As we enter that time of year when many of us have lots of presents to buy, I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of my titles that make useful gifts - especially for those difficult-to-buy-for people. When you consider what many presents cost these days, I honestly think you can't beat a book for value. So here's my top six, in no particular order:
Introducing Infinity: a great stocking filler (just £5.99 currently on Amazon, and pocket-sized), Introducing Infinity brings the mind-boggling subject of infinity alive with powerful illustrations in a unique graphic guide. Suitable from about 14 upwards for anyone with an inquiring mind. See at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. If your gift recipient would prefer a more in-depth, though still approachable read, there is also A Brief History of Infinity.
Xenostorm: Rising: a faced-paced science fiction novel, technically for a young adult audience (12+), though it works as well for adults who like SF. (Currently £7.75 on Amazon.) Fourteen-year-old Davy comes home to discover his parents have disappeared - and then a voice in his head tells him that he will be shot if he doesn't act immediately. Davy finds himself facing a powerful underground group who have lived for hundreds of years - and want to see him dead. The future of human existence is in the balance. What that future is – only Davy can decide. See at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
The Universe Inside You: an entertaining exploration of science, using your body as a starting point to look at everything from bacteria to the scale of the universe. Bursting with eye-popping facts, and a great way to introduce science to someone who is reluctant to read about it - but equally for anyone who enjoys exploring the true sense of wonder of science. Written for adults but suitable from about 13 up. (Currently £7.19 on Amazon.) See at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Build Your Own Time Machine: the subject I get asked to talk about most is time travel - because it's something that fascinates everyone, yet many are surprised to learn that there is nothing in the laws of physics that prevents it. This is one for the slightly more dedicated science lovers as it goes into more detail than some of the other books. But if you have a science fan, from 15 to adult, on your gift list, they will love this one. (Currently £7.61 on Amazon.) See at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
The Quantum Age: my latest book and a chance to explore the weirdest aspect of science, quantum theory. The book introduces the basics of quantum physics in a highly approachable way, but it focuses mainly on the amazing applications of quantum physics, from lasers to electronics to superconducting magnets... and even the way that strange quantum effects take place in the natural world. Despite the subject, this is not an overly-technical read, but opens up the topic they're usually too scared to teach you at school for anyone from 14 to adult. This is a hardback, so a little more expensive (currently £11.99 on Amazon), but that does make it more attractive as a present. See at Amazon.co.uk - sorry, not available on Amazon.com until February 2015.
Dice World: recently on the longlist for the Royal Society Prize, Dice World gives the reader a chance to have his or her mind boggled by the aspect of maths that we seemed designed to be fooled by: probability and randomness. Find out how to toss a head ten times in a row, how to make predictions with impossible accuracy, why people volunteer to give up thousands of pounds for no good reason, and how a game show left the woman with the world's highest IQ being reviled by a whole list of academics... until they discovered she was right. Inquisitive minds from 15 to 99 will be fascinated - and it's currently £7.19 on Amazon. See at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.