"Stick to tech," you might be thinking right now. Well, in a way, we are. No, we're not pop culture critics, and hardcover books aren't gadgets. But our gift guide wouldn't be complete without some DVD (OK, fine, Blu-ray) recs, and what is our taste if not nerdy? Because we're Engadget, and covering tech is what we do, we curated a list of books and movies that fall squarely in the sci-fi, gaming, nerd-culture and dystopia buckets. Or, in the case of nonfiction books like Super Pumped, we included media that chronicles and interrogates the tech industry -- for better and worse. Looking for something not too expensive with a bit more warmth than, we don't know, a battery pack? A book or movie relevant to your geeky friend's interests could be just the thing.
Die Hard 4K Blu-ray
Die Hard is a Christmas movie. You know this in your heart to be true. Buy it in 4K and give it to every John, Hans and Holly on your holiday shopping list. -- Andrew Tarantola, Senior Editor
Uncanny Valley (Anna Wiener)
A millennial young woman's true coming-of-age story, set in Silicon Valley startups, Uncanny Valley is an incisive peek at tech culture circa 2012 and what it meant to gain access to a system that has now expanded far beyond the Bay Area. Anna Wiener contrasts her twentysomething wandering with the messianic certainty of a hyper-optimistic tech industry. It's a paradox many young adults are encountering -- and perhaps an apt reflection for the entry-level coder on your list. -- Chris Ip, Associate Features Editor
Will Cats Eat My Eyeballs (Caitlin Doughty)
If you have a little one on your holiday shopping list more interested in Jack Skellington than Santa Claus, we have the book for you! In Will Cats Eat My Eyeballs? mortician and best-selling author Caitlin Doughty answers 35 of people's most burning questions about what happens after we kick off with humor, grace and calm candidness. -- A.T.
Wanderers: A Novel (Chuck Wendig)
For the voracious reader on your list, Wanderers is a must-have. Tipping the scales at 800 pages, this apocalyptic end-of-the-world tale dives into a world bewitched with a mysterious malady that turns its victims into sleepwalkers. Difficult to harm and dangerous to touch, these sleepwalkers do not speak or wake; they just walk toward a singular destination known only to them. Their family and friends serve as shepherds defending these "flocks" as they shamble forward, which quickly becomes a deadly proposition when an ultra-violent militia starts targeting the sleepwalkers.
Teenaged Shana is one such shepherd. Her quest to save her sister hinges on solving the mystery of the sleepwalker sickness, but the secret behind the epidemic could very well tear an already fractured nation far beyond its breaking point. -- A.T.
Avengers Endgame 4K Blu-ray
Avengers: Endgame arrived in theaters earlier this year, but the 4K Blu-ray version only dropped in August. If an avid Marvel film fan on your holiday list hasn't managed to pick up this Blu-ray yet, it's well worth adding to their collection. The film is an epic follow-up to its slightly less acclaimed precursor, Avengers: Infinity War. Heck, if your giftee has been lax about collecting them, you may as well get both. As usual, the package includes both the physical disc and a digital code, so owners can enjoy the uncompressed media experience while also having the freedom to watch on the fly from various digital platforms. It's presented in Dolby Atmos audio and HDR10, so those who've invested in a capable home-theater setup can enjoy a pretty stunning cinematic experience. -- Jon Turi, Homepage Editor
Permanent Record (Mary H.K. Choi)
Mary H.K. Choi has emerged as an author who knows how to write about young romance through social media and texts -- which is basically how all romance works now. Her latest is Permanent Record, a young adult novel centered on two protagonists: a bodega worker who dropped out of college and a pop star beloved by her Instagram following. It's one for the teens in your life, or the adults trying to understand them. -- C.I.
Permanent Record (Edward Snowden)
Despite sharing a title, this is certainly not the same mood as the young adult romance above. Instead, Edward Snowden's memoir is both a thriller and a reflection on the pervasiveness of big data. It charts his childhood instinct for gaming the system (case in point: changing the time on clocks in the family house to stay up late) as well as his path from the army to the CIA to becoming an NSA contractor. Then, of course, is the the play-by-play of his whistle-blowing. The memoir is a glimpse at what it took to reveal the extent of digital mass surveillance, a phenomenon that six years after Snowden's revelations, we all accept as normal. -- C.I.
The Boys Omnibus Vol. 1-4 / Expanse Series (Garth Ennis)
The Expanse and The Boys have both been breakout hits for Amazon Prime this year. The Expanse follows a ragtag team of antihero spacefarers as they defend the solar system from alien threats and human conspiracies. But the TV series, as great as it is, only explores a sliver of the Expanse universe. If there's a fan of the show on your holiday shopping list, they're going to flip if you get them this eight-story set of Hugo Award-winning novels by James S. A. Corey, ahead of the ninth and final book's release in 2020.
Conversely, if the sci-fi fan on your list is big on antiheroes but not so much space adventures, introduce them to The Boys. This four-volume graphic novel series from Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson tells of a world dominated by corrupt superhuman "heroes" and the corporate powers that control them. The only ones willing and able to stand up in this dystopia are a motley team of special operatives, assassins and one poor schmuck in way over his head. This story is a must-read, but be warned: Things get real bloody, real quick. -- A.T.
Tools for Thought (Howard Rheingold)
For tech enthusiasts who usually have their eye on the future, there's an easily consumable read on computing's history written by Howard Rheingold called Tools for Thought. He covers some of the key figures in the history of coding and tech going much further back than the 1970s homebrew explosion in Silicon Valley. The book was originally published in 1985, and as a futurist, Rheingold tried to imagine what was coming next. That provides an interesting quirk, reading his predictions and perspective after the fact while he was in the middle of technology's still-emerging story. This updated version, released in 2000, has an afterward with interviews including some of the document's key players, helping to close the circle, at least for now. -- J.T.
Cult of the Dead Cow (Joseph Menn)
Hackers of the world unite and give Cult of the Dead Cow to the white hat on your gift list. This is a fantastic oral history of one of the world's most powerful and prolific hacking collectives. You probably haven't heard of it -- because it's that good -- but the cDc has long sought to protect freedom, security and democracy around the globe through its efforts. Author Joseph Menn recounts the rise and diffusion of the world's premiere hacking supergroup. -- A.T.
Murderbot Diaries (Martha Wells)
If you've ever thought your loved ones spend too much time watching Netflix and should really pick up a book once in a while, the Murderbot Diaries might be right up their alley. This series of novellas has plenty of action and existential angst, they read fairly quickly and the titular character is pretty relatable to anyone who'd rather stay in and binge their favorite shows than deal with people, because that's all Murderbot wants to do too. -- Kris Naudus, Buyer's Guide Editor
The Calculating Stars / The Fated Sky (Mary Robinette Kowal)
The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal's fiction debut, is an extraordinary and inspiring tale of one woman's nigh unstoppable quest to achieve her goal of becoming an astronaut -- patriarchal politics and social conventions be damned. Winner of the 2018 Nebulus, 2019 Locus and 2019 Hugo awards for best novel, The Calculating Stars and its newly released sequel, The Fated Sky, will make the perfect gift for any STEM- and space-obsessed teen or adult on your list. -- A.T.
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber (Mike Isaac)
The game-changing transformation of a legacy industry. The pomp and downfall of a billionaire founder. The behind-the-scenes misdeeds and eight-figure party expenditures. Uber embodies much of the tech industry's gargantuan potential as well as its worst impulses, and Mike Isaac, a reporter for The New York Times, chronicles it all. Based on hundreds of interviews, this is both a definitive account and a cautionary tale. -- C.I.
How To (Randall Munroe)
If Rube Goldberg machines have taught us anything, it's that something worth doing right is worth doing in the most convoluted manner possible. And as author Randall Munroe of XKCD fame shows, the same applies to science. In How To, your inquisitive gift recipient will learn how to predict the weather through pixel analysis of Facebook posts, determine their age by measuring the radioactivity of their teeth and even how to take a selfie from space! -- A.T.
Dr. Stone (Riichiro Inagaki)
Who says manga can't be both entertaining and educational? This series from Riichiro Inagaki (with illustrations by Boichi) follows the efforts of teenage genius Senku Ishigami and his friends as they rebuild civilization after awakening from a mysterious 3,689-year petrified slumber. But fear not, they have science on their side! Filled with lighthearted adventure and laugh-out-loud comedic gags and packed to the rafters with clever explanations of scientific principles, Dr. Stone is the perfect gift for the technologically curious of all ages. -- A.T.
How to Invent Everything (Ryan North)
Time travelers are notoriously difficult to shop for. Any clothes you buy them will immediately be out of fashion, and any gadgets you get will become obsolete the moment they step out of the chrono-portal. So this year, give them the gift of knowledge in the form of How to Invent Everything, by Ryan North. This "survival guide for the stranded time traveler" is chock-full of helpful tips and tricks to make the most of one's life should they accidentally jump the wrong direction in time, sideswipe a dinosaur and irreparably break their machine's flux capacitor. -- A.T.
The Bastard Brigade (Sam Kean)
This year, for once, you can get a great gift for the World War II buff on your list without having to endlessly trawl eBay for 80-year-old knickknacks. The Bastard Brigade by Sam Kean recounts the Allies' desperate struggle to keep Nazi Germany and the rest of the Axis powers from developing and deploying a nuclear bomb. From the opening days of the war to the final march on Berlin, Kean's vivid storytelling grabs the reader and doesn't let go until VE Day. -- A.T.
Spider-Man: Far From Home 4K Blu-ray
Choose the recently released Spider-Man: Far From Home 4K Blu-ray as a gift for someone who enjoys action, humor and awkward teen romance with tons of pixels. It's the second of Spidey's standalone flicks and seems to be positioning him for bigger things. Overall, the film is a wild ride with Mysterio's mind games and immersive Dolby Atmos audio making it a spectacle to behold. Plus, it's a recent Blu-ray release, so there's a strong chance your intended hasn't snagged it for themselves yet. If this film is still missing in your giftee's collection, it's a timely and affordable idea for someone with the home theater system to let it sing. -- J.T.
Us 4K Blu-ray
It's a film about a family and a vacation -- perfect for the holidays, right? But truly, Jordan Peele's Us is not only one of the best films of the year but also a chilling reflection on our divided times. Just look at the title: It speaks to an us-and-them mentality and doubles as the acronym for "United States." Consider it a sly present if discussing current affairs head on is the real scare at your holiday get-togethers. -- C.I.
Detective Pikachu 4K Blu-ray
There are few things as fun as sitting down to watch a cute family movie that's as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. And there's something for everyone in Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, now available on 4K Blu-ray. For grown-ups, it's a pretty serious film noir about a boy looking for his lost father. For kids, his sidekick is a bright yellow mouse that shoots electricity out of its rear.
The story is interesting enough, but you're really there to be swept away by the charm of Ryan Reynolds. Since you can't play Deadpool in the family room, this will have to do as the next best thing. Plus, there are enough knowing winks and gags to keep everyone entertained between action set pieces. The fact that it's based on a spin-off is a bonus, since showing how Pokémon battles would play out in the real world might look like animal cruelty. -- Daniel Cooper, Senior Editor