Buying physical presents for people who live online is hard. Unwrapping a digital song doesn’t have quite the same excitement factor as getting a CD used to, and literally no one wants the Facebook gift cards that exist for no other reason than to scam confused Grandmas.
So what do you get the Internet Person in your life for their birthday, Christmas, or other socially-enforced gift-giving occasion? Well, we’ve found you 5 excellent, non-obvious books that are basically the internet in tree form. You can’t go wrong*.
*Gadgette is not responsible for people hating their present/beating you about the head with it/setting it on fire right in front of you. But do send us a video because that sounds hilarious.
1. Thing Explainer
Written by the amazing Randall Monroe of XKCD fame (the internet’s favourite webcomic), Thing Explainer takes something you think you understand, and makes you actually understand it. Like a book version of the Explain Like I’m 5 subreddit, but with pictures. Things it explains include helicopters (“sky boats with turning wings”) and cells (“tiny bags of water you’re made of.”) Explanations use only the 1000 most common words in the language, so pretty much anyone can understand.
The tone of voice is deliberately a bit Tarzan, so if that’s likely to annoy you, give it a miss – but for anyone who wants to understand the world a bit better without venturing into the sinkhole of Wikipedia, this is a good option.
Out now in hardcover and for Kindle, although the reviews suggest avoiding the Kindle version if you really want to enjoy the diagrams.
2. Gin: The Manual
Everyone on the internet loves gin.
OK, that’s not 100% accurate, but it seems like half of Twitter has some reference to it in their bio:
liking gin isn't a personality liking gin isn't a personality liking gin isn't a personality liking gin isn't a personality liking gin isn't— jessica wokefield (@hummusandpizza) October 29, 2015
Which means a gin manual is a pretty safe choice. This one is written by multi-award winning drinks writer Dave Broom (sounds like a great job to us).
The book covers 120 different gins – everything from Hendricks and Sipsmith to Bathtub Gin and Monkey 47 – with step-by-step guides to enjoying each one. He also tests and scores each gin with tonic, with lemonade, in a negroni and in a martini.
We’d recommend pairing this book with a lovely bottle of gin for the best possible present. Otherwise it’s a bit like giving someone a birthday card with cake on it, but no actual cake. And everyone hates those people.
Gin: The Manual is available now on Amazon UK, either as a hardcover or for Kindle.
3. TechnicallyRon’s Life-Abet: An A to Z of Existence
If you use Twitter much, you’ve almost certainly retweeted one of @TechnicallyRon (real name Aaron Gillies)’s brilliant jokes without even realising it. Like this one:
A simple guide to washing machine symbols pic.twitter.com/C5tGJs05RM— TechnicallyRon (@TechnicallyRon) February 26, 2015
It’s not surprising, then, that a publisher snapped him up for a book just in time for Christmas. @TechnicallyRon’s Life-Abet comes highly recommended by the man himself:
And is full of the kind of sweary brilliance that’s won him over 50,000 followers – and more than a few joke thieves.
If Aaron’s Twitter feed is his one-liners, this book is more like the live show. It made us ugly-laugh, and that’s not easy to do.
As well as being hilarious on Twitter:
Jim Benton also writes books of similarly brilliant cartoons. They range from ones that make you feel bad for laughing (but you laugh your head off nonetheless):
To ones so painfully accurate, you want to print them out and paste them on your face:
To ones that are surprisingly touching and poignant:
Essentially, if you or your recipient like books that make you want to photograph and tweet every page, you should buy this. The beautifully-named ‘Dog Butts and Love. And Stuff Like That. And Cats.’ is available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon UK, but we’d argue this is one of those books you want in the flesh.
5. Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life: a guide for anxious humans
Pretty much everyone on the internet seems to suffer from anxiety. Not necessarily in a pathological way, but at least strongly enough to identify with Buzzfeed lists of ’21 things that happen when you overthink everything.’ Neil Hughes’ book is aimed at those people.
‘Walking on Custard’ is kind of a self-help manual crossed with a comedy book. It’s funny and ridiculous and relatable, but also contains exercises and actual advice. Plus the title is pretty much the perfect analogy for how life feels when you can’t stop worrying.
It’s intermingled with little stories, personal anecdotes and direct quotes from Hughes’ inner critic. Like all self-help books, it gets cringy at times, but if you can tough it out and actually do the socks-on-ears exercise, you’ll be better for it.
Walking on Custard is available now in paperback, hardcover or on Kindle. Why not ask your inner critic to sign a copy?