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With the holiday season fast approaching, we have taken the liberty of picking out three affordable books that the geek in your family - that probably means you - can't live without.

We are typically a slave to the recommendations of all-star Amazon.com reviewer Henry Raddick, but decided the time was right for The Register to put its own good judgment on the line. And with that, here are the top three "feel good" tech titles of the year.

The obvious king of the bunch comes to us courtesy of author Michael Howard who has penned the second edition of Writing Secure Code. This Microsoft manual is endorsed by no less than Bill Gates who says the book is "required reading at Microsoft."

Microsoft Press has put out a real winner here. Each chapter is as gripping as it sounds be it "Public Enemy #1: The Buffer Overrun" or "All Input Is Evil!". If it's late December and you've hit the egg nog especially hard, curl up by the fire and give the appendixes a read. You'll find "Ridiculous Excuses We've Heard," which we hear is Bill G's favorite part of the tome.

For $39.99 at Amazon, you can't go wrong.

If you're in the market for something a little cheaper, we recommend the deceptively titled The California Plan: For Men.

Dig past Amazon's trickery, and you'll find the book is actually called How to Use Google. This is the popular companion to How to Type Words in a Blank Box and Other Handy Tricks.

For only $1.99, you can purchase this powerful PDF Google guide and read the document on a PC or eBook reader.

One reviewer could not say enough about this valuable search guide.

"I feel totally cheated by this eBook! About 95 per cent of the information in this tiny 13 page publication can be easily found online right on Google's website. Just go to http://www.google.com/options/ where you can read all about the Google Tools mentioned in this eBook and then go to http://www.google.com/help/features.html where you can learn how to use all of the features listed in the book. I did not see one bit of information that I would consider to be either a "hack" or a "trick". If you just want to give away the $1.99, send it to your favorite charity," wrote centralvirginia.

After only ten minutes with the PDF, we were able to type words and then even full phrases into the Google search bar.

For example, we typed the phrase "Itanic sinking" into Google and, by chance, found the last of our three holiday book recommendations - Itanium Rising.

Intel has declared 2003 "The Year of Itanium," so why not celebrate with a book dedicated to the beastly chip. For $27.47, the secrets of the Itanic can be all yours. We urge you to hurry up and pick up a copy of the book. Over the past two years, it has surged to 531,887 on the Amazon.com sales rankings, meaning there are a lot of Itanium gurus out there that have an advantage in dealing with the processor's finer points.

If you don't feel like taking part in "The Year of Itanium," please purchase George Bush's new autobiography How I Beat Baghdad in 30 Days. The ending is a bit weak, but the first twenty pages are amazing. ®

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