look. Better pick up your copy before Ganon steals it and surrounds it with his purple bullshit.
Arkane and Dark Horse have teamed up for this Art Of book for PREY, the beautifully designed sci-fi action horror game. So much talent goes into building the look of a game like this and it's always fascinating to see the progression.
Here's a detailed look in how video games are actually developed, both on the indie and AAA level. The author goes behind the scenes with stuff like Dragon Age: Inquisition and Stardew Valley and even touches on Bungie's split from Microsoft.
If you want to go down an insane rabbit hole, click on the 1-star Amazon reviews of Zoe Quinn's book and be taken on a butt-hurt adventure by some very, very angry dudes who use the word “cuck” a lot. No matter what side of the Gamer Gate debacle you fall on you must admit there's some value in hearing directly from the main reason it started. Zoe Quinn is a polarizing figure, no doubt, but there's also no doubt that she was attacked online in a way that's sadly becoming more and more common these days.
Ah, lighter material. Thank God! You can't go wrong with Bruce Campbell's smart-ass writing, especially when it's about himself. His first book went up to 2001, this one covers the time since, including insights into his work in Spider-Man and Bubba Ho-tep. Long live the King, baby!
Keeping with the “things on your face” comedic biography theme we have Jay Chandrasekhar's Mustache Shenanigans, a look at the creation of his comedy troupe Broken Lizard and the movies they've made together over the years, from Super Troopers to the currently in post Super Troopers 2. I think you should probably buy this book right meow.
Ed Asner is an unapologetic lefty and when you make it to his age you don't give one little shit about offending anyone. You also happen to have a lifetime of knowledge to lord over your political opponents and here Asner wields it with aplomb here as he takes a liberal grouchy historian's view of the Constitution, original intent and the men who crafted the document to put it into context for today's politics.
Like everybody else in 2016 I was addicted to the presidential race, especially as Donald Trump rose through the ranks. My eyeballs were glued to the news every night, fascinated by whatever the next insane twist in turn in the election was going to be. Katy Tur was one of the most common, reliable faces for me. She was NBC's reporter assigned to Trump's campaign and she spent months on the road with the man who would eventually become president even though their relationship was contentious at best. Here she documents the insanity of this time from about close to a fly on the wall perspective as we're likely to get.
Sorry, conservative readers. Might want to skip this part. We're getting lots of liberal stuff out of the way, but you guys won the white house so let us have a few books! Hillary Clinton's book on how she let the presidency slip away from her shouldn't be as politically charged as it is. Of course it's all from her perspective, but knowing how the losing side of an election this close ran their campaign is an important historical document no matter how you cut it.
Following in the great late night tradition of publishing books filled with recurring bit material (I can't tell you how many Letterman Top 10 List and Jay Leno Crazy Headlines books I had as a kid), Stephen Colbert takes his Midnight Confessions segment (where he confesses his most shameful topical and funny secrets as if in a confessional) and gives us this fairly disposable, but fun book. Kinda made to gift your Late Night loving parents or cousins.
Booger wrote a book! '80s movie regular Curtis Armstrong wrote an autobiography telling his stories from the making of such great stuff as Revenge of the Nerds, Better Off Dead, Risky Business, Moonlighting, Supernatural and The New Girl.
They've been slowly going through the Harry Potter books and re-releasing them in illustrated editions. They're up to one of my personal favorites, The Prisoner of Azkaban. The first thing I thought about when seeing these existed was how great of a tool they'd be for parents reading to their children. I'm not a dad yet, but when it happens I already have my ideal order for exposing mini-me to the Potterverse. Books first, then movies, but with a little time to breathe between stories. The genius of Rowling's world is that she allowed her readers to grow up with the characters.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson does what he does best: breaks down space and time so dummies like us can understand it. Say what you will about the dude, but he's incredibly talented at conveying not only knowledge, but also excitement. His enthusiasm for science is contagious and refreshing in today's political climate.
PRE-ORDER, November 28th. Go behind the scenes of the brand new Star Trek show! You know the one that's been all over the news because some people are all up in arms because two dudes kissed each other. That one. But out by Titan, who always do a great job with their Making Of books.
This hilariously nerdy book attempts to break down the technology of Star Trek, the science that went into them and how many are close to being a reality (if not already realized). Just let me know whenever they perfect Holodeck technology so I can disappear into the Fallout Wasteland for weeks on end.
A book written as Jean-Luc Picard, detailing the chrome-domed Starfleet Captain's past, history and experiences navigating the galaxy. Written by David A. Goodman who also did a similar tome a couple years back writing as James T. Kirk.
Doctor Who: Now We Are Six Hundred
A Doctor Who Poetry collection! Well now I've seen everything.
This is pretty neat, a collection of images, scans and photographs of some old school Americana. Video game fans especially should dig on something like this since so many of our favorite games are just as obsessed with this kind of imagery. I mean, Fallout is essentially built on top of this kind of look. The author takes a look at awesome signage, statues, vintage photos and everything in between here.
I never thought that someone would make a coloring book out of George Melies' silent sci-fi fantasy A Trip To The Moon, but I'll be darned if someone didn't go ahead and do just that. A true cinephile deep cut gift right here.
Slightly less dignified than going with a silent masterpiece, but you know you want to color up a scene with Mr. Poopybutthole in it. The question is do you stick with the traditional blue Meeseeks or show off your artistic originality and go in a wildly different direction? Show me what you got!
It's a coloring book renaissance! If you're tired of grinding away at Destiny 2 you can now color in your favorite guardian. Somehow you'll still get teabagged by a dipshit Hunter while filling out this book. Don't ask me how they made that happen, but I'm sure it's there somewhere.
It says this is an adult coloring book on the cover, but don't worry that doesn't mean it's filled with D.Va and Tracer doing sexy-time stuff. That just means it's more of an advanced coloring book and less kiddie restaurant placemat style. At least I think so... That'd be a hell of a surprise if I was wrong!