The Ultimate Book Gift Guide : 2017 Edition


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As a writer and a reader, books are one of the best aspects of life in my opinion — and they're always at the top of my gift lists every holiday season. Last year I rounded up a list of some of my favorite recommendations in the Ultimate Book Gift Guide, and this year I decided to add to the list. If you already perused last year's list, start from the top, as that's where I'll be adding the newer recommendations. 

No matter who is on your shopping list (or maybe you're just looking for some good reads yourself!), you're bound to find some good options below. As with last year, I've tried to offer suggestions for who might enjoy the books, but definitely click the links to check out the titles that appeal to you, since you never know who might enjoy certain titles! 

And if you have any recommendations for books that make good gifts, feel free to leave the titles in the comments section below!  

  

FOR ADULT FAMILY MEMBERS

For the one who could use a little more magic in her life...
The Rules of Magic / Alice Hoffman

For the aunt who really needs a life overall...
Reinvent Me / Camilla Dollerup

For anyone (or related to someone) battling addiction...
Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions / Russell Brand

For the cousin who is really into his dog (and science)...
Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell / Alexandra Horowitz

For the aunt who is obsessed with animals...
How to Find Your Spirit Animal / David Carson

For your dad who loves Charles Dickens...
The Man Who Invented Christmas / Les Standiford

For everyone in your family who doesn't understand introverts... 
Text, Don't Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life / Aaron Caycedo-Kimura

For your mom, who's always trying to make things cozy...
The Little Book of Hygge / Meik Wiking

For literally anyone related to you or who has a family... 
It Didn't Start with You / Mark Wolynn

For your uber-opinionated and vocal grandfather...
The Joy of Argument / Albert Navarra

For your too tough-and-cool for self-help uncle...
10% Happier / Dan Harris

For your memory-hoarding mother... 
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up / Marie Kondo

For your self-involved (but secretly sweet) teenager... 
Tiny Buddha's 365 Love Challenges / Lori Deschene

For your not-quite-on-the-same-page spouse...
The Five Love Languages / Gary Chapman

For your romance-novel-reading mother-in-law...
Other People's Love Letters / Bill Shapiro

For your hilarious (and a bit odd) aunt...
Furiously Happy / Jenny Lawson

For your sibling with a kid who's struggling in school...
Thinking Organized / Rhonna Gordon

For the dad who thinks feminism is for women only...
Feminism Is for Everybody / bell hooks

For your aunt and uncle who're constantly bickering...
Blamestorming / Rob Kendall

For your health-conscious, foodie brother-in-law...
In Defense of Food / Michael Pollan 

For the mother who puts everyone else first... 
Too Nice for Your Own Good / Duke Robinson

For your brother who needs a bit of inspiration...
This is How / Augusten Burroughs

For your father-in-law who loves a good mystery...
Knights in White Satin / Philip DiPirro

For your sister who's against ever marrying...
Spinster / Kate Bolick

For your aunt who's self-identifies as a dog mom...
Inside of a Dog / Alexandra Horowitz

For the cousin still working on that novel...
On Writing / Stephen King

For the niece struggling through her 20s...
It's a Wonderful Lie / Emily Franklin

For the aunt who loves daily bits of insight... 
Stay Positive / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For your spouse (read it together!)...
Love 2.0 / Barbara L. Frederickson

For the sibling you've not-so-subtly resented for years... 
Forgiveness / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For your parent who's curious about self-improvement...
The Positively Present Guide to Life / Dani DiPirro (me!)

 

FOR KIDS AND TEENAGERS

For your teenage niece / nephew / neighbor / anyone...
Turtles All the Way Down / John Green

For all the kids who adore funny and smart books...
Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt / Ben Clanton

For the teen who needs to get out of her comfort zone...
Surprise Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into the World / Lisa Currie

For the kids and teens who'd rather stay in then go out...
Introvert Doodles / Maureen "Marzi" Wilson

For every child or teen or adult on your list...
Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too / Jomny Sun

For your slightly neurotic niece or nephew...
Owl at Home / Arnold Lobel

For a teenager at odds with her mother...
The Runaway Bunny / Margaret Wise Brown

For the child who's not like his/her siblings...
The Trumpet of the Swan / E.B. White

For the teen who doesn't like standing out... 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower / Stephen Chbosky

For the little toddler who's always a bit grumpy...
Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? / Carol McCloud

For the little one who's always daydreaming...
Once Upon a Cloud / Claire Keane

For the middle-schooler adjusting to a new place... 
I Capture the Castle / Dodie Smith

For the teen with a potentially self-destructive friend...
Looking for Alaska / John Green

For the teenage girl who love the broody boys...
The Wind Blows Backward / Mary Downing Hahn

For the girl who needs some modern advice...
Girl Talk / Christie Young

For the little girl who wants a place of her own...
Mandy / Julie Andrews Edwards

For the creative teenager who needs a pick-me-up...
Pick Me Up / Adam J. Kurtz 

For the deep-thinking, graphic-book-loving teen...
Persepolis / Marjane Satrapi

For the teenager always snapping Insta pics...
A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book / Elsie Larson

For the super creative (and a little spooky) kid...
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick / Chris Van Allsburg

For the kid who loves animals more than people...
Guardians of Being / Eckhart Tolle

 

FOR YOUR FRIENDS

For the pal who needs a spiritual boost...
White Hot Truth / Danielle LaPorte

For the antisocial buddy you rarely see...
Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World / Michael Harris

For the super busy boss babe who needs to chill...
Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path / Erin Loechner

For anyone who struggles with anxiety or OCD...
Turtles All the Way Down / John Green

For your friend who loves The Little Prince...
Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too / Jomny Sun

For the friend who's a (not so) secret badass...
Bad Girls Throughout History / Ann Shen

For the friend going through a really tough time...
Loving What Is / Byron Katie

For the always-judging-others friend...
Compassion / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the friend sighing, "I should try meditating..."
You Can Master Meditation / David Fontana

For the friend who needs to dump him/her ASAP...
The No-Contact Rule / Natalie Lue

For the friend who cancels plans to read instead...
Quiet: The Power of Introverts / Susan Cain

For the friend struggling to get pregnant...
The Fairy Rebel / Lynn Reid Banks

For the friend who's scared of (but needs to) change...
Start Where You Are / Meera Lee Patel

For your super creative, artistic, cool friend...
In Progress / Jessica Hische

For the friend who constantly seeks external approval...
I Need Your Love: Is That True? / Byron Katie

For the friend who recently said goodbye to a pup...
Dog Heaven / Cynthia Rylant

For the buddy who's constantly worrying...
The Power of Now / Eckhart Tolle 

For the friend with a rocky mother/daughter relationship... 
Boundaries / Anne Katherine

For your sassy friend who needs a happiness boost...
How to Be Happy, Dammit! / Karen Salmansohn

For your whimsical friend who loves a bit of magic...
The Night Circus / Erin Morgenstern

For a friend who seems like she's really lost...
Wild / Cheryl Strayed

For the friend that still keeps a diary...
The Folded Clock / Heidi Julavits

For the pal that needs to figure out what she wants...
The Desire Map / Danielle LaPorte

For the guy who's always crying over his ex...
The Great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald

For your feminist friend who feels all the feels...
I Am an Emotional Creature / Eve Ensler

For your buddy who's always searching the next rush...
Hector and the Search for Happiness / François Lelord

 

FOR YOUR COLLEAGUES

For the creative stuck in his comfort zone...
Surprise Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into the World / Lisa Currie

For anyone who doesn't anything remotely creative...
Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives / Adam J. Kurtz

For the coworker filled with ideas (and restless energy!)...
Tinker Dabble Doodle Try / Srini Pillay

For the creative-but-frazzled coworker...
Calm / Michael Acton Smith

For the coworker who needs to follow her passion...
The Crossroads of Should and Must / Elle Luna

For the too-creative-for-this place coworker...
Big Magic / Elizabeth Gilbert

For the coworker who's always super stressed...
Living in the Moment / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the colleague always around adults...
The Little Prince / Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

For someone who needs a bit of motivation...
It's Not How Good You Are... / Paul Arden

For the coworker who's always complaining...
Gratitude / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the a stylish guy/gal who loves soul-searching...
Style Statement / Danielle LaPorte

For the coworker getting his kids a puppy...
The Puppy Primer / Patricia B. McConnell

For the guy always yelling in his office...
Emotional Agility / Susan David, PhD

For that colleague always looking for gossip...
PostSecret / Frank Warren

For that guy always looking for a project...
The Happiness of Pursuit / Chris Guillebeau

For the colleague always finding the bad stuff...
You Can Be an Optimist / Lucy MacDonald

For the coworker who should run her own business...
#GirlBoss / Sophia Amoruso

For the HR guy who loves analyzing people... 
The Social Animal / David Brooks 

For your colleague who can't choose a lunch spot...
The Paradox of Choice / Barry Schwartz

For the boss who's perpetually stressed out...
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work / Richard Carlson

For the trivia-loving data dude in IT...
The Visual Miscellaneum / David McCandless

For the admin who needs to pursue her dreams...
Now Is The Time To Do What You Love / Nancy Whitney-Reiter

 

I hope this updated list helps you find the perfect book for everyone on your list! (Or, let's be honest, for yourself, 'cause I know you're looking for something for you too!). If you purchase any of the books and enjoy them, don't forget to leave a review on Amazon. It helps authors (like me!) so much. And if you're curious about my books (many of which are sprinkled throughout this list), check out my Amazon Author Page here


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The Benefits of Pets in Recovery

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Artwork inspired by FreehandMagic on Instagram and Etsy

 

Over the couple of weeks, I've been recovering from surgery, and, though it ended up being a relatively easy process compared to others I've had, it's still never a fun experience. (Though, to be fair, playing Scrabble with my mom while watching Hallmark Christmas movies was pretty enjoyable!).

Recovery in the physical sense it tough, and I've made it a little bit more challenging on myself by diving into Russell Brand's amazing book, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions, while in rest-up mode. The book is so good — I'd recommend it to anyone, even those who don't have substance abuse issues — but it's definitely put me on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. (One of the highs: seeing my pup, Barkley, featured on Russell's Instagram page!)

As I've been working through physical and emotional pain, I've discovered one incredibly beneficial resource that I don't read about often enough: my dog. Studies have show that pet ownership, or just being in the presence of a companion animal, is associated with health benefits, including improvements in mental, social, and physiologic health status. Animals can have a majorly positive impact on our lives, but my awareness of this impact seems to be heightened when it comes to recovery of any kind. 

Recovery, of course, requires assistance from humans, too, but there's something different and powerful about the presence of an animal. Here are some of the benefits I've experienced, in both physical and substance-related recovery, as a result of having a dog in my life: 

 

COMFORT

Probably the most basic of all recovery benefits is the comfort spending time with an animal brings. It's been shown that playing with or petting a pet can help lower oxytocin levels in the brain, which helps you feel more relaxed and less stressed — two factors that definitely help with the anxiety that comes with any kind of recovery. Most of us who have pets know that petting an  animal is calming, and it's also been shown to help keep blood pressure levels lower. Pets also offer physical warmth. I've noticed that warmth — a cozy blanket, clothes fresh out of the dryer, a cup of tea, a soothing bath, or the snuggly body of a pet — really helps with my anxiety. Just feeling the warm pressure of a pup leaning against you (as Barkley is right now as I'm writing this!) can provide additional comfort. 

 

HONESTY

This one tends to apply a bit more to substance recovery, but the benefit is actually pretty universal for anyone who struggles with emotions (who doesn't?!). The great thing about pets is: they can't hide their emotions. When they're afraid or distraught, we know it (especially if we know them well!), and they, in turn, are often tuned into our emotions. This offers a two-fold benefit: (1) they can be a barometer we can use to assess how we're feeling because they'll often mirror our emotional states, and (2) they can inspire us to be more emotionally honest. Many of us (even those without substance abuse histories) try to numb or avoid our emotions, but, through the help of our pets, we can learn that recognizing and expressing emotions doesn't have to be so challenging. (The resistance to feelings is actually way more painful in the end!)

 

COMPASSION

Many animals are able to show compassion for those in emotional or physical pain. Anyone who's had a dog lick her face while she's crying knows that, while pups might not understand complex human emotions, they do appear to understand our feelings in some and often do what they can with their limited communication abilities to convey compassion and even empathy. This compassion can also be easier for some people to accept than the compassion from fellow humans. If you're feeling frustrated by your condition or even envious of those who can do things you cannot (i.e., walking post-surgery or drinking casually without self-destruction), accepting compassion from others can be challenging. With pets, there's no comparison or complex emotional acceptance involved when compassion is offered. The simplicity of it makes it easier to embrace. 

 

SELFLESSNESS

When in recovery of any kind, it can be challenging not to become at least a little self-absorbed. You're in pain and pain's an attention-seeking type of thing. It demands to be felt and attended to, which can lead to some selfish tendencies. While, of course, it's important to attend to pain, focusing too much on it can be dangerous. Pets can take us out of this me-focused mindset because they have many needs they can't attend to on their own — like food, walks, etc. Self-care and self-reflection are important in recovery of any kind, but having a little creature that needs you can be a useful tool for remembering that, despite your pain, the world doesn't (and shouldn't!) revolve around you. Pets give you a purpose, which can be a very big morale boost when you're in a difficult physical or emotional state. 

 

MINDFULNESS

I've written about this countless times before, but pets are such good motivators for staying in the moment. Animals can certainly think about the future and the past, but they tend not to dwell on them the way us humans do. When it recovery, we can learn so much from paying attention to how animals are just able to be. They have the benefit of not having some of the complexities that come with the human brain and, while we might not ever to be able to reach their level of supreme mindfulness, paying attention to how they pay attention be a positively transformative experience. Engaging in certain activities with them (like playing fetch, for example) can also offer opportunities to practice being in the moment. 

 

COMPANIONSHIP

One of the greatest challenges in recovery is the sense of isolation one is likely to feel. Even if you're fortunate enough to have great people around you (thanks, Mom and Dad, for taking care of me!), you're still likely to feel lonely and adrift at times. Other people cannot be by your side 24/7 (nor would you probably want them to be!), but a pet can often be with you most of the time, providing companionship that can ease feelings of loneliness or isolation. While family and friends can provide love and support, unconditional love in the face of recovery can sometimes lead to enabling behavior. Human companionship, no matter how wonderful, is always a bit complex. With pets, it's simple: they love you no matter who you are or what you do, and they don't in any way use that love to enable any behaviors. 

 

SOCIABILITY 

Pets not only give you social interaction with them (no, it's not a substitute for human interaction, but it's still nice), they also give you motivation to get up and socialize with others. (Note: this might just apply to dogs, unless you have a leash for your cat, in which case you're either awesome or have an awesome cat.) When you're in pain (and particularly if you're introverted by nature), getting out and about while in recovery can be hard. If you're physically recovering, you might not really feel up to showcasing your ailment to the world. If it's an emotional kind of recovery, you might feel hesitant or unready to get out and about. But taking a dog for a walk and encountering neighbors can be a simple but effective way to slowly get back to your old self. At the very least, it gets you outside for some fresh air, which I'm pretty sure is good for all kinds of recovery! 

 

PLAYFULNESS

When you're in recovery of any kind, playing isn't really at the forefront of your mind, but pets can bring out a liveliness in you that you didn't realize was there. In general, most adult humans don't do enough playing (at least in my opinion!), and that's one thing pets can be really good at. Playing can have many emotional and cognitive benefits, and even if it's just a short session of tossing the ball or tugging at toy, playing with a pet can really boost your mood — which is a wonderful thing when you're in recovery and might be struggling emotionally. Play also gets you up and moving a bit, which can be beneficial when you either don't feel like (or physically can't) exercise. More endorphins = more healthy mood boosters! 

 

If you're going through any kind of recovery, I hope you have the opportunity to spend time with animals, even if just for a little while. There's something magical about the way they live, and, while it might seem like their lives are simple compared to ours, there's a lot we humans can learn from our four-legged friends. And there are certainly many ways we can benefit from their presence in our lives. If you don't have a pet in your life, you can always check out the adventures (and book recommendations!) of Barkley the Morkie on Instagram! And if you can think of any additional benefits (or even some helpful recovery tips), feel free to leave them in the comments below!  

    

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The Power of Flowers + Random Acts of Kindness

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This past week has been a really challenging one for me, but one thing these tough times have made me acutely aware of is just how much a small, random act of kindness can mean to someone who is in pain (and, let's be real, most of us are in some kind of pain). Over the past week, I've been shown so many little kindnesses — from friends, colleagues, random people I don't even know — and it's really made me appreciate the truth behind the old saying: "Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." 

Random acts of kindness are not only wonderful to receive, but they're also amazing to give as well. This week, I highly recommend you giving one of the ideas below a try. Not only will it feel great for you, but you'll be spreading kindness in the world, and we all could use a lot more of that! 

 

RANDOM ACT 1 : GIVE FLOWERS

Did you know that simply seeing or smelling flowers can be a mood booster? Maybe that's why the concept of giving flowers for all sorts of special occasions has been around for so long! Last week, the Society of American Florists did something really amazing: they had florists in 467 cities across the US and Canada hit the streets to surprise people with two bouquets of flowers — one to keep and one to give to a friend (or complete stranger!). Through these random acts of (floral!) kindness, called Petal It Forward, tens of thousands of flowers were sent out into the world to reaffirm the science behind flowers’ ability to improve moods and bring people together. Research has shown that receiving flowers makes us happy, and giving flowers makes us even happier. Go out this week and buy some flowers for someone you love (or someone you don't even know!). It's a small act that can have a big impact. 

 

RANDOM ACT 2 : GIVE COMPLIMENTS

How many times have you had a kind thought about someone else but kept it to yourself? This week, make a point to speak all of your compliments aloud. Tell that stranger that her outfit is awesome. Share with your coworker how much his dedication means to you. Call up your parents and tell them how much you love their good qualities. The trick to making this random act work well is paying attention to your own thoughts. We often have tons of positive thoughts about other people all the time, but we don't share them, sometimes because we're simply not paying close attention to them. Do your best this week to take close notice of what you're thinking and share it! It can sometimes feel awkward to compliment people, but if you feel a little weird about it, just remember how you felt the last time someone gave you a compliment. It's such a lovely feeling, and remembering that experience will make it easier to open up with others. 

 

RANDOM ACT 3 : GIVE BACK

One of the best random acts of kindness is giving back. This is obviously super broad, but it's meant to be because there are so many ways of giving back. You can give your time to a friend, colleague, or organization you want to support. You can donate to a cause that matters to you. You can give back to those who have helped you in the past by reaching out to them to see how you might be able to help them in some way now. You can even give something back to the earth by planting a tree or growing a garden! (Bonus points for a garden since the flowers will make you and others happier!) There are countless ways to give back, but the important thing is that you take action. 

 

We all recognize the many benefits of random acts of kindness, but most of us don't make doing them a priority. This week, I encourage you do something — anything! — kind for someone. Don't feel like kindness has to be some huge, grand gesture. (Personally, I think that's why so many of us fail to do kind things: we think they're too small and won't really make a difference.) Kindness is incredibly valuable, no matter what form it comes in, so pick one (or all!) of the random acts above and do something wonderful this week. 

  


Petal It Forward 3Thanks to the Society of American Florists (SAF) for kindly sponsoring today's post! Whether it’s paying for a fellow commuter’s toll, or leaving a generous restaurant tip, “paying it forward” and “random acts of kindness” give people hope and inspire kindness towards others. SAF and the whole floral industry is taking part in this movement. It started with a small idea, that grew into everyone wanting to take part. Floral industry members know the power of flowers — they see it every day in their work. Whether to give or receive, flowers make people happy. For more information on the scientifically proven benefits of flowers, visit
www.aboutflowers.com and www.aboutflowersblog.com. You can also check out this fun video that illustrates the Petal It Forward concept!