Transfer Orbit's 2021 Gift Guide

A bunch of ideas for things to buy your friends

Transfer Orbit's 2021 Gift Guide

Over the last couple of years, I've thrown together a gift guide for Transfer Orbit readers that I think would make for good gifts, either for like-minded readers, or yourself. This year's has a range of books, tech stuff, and clothes that I've come across.

For the books, I've been selecting the higher-quality / gift / art type books, rather than books I've enjoyed. If you're looking for book ideas for gifts, you can take a look back through the archives of the monthly book lists that I've published here.  You can also take a look at the gift guides that I wrote up for 2019 and 2020.

*Purchases made through Bookshop might result in a commission. Some things might be out of stock, but it's worth looking around at other outlets if you can't find one in one place or another. Thanks, supply chain issues.


Folio Society's Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov — $200

Apple's big adaptation of Isaac Asimov's best-known series wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, and while I enjoyed it, it's been a bit of a polarizing story for fans of the original novel. That original novel is widely available in bookstores, and while I'm partial to my trade omnibus edition with a wonderful cover of a spaceship, I'm also a fan of the Folio Society's re-released edition.

The trilogy comes in three silver hardcovers, each coming with illustrations from Alex Wells and with an introduction from economist Paul Krugman. It's a handsome edition of the trilogy, and it sits nicely on the bookshelf along with my other Asimov novels. (Folio also had a nice edition of I, Robot, but it appears to be sold out.)

Leviathan Wakes (10th anniversary edition) by James S.A. Corey — $40

I'm a big fan of James S.A. Corey's The Expanse series, and I have a hard time believing that it's been a decade since the first installment, Leviathan Wakes, hit stores. To commemorate the milestone, Orbit has released a handsome special edition of the book, with a new, shiny cover, a nice map of the solar system as endpapers, and a new preface written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. It's a good book to give that friend who's into science fiction who hasn't yet picked it up yet.  

The Art and Soul of Dune by Tanya Lapointe — $50

Dune was probably my favorite film of the entire year: the breadth and depth of the world is stunning and immersive. A key part of that comes down to the work that the film's crew put into imagining it, and a key part of that turns out to be the concept art. That's all collected into a single volume by Tanya Lapointe, which provides an excellent window into the making of the film and how it went from idea to screen. I look forward to the second part when the film is eventually released into theaters.

Folio Society's Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami — $115

Haruki Murakami is an author that I've wanted to pick up for ages, and The Folio Society has released a wonderful edition of his novel Kafka on the Shore. The book originally came out in 2002, and it follows the story of two characters: Kafka Tamura, a teenager running away from prophecy, and Nakata, who can speak with cats and who has a strange affliction. Their stories eventually overlap.

This volume features some stunning artwork by Daniel Liévano, and was translated by Philip Gabriel.

The Golden Compass Illustrated Edition by Philip Pullman — $40

Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass has long remained one of my favorite fantasy novels, and Knopf released a special illustrated edition earlier this summer. It's a beautiful, oversized hardcover, complete with tons of woodcut illustrations from Chris Wormell. It's a beautiful volume that repackages the story alongside some wonderful artwork. I hope that we'll get new editions of The Amber Spyglass and The Subtle Knife as well.

Lord of the Rings Illustrated Edition, J.R.R. Tolkien — $75

You can never have enough copies of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I've got three that I own: a trilogy of mass markets whose cover art I adore (I thought I'd discarded them and was heartbroken, only to rediscover them not too long ago), a trade paperback omnibus, and a trio of illustrated hardcovers. Now, there's a new omnibus edition of the entire trilogy: The Lord of the Rings Illustrated Edition, which is an extremely handsome edition.

The book features a nice gray, red, and gold dust jacket and a small pull-out of the classic map of Middle Earth. The pages have red edging with the ring's text, and inside, you're treated to a ton of illustrations by Tolkien himself (for the first time, I think?). Tolkien's art has a particular quality to it, and seeing how he viewed Middle-earth alongside his text is a neat thing to behold.

Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien by Christopher and J.R.R. Tolkien

Speaking of Tolkien's illustrations, Mariner Books is releasing a separate volume of Tolkien's artwork. The book was originally published decades ago, but hasn't been reprinted until now. It features 40 illustrations from all over Tolkien's Middle-earth, each of which accompanied by some commentary about where they've been published or used in the past. It's a beautiful little volume.

Tech & other stuff

Apple's Airpod Max wireless headphones — $550

Up front, these are pretty expensive for wireless headphones (and you can find some sales going on now, like over at Amazon, which knocks a good amount off).

BUT: I ended up picking up a pair of these because Apple allowed me to pay in installments through my phone, and I've loved wearing them. The sound is really great, they connect nicely to my computer/iPad/iPhone (sometimes a little too aggressively, but that's a Apple ecosystem thing), and the noise cancelation thing has been a revelation to me, especially when I'm trying to focus on writing something and need to tune out the background noise in the house.

NovelKeys's Galactic Empire Keycaps — $250

I am not a keyboard person. I've got my wireless Magic Keyboard that I use for my Mac, and Apple's foldable keyboard for my iPad. I've never really gotten the appeal for a custom one, but thanks to Shane C., I think I'm coveting one: NovelKey's Star Wars-themed set of keycaps. Currently available is the Galactic Empire-styled ones, which look very cool (Although I'm partial to the X-Wing version that's sadly sold out).

NS-18 patch — $7

The space industry has a love affair for mission patches: every mission that goes up into space gets one, and that includes the various "missions" that Blue Origin has been launching up into space. Following William Shatner's trip back in October, Blue Origin has released a patch with a neat logo featuring the spacecraft, the mission number and the names of the passengers. This feels like a really neat stocking-stuffer for a space enthusiast.

Seven Days Walking by Ludovico Einaudi — $16 (each, but you can buy a bundle lf all seven on iTunes)

If you're looking for a gift for a music fan, or someone looking for something beautiful to listen to, I'd recommend Ludovico Einaudi's 2019 seven-part classical album, Seven Days Walking. I've long been a fan of his work: it's moody, subtle, and uplifting, and it was inspired by a series of walks that he took over the course of a year in the Alps. I bought it earlier this year, and I've been throwing it on while I've been reading or traveling, and it's restful, relaxing, and engrossing music.

Shinola Detroit's Guardian Travel Alarm Clock — $125

I've recently been adjusting my bedside table: I bought a lamp to read by at night (turning the light on would wake the kids, and closing the door would leave the bedroom too cold), and along with that, I ended up discovering a neat little alarm clock from a company called Shinola. It's small enough to take with me on the road when I get back to traveling, and I love the sleek, minimal design.


Author Metal AF shirts — $22-40

This was a fun discovery earlier this year: someone went and made shirts with author names spelled out like they're classic metal bands. I'm personally coveting an Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia Butler one.

RITOS shirt — $24 (Discount code MERRY will get you 25% off as well.)

This year's season of Star Trek: Lower Decks has been a delight: I've enjoyed watching the antics of the crew of the USS Cerritos, and during one random moment, Captain Carol Freeman was off-duty and wearing a crew shirt that spelled out RITOS, an abbreviation on the ship's name, and apparently a fixture in the world of starfleet (USS Discovery's crew members had one as well — DISCO). While watching, I remember thinking that it would be a neat shirt to get, and lo and behold, Paramount ended up releasing one.

Menkiddooc Nature Preserve — $25

I've written a bit about Brian Staveley's novels over the years, and his latest is a great entry in his world. Legion M optioned his Chronicles of the Unhewen Throne trilogy for an animated show, and they've released some merch to tie in with the books, including a neat shirt that ties in with this latest book. I've had a Kettral Athletic Dept. shirt for ages, but this strikes me as something I'd add to my wardrobe.

You can also pick up a membership for Transfer Orbit, for yourself or for a friend! You can find details here.