Good grief. I can’t believe it. It's almost Crimble. (That's Christmas to you non-Brits.) Where does the time go? I'm too young for all this excitement! This means, of course, that it's that time of the year when we're all desperately looking for appropriate gifts for our family and friends.
In some cases, this ends up being easy-peasy. When I was visiting my little bro' in England a month or so ago, for example, I discovered that there wasn't a sharp knife in the house. I'm not sure, but my impression was that he's become a collector of blunt blades. On the first day of my visit, while attempting to cut a slice off the end of a loaf of bread, all I ended up achieving was to compress the loaf into an inedible lump. Thus, his Christmas present this year is a knife block containing a set of razor-sharp blades along with an accompanying knife sharpener.
But what does one give to one's techno-geek engineering comrades? There are, of course, many factors to consider, such as the health of one's bank account, the closeness of your relationship, and the tastes of your chums. One simple rule of thumb I use is to only give gifts that I would wish to receive myself. Based on this, may I humbly offer the following suggestions, starting with the least expensive and ending with the most drool-worthy.
First and foremost, speaking for myself, you can’t go wrong with a good book, which goes some way to explain the state of my office.
If your friends' tastes tend more toward science, technology, and history, then I would heartily recommend any and all of the following: Alone in the Universe by John Gribbin, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, Genome by Matt Ridley, and The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean.
Alternatively, if your friends are more interested in science fiction, which is one of the loves of my life, I find myself somewhat torn. I'm very interested in virtual and augmented reality technology at the moment, so I consider the near-ish-future novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which is set in 2044, to be a "must read." Also, while I was out at ESC last week, my chum John Beetem recommended The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster. Although this tale was written over 100 years ago, it predicts many of today's technologies and considers a time when humanity has fallen into a purposeless dependency on a omnicompetent, artificially intelligent machine -- but what happens if the machine stops?
I currently have The Machine Stops on order. In turn, I recommended to John two books that are relatively unknown, that are now only available secondhand, but that occupy a pole position on the bookshelves here in my office: Candy Man by Vincent King and Songs from the Stars by Norman Spinrad.