Gifts for Teenaged Boys

Teen boys can be hard to shop for, am I right?

The other day I was at the orthodontist with Gal Smiley. I had brought a book to read, the latest one by Randall Munroe, called How To.

Randall Munroe is the geeky engineer behind the comic strip XKCD, which I love. But even better than his comic strip are his books, which are very funny explorations of really cool scientific things that often involve explosions.

Before Gal Smiley went in for her appointment, I was explaining what this new book is about. It’s about how to use science to do everyday things, like digging a hole or skiing, in the craziest, most don’t-try-this-at-home way possible, using science.

(Or rockets. There’s a lot of rockets.)

Anyway, Gal Smiley went in for her appointment and another lady in the waiting room came over to ask me about the book for her teenaged son, who is geeky and likes science and funny stuff and doesn’t read much. If this describes your son, then Randall’s books are PERFECTION.

I personally would start by giving them What If, his first book, which hilariously answers such questions as what if we tried to build a model of the period table using every element as its own block, and what if we wanted to build a ladder to the moon (insider tip: to manage to have enough energy for the climb you are going to need to pack a LOT of butter).

The chapters are not too long and very readable and contain lots of funny cartoons, so perfect for picking up and putting down. But if your son is REALLY not a reader, consider his other book, Thing Explainer, in which he draws blueprints for many common (and not so common) machines and explains how they work, using labels that use only the 1000 most common words in the English language.

It’s actually a really beautiful coffee-table sized book but also deeply hilarious AND informative.

Anyway, I don’t often do gift guides around here but I wanted to endorse Randall and his books, really for all the geekly people in your life. Especially if this means he’ll mention me in his next book, Secrets of License Plates, because he clearly is My People.

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