Two decades ago, I lived in Dallas, Texas. Not far from my old North Dallas apartment stood the flagship of one of the biggest new-used book and music stores on the planet, Half Price Books. Founded in an old laundromat in 1972, HPB claims to “buy and sell everything ever printed or recorded (except yesterday’s newspaper).”
That’s no exaggeration.
For four years, to escape the stress of work, the extreme heat, or just to surround myself with the wall-to-wall promise of finding a good story or three, I browsed that mammoth book exchange once a week for at least three hours. I usually brought a handful of books with me to sell for store credit. I walked out every time with twice as many as I’d carried in.
Those were simpler times; back when I had three hours to kill in a book warehouse every Saturday afternoon. The closest HPB to me now is more than 400 miles away in Columbus, Ohio. If I want an HPB-type fix now, like most people, I have to hop on Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com.
Even with the convenience, recommendations algorithm magic, and time savings of online shopping, finding just the right book gift for your Nerd (or Nerdy self) can still be a time-sucking, challenging shot-in-the-dark.
But fear not!
Once again, Raising Nerd is here to help. We’ve taken on the monumental task of navigating those endless online aisles and bookshelves for you (like we said, we love it)! Here for your holiday shopping convenience are our top picks for the perfect STEM/STEAM-related book gifts that will mesmerize and inspire all the Nerds on your list:
Bugs A to Z by Caroline Lawton
This book is great for all kids who are fascinated with bugs. Simple text from A to Z provides buggy facts and figures. Larger-than-life full-color photographs of creepy crawlies include locusts, caterpillars, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, ants, praying mantis, and more!
The Ultimate Book of Space by Anne-Sophie Baumann
This is a fact-filled, action-packed look at the amazing universe. With 40 flaps, pop-ups, pull tabs, and movable parts, The Ultimate Book of Space provides a richly illustrated, hands-on exploration of space travel, the Earth’s place in our galaxy, the solar system, and much more. For ages 5 to 8
A great picture book series from friend-of-Raising-Nerd author Brad Meltzer! Lightning McQueen was an immediate fan of the Jane Goodall book – I have a feeling it was because of the chimpanzees. Each book is a biography of a major historical figure, told simply and as a way that defines the person as a role model for kids. The heroes are depicted in a way (always as children themselves) that keeps the books playful and accessible to young readers. Each book ends with a line of encouragement, a direct quote, photos, a timeline, and a source list.
Rosie Revere Engineer, Ada Twist Scientist, and Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty and Illustrated by David Roberts
This book series celebrates STEM, creative problem solving, and perseverance, all told through rhyming text.
Coding Games in Scratch by Jon Woodcock
With Coding Games in Scratch, kids can build single and multiplayer platform games, create puzzles and memory games, race through mazes, add animation, and more. All they need is a desktop or laptop with Adobe 10.2 or later, and an internet connection to either download Scratch 2.0 or code without download here.
Quite possibly the best way to recycle bottles ever! After learning how to construct and fly a basic model, readers will find out new ways to modify and improve their designs, including built-on fins, nosecones, and parachutes that enable a rocket to float safely back to earth. More complex designs include two-, three-, and five-bottle rockets, gliding rockets, long-tail rockets, cluster rockets, whistling rockets, ring-finned rockets, and a jumbo version made from a five-gallon water-cooler tank.
These books showcase small projects to build with LEGO Technic gears, motors, gadgets, and other moving elements. You’ll find hundreds of clever, buildable mechanisms, each one demonstrating a key building technique or mechanical principle. Each model includes a list of required parts and colorful photographs that guide you through the build without the need for step-by-step instructions.
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe
This is a coffee table book on steroids. When I reviewed it for Raising Nerd this summer along with What If?, I said it was “a must for any budding scientist, tinkering Nerd, or curious parent” and a “great conversation starter and a book you and your kids will likely refer back to, time and again.” So, yeah, if you haven’t already, go get it! You might also like Munroe’s xkcd: Volume 0, a collection of his hilarious science-focused webcomics.
Speaking of conversation starters, this book is a great way to get your Nerds pondering science and everyday mysteries of the world around them. The author addresses each question with uncomplicated writing so that even younger kids can understand without watering things down Topics include: Earth science, the human body, astronomy, chemistry, physics, technology, zoology, music, and other conundrums that don’t fit into any category.
Why a Curveball Curves: The Incredible Science of Sports by William Hayes
The experts at Popular Mechanics, along with top athletes, coaches, and sports journalists, explore the science behind everything from the perfect curveball and Michael Phelps’s kick to gene doping. This one is probably more for middle- and high school-aged students to read on their own, but parents shouldn’t be discouraged from reading and sharing the information with curious younger students, as appropriate.
On the Launch Pad: A Counting Book About Rockets by Michael Dahl and Illustrated by Denise Shea and Derrick Alderman
Little Nerds join in the countdown from 12 to one as a space shuttle awaits liftoff. See if they can find the hidden numbers on the illustrated activity page.
For the inquisitive kitchen wizards, chefs, food scientists, and nutritionists-to-be! This book’s colorful graphics and easy-to-understand explanations make these food facts fun for everyone, even non-scientists.
What Do You Do With An Idea? By Kobi Yamada and Illustrated by Mae Besom
This award-winning book for kids 5 to 8 tells the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world.
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
Feed their curiosity and wonder of the wild kingdom with this artistic book that renders unique, life-sized images of animals, large and small, using colorful collage illustrations. For ages 4 to 8
These books are filled with hundreds of amazing science facts and puzzles, all based on real-world scientific principles. Why do cats’ eyes glow green? Why does a boomerang come back? How big would the world be if all the empty space was squeezed out of it? Can you build a time machine? The answer to each problem explains a scientific or mathematical principle in easy-to-understand terms.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
GirlTastic, RocketteGirl, and Lightning McQueen are big believers in and proof of girl power. And, like you, the Raising Nerd staff loves to help inspire and support our daughters as they pursue their goals with passion and confidence. So, here’s the first of two books we recommend to propel girl nerds to greatness. Women in Science highlights the amazing contributions of 50 women in STEM, from the ancient to the modern world.
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh
School Library Journal says this volume is “An outstanding collective biography of women and girls who changed the world with their inventions. Thimmesh surveys unique and creative ideas that were both borne of necessity or were simply a product of ingenuity and hard work.” The book tells the stories of what inspired these women (and girls) and how they turned their ideas into reality.
Zoology For Kids: Understanding and Working with Animals by Josh and Bethanie Hestermann
This book inspires the next generation of zoologists to discover the animal kingdom through clear, entertaining information and anecdotes, lush color photos, hands-on activities, and peer-reviewed research.
This Book Is A Planetarium and Other Extraordinary Pop-Up Contraptions (pre-order) by Kelli Anderson
This pop-up transforms into six fully functional tools: a real working planetarium projecting the constellations, a musical instrument, a geometric drawing generator, an infinite calendar, a message decoder, and a speaker that amplifies sound. Artist Anderson contributes text alongside each pop-up, explaining the scientific principles related to the constructions.
Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass
“From the New York Times bestselling author of The Candymakers comes a world-hopping tale that leads the reader deep into the heart of the mysteries of time and space. Plus, there’s pie.”
Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman and Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
The simple story of a little boy and the robot he befriends. For preschoolers to 1st graders
Bend their minds and stoke their imaginations with surrealist magic and sleight of hand. This playful collection of works masterfully manipulates perspective and will have your Nerds spending hours to try and figure out just how these great artists pulled off the seemingly impossible.
The Mysterious Benedict Society Series by Trenton Lee Stewart
[Promo copy from Book 1 in the series] “‘Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?’ When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.) But, in the end, just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.”
Clink by Kelly DiPucchio and Illustrated by Matthew Myers
We can’t get enough books populated with adorable bots. So, here’s another acclaimed book about an outdated, almost forgotten robot. For Nerds ages 4 to 8.
Supporting STEM education initiatives and the maker movement, the National Parenting Publication Award-winner Maker Lab includes 28 kid-safe projects and crafts that will get young inventors’ wheels turning and make science pure fun.
Each step-by-step activity is appropriate for kids ages 8 to 12, and ranked easy, medium, or hard, with an estimated time frame for completion. Requiring only household materials, young makers can build an exploding volcano, race balloon rocket cars, construct a solar system, make a lemon battery, and more.
Design and build 10 amazing moving machines while teaching your LEGO bricks new tricks. The LEGO Klutz book comes with 80 page instructions, 33 LEGO pieces, instructions for 10 modules, 6 plastic balls, string, paper ramps and other components to teach real-world engineering. Add your own LEGO to make even bigger and better machines.
Robots, Robots Everywhere by Sue Fliess and Illustrated by Bob Staake
We couldn’t resist adding one more colorful bot book. This awesome board book will wow Nerd preschoolers who just might start seeing robots in the craziest places.
Don’t forget about our Mega Wishlist Gift guide. And stay tuned to Raising Nerd for a holiday bonus on Cyber Monday: The Mega Wish List Stocking Stuffers Edition. Until then, we hope you and your family have a wonderfully Nerdy and safe Thanksgiving – Nerd on!