Books to buy for your smart friend

Fill their holiday season with reading material.

woman reading
Books for the bookworm.pexels

Need a last-minute gift for your favorite smartypants? These science and sci-fi books should do the trick.

Confidence game
The Confidence Game
Part science and part self-help, Maria Konnikova's latest book uses the psychological profiles of real-life con artists to help explain why even the most rational humans fall prey to falsehoods and scams. "For our minds are built for stories. We crave them, and, when there aren't ready ones available, we create them. Stories about our origins. Our purpose. The reasons the world is the way it is. Human beings don't like to exist in a state of uncertainty or ambiguity. When something doesn't make sense, we want to supply the missing link. When we don't understand what or why or how something happened, we want to find the explanation. A confidence artist is only too happy to comply — and the well-crafted narrative is his absolute forte." From $17 on Amazon.Amazon
Seven brief lessons
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Just because he's the smartest guy you know doesn't mean he knows a thing about physics. This best-seller will give your friend a whirlwind introduction to the basics. From $11 on Amazon.Amazon
Oliver sacks
Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks was a brilliant neuroscientist. But he also wrote some of the best science nonfiction ever published. For those unfamiliar with his poignant body of work, you can't go wrong with the classic The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat ($10 on Amazon). If your recipient is a seasoned Sacks fan, they're bound to appreciate the late author's recent autobiography. $10 on Amazon.Amazon
Black hole blues
Black Hole Blues
What's up with this whole gravitational waves business? Find out more about the science—and the people behind it. $16 on Amazon.Amazon
Handmaid's tale
The Handmaid's Tale
It's nearly 20 years old, but Margaret Atwood's seminal work of speculative fiction couldn't be more relevant today. (It's also about to be turned into a Hulu series, so it's probably on your smart friend's re-read list.) From $9 on Amazon.Amazon
embassytown
This underrated space opera is guaranteed to make the recipient think deep, satisfying thoughts about language, love, society, and what it means to be human. It's a must-read for anyone who raved about the movie Arrival. $14 on Amazon.Amazon
Hidden figures
Hidden Figures
Get this one under the tree just in time to beat the movie: Hidden Figures, soon to hit the big screen, tells the story of NASA's first "computers"— the women of color who helped put men on the moon. Whether your friend is a math geek, a space nerd, or a history buff, this one is definitely worth a read. From $11 on Amazon.Margot Lee Shetterly
All the birds
All The Birds In The Sky
The former editor-in-chief of sci-fi site io9 made waves with her first foray into fiction this year. The story of witches and tech geniuses working together to save the world made pretty much every best-of list there is, so you can't go wrong. $18 on Amazon.Amazon
I contain multitudes
I Contain Multitudes
Ed Yong is quite simply one of the best science writers out there, so it's no surprise that his first book is a delight. With everyone buzzing about the microbiome these days, your smartypants friend will want to dive into this read on the microbial world. The New York Times called it "infectiously enthusiastic". Get it? $18 on Amazon.Amazon
Grunt
Grunt
If your friend loves to read about science, they probably already love Mary Roach. Any book of hers is an easy recommendation, and her titles explore everything from the "science" of the supernatural to the history of research on sex. Grunt, her latest, covers the science of warfare. $17 on Amazon.Amazon