How to Shop for Geeks


We live in the era of the unabashed geek, and it’s wonderful. But what if you’re not into Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, World of Warcraft, or comic books and you have friends or family that are? What do you buy them for the holidays? Don’t fret — there’s still hope.

Wading into the world of geek culture can be a little confusing if you have no idea what you’re looking for. That’s why it’s best to first do a little bit of sneaky peeking. Even the most astute retail employee can’t help you if you can’t adequately describe what sort of person you’re shopping for. We ask questions of people looking for gifts all year round, so yes, you will have to at least find out the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars.

You can start by just checking out what they already have in their home. For example, do you see a lot of science fiction books? If you’re not sure, make note of a few titles. When you visit the bookstore, you can tell the bookseller, “They like Old Man’s War,  Ender’s Game, and Dune.” This will give the employee a great place to start and they can recommend titles to you. Someone with this list might enjoy Rhonda Mason’s The Empress Game or Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

Do you see a lot of collectibles? Don’t be afraid to ask what they are — we geeky folk are happy to introduce people to the things we love in the hope that you might come to love them too. If you find out they’ve just started collecting all of the DC Pop Vinyls, there’s a gift possibility waiting for you right there. Don’t live nearby? Ask a mutual friend or family member to do a little snooping for you.

You can always do some direct asking:

“If you went to ComicCon, what would you have loved to see first?”
“Who did you say your favorite Marvel hero was?”
“What’s that video game you play all the time?”
“What was that new TV series Josh said you were really into?”

A general question is innocuous; you’re just taking a general interest in their life — except you also have the ulterior motive of figuring out what to surprise them with this holiday season!

The more information you arm yourself with, the better able an employee will be to offer you ideas. Perhaps your sister adores Game of Thrones and loves a good board game. They make Game of Thrones-themed Monopoly and Risk. Maybe you know they love graphic novels, but they’re feeling burned out on the usual DC/Marvel hero stuff. You might be directed to fresh additions to the genre like Saga, or toward something older but still highly praised, like The Sandman.

hungarianhorntailMaybe they like Harry Potter, but you know they already own all the books, a wand, and their house scarf. With the release of Cursed Child and the Fantastic Beasts movie, a plethora of brand new Harry Potter goodies has flooded the market. You could go simple with Gringotts checkers or a Hungarian Horntail figurine, or you could go super high-end with a Time-Turner necklace.

You can also narrow your search and get better assistance by visiting a store that has a focus on carrying geeky goods. Target and WalMart may potentially be cheaper, but you run a good chance of not receiving the sort of help you want. Stores that carry such items, like Hot Topic, Game Exchange, Barnes & Noble, as well as other smaller stores that deal exclusively in comic books and other fun geeky things, are going to be much better at assisting you. Even if you speak with an employee whose expertise isn’t in one particular area, you can always ask if there is someone there who is — unless the employee does it for you first. For example, while I can recommend all manner of fantasy and science fiction books for kids, teens, and adults, I’m lost when it comes to graphic novels. However, I will happily fetch one of my co-workers who can point you in all of the right directions and put the proper copies in your hands. Still others may realize their store doesn’t have quite what you’re looking for and may try to suggest alternative locations for you to shop at.

It also doesn’t hurt to ask if something exists. You may know for a fact that your niece owns the entire manga series of Sailor Moon, so now you’re at a loss at what to get her. A lot of popular series — both TV and book alike — will have extra paraphernalia to go along with it. From plushies to keychains to her very own Sailor Venus wand, you can provide a nice little surprise for her.

In the end, if you can’t figure out what you want to give and still aren’t sure about any of the employee’s suggestions, a gift card may be in order. Once thought to be an impersonal sort of thing, the tune of gift cards has since shifted. Now they bring the thought of, “I know where you like to shop, but I wanted to make sure you got exactly what you wanted.”

So when you go shopping for your geeky friends and family this season, arm yourself with information. A little can go a long way, especially when you shop in the right store.

But just to be on the safe side, asking for gift receipts never hurt anyone.


  • janicu December 1, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    Ha, I like these tips. Andddd now I must look into The Empress Game.

    • Shara White December 2, 2016 at 10:22 am

      OMG YES!!! It’s so up your alley, and the sequel, CLOAK OF WAR, is available now!

      • Janicu December 3, 2016 at 5:22 pm

        I’m only now reading Rachel Bach (only halfway through book 1 of her trilogy and loving it), so this was a case of this rec (Dune? Old Man’s War? Ender’s Game?), plus the blurb on the cover (Space Opera! Rachel Bach quote!) = I’m listening.

        • Shara White December 3, 2016 at 6:29 pm

          Rhonda is a huge fan of the Bach trilogy. She turned me on to it and I adore that trilogy.

    • Nicole Taft December 2, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      YES. Seriously, do read it! I’m actually reading Cloak of War right now, though I’m trying to take my time since I know I’ll have to wait again for the next one. 😀

      • Shara White December 2, 2016 at 1:10 pm

        Cloak of War is on my kindle. I’m so behind on EVERYTHING.

  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier December 2, 2016 at 7:32 am

    I actually went the collectible route this year for the first time with someone. I was completely at a loss, but once I looked into the merchandise I ended up with almost too many ideas.

    I’m also very pro-gift card, especially if the person you’re buying for loves to shop. I usually get a bunch of Barn and Noble/amazon gift cards for Christmas and my birthday and I always get excited about seeing all the new books I can buy.


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