Holiday Gifts for Book Lovers


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

The general theme for my holiday gift list this year is holistic health. Obviously, there is lots of stuff out there about the traditional notion of holistic health as a “mind/body/spirit” approach to taking care of yourself. The core idea behind this notion of holistic is that you can’t separate and treat your physical body and its needs as something separate from your mental, emotional, social, and spiritual life. Whether your concern is losing weight, getting more fit, improving your appearance, extending your life span, or managing various medical conditions, your success will depend on addressing all of your needs as a whole person, rather than relying on pills, gimmicks, diets, or any other one-dimensional approach.

Like most people who have struggled with weight and eating issues for a long time, I’m totally convinced that this holistic approach makes the most sense. I know that the real problem, for me, was never just what or how much I ate—it was why I used food and eating the way I did. And changing that meant changing the way I felt and thought about myself, other people, the world around me, and what really matters to me. Once I started working on these things directly, my relationship with food, eating and exercise was very much easier to manage.

But one thing I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is that it’s very easy to get caught up in an extremely individualistic approach to being holistic, focusing entirely on individual needs and what’s good for us as individuals. That's pretty much the focus of most commercial products, services, and information on the subject.

But the whole in holistic doesn’t stop at the edge of your skin, and I think that many of my past and present emotional and practical problems have a lot to do with being disconnected from the natural world, and with social relationships that are more dehumanizing than growth enhancing. As the Taoists like to say, "As above, so below." If your external connections aren't in good shape, what's going on inside your skin won't be either.

So, several of the items on my list are books that I’ve found very helpful in trying to understand these “external” connections and their role in a healthy lifestyle better, and open myself up to new ways of actually being in the world. Some are “theoretical” (but not overly academic or technical), and some are poetry or literature that evocatively convey something about what’s possible for humans to achieve, if we give ourselves the right opportunities and keep our eyes and minds open.

And, of course, there are also a few books for the foodies and exercise enthusiasts on your shopping list, and as always, something for the person who already has everything.

A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote

A beautifully written, very short story/memoir about how the simple experiences that people share can be meaningful far beyond their practical import.

The Tao Te Ching, translated by Jane Edwards

An elegant, illustrated version of this ancient Chinese classic of naturalistic wisdom, with my favorite English translation.

The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram

A great, lyrically written account of how our relationship with the natural world shapes our language and our thoughts—and how things begin to go badly when this relationship breaks down.

Nature and Madness, by Paul Shepard

Similar to the above book, except that the focus is more historical and anthropological. This book looks at how modern Western cultures have been progressively shaped by technologies, cities, and lifestyles that create a growing distance between us and the natural world, and how this has had very negative effects on the normal processes of human emotional and cognitive development at every stage of our lifespan, leading to many of the social problems we currently have. Very high on my personal list of favorite non-fiction books!

I and Thou, by Martin Buber

Probably the philosophical/ethical classic on what makes human relationships human and enhancing. Short, but not a real easy read, and if you’re not religious in the Judeo-Christian tradition, you may need to work on seing through some of the religious language to get to the universal human message underneath it, but well worth the effort. This translation makes the book quite a bit easier to read than some previous versions.

Hope’s Edge/Grub/Getting a Grip

This is a trio of books from Frances Moore Lappe (of Diet for a Small Planet fame) and her daughter that update and extend her thinking about socially/ecologically responsible eating and living. Grub is a good source of recipes and practical tips for implementing these ideas in your own kitchen/home.
$15.95 each

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan

Regular readers of my blog will know that I’ve plugged this book several times already this year. Enough said. Read it, spread it around.

Chi Walking, by Danny Dreyer

This book offers 5 techniques for “mindful” walking that will help improve your physical technique for maximum benefit and minimal injury, and also help you focus your attention while walking to practice mindfulness. There’s also a companion book on Chi Running, as well as various videos, etc.

Mindless Eating, by Brian Wasnik

A very interesting and helpful account of how social settings and other “external” factors trigger mindless overeating, and how you can manage these cues. Great for people who tend to go into "autopilot" mode when food is around.

SparkPeople Monthly Tracking Calendar

Of course, to fit all this reading into a busy schedule, you and/or your gift recipient is going to need a good way to plan some reading time. Keep track of appointments and healthy lifestyle goals with the new Tracking Calendar from SparkPeople.

The Treadwall

Finally, for the person who has (and can afford) everything, here’s one thing they probably don’t have—and one they may need if they plan to increase their reading time. The Treadwall is a stand-alone climbing wall with a moving surface, manufactured by one of the leading climbing wall companies. You control your own speed, and can set the climbing foot and hand holds where you like. It’s a great full-body strength and cardio workout! You’ll need at least 10 foot ceilings, a fair amount of floor space, and fairly deep pockets, though.

P.S. I almost forgot... Here's a link to the Treehugger website, where you'll find both a link to The Groovy Mind website and some discount codes to use there. The Groovy Mind has some great stuff to make your reading time more pleasant: organic, gourmet teas, coffees, nuts, dark chocolate, and other such stuff. And it's even politically correct! Enjoy....

Happy Holidays!

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  • CHRISS48
    I love reading!!! - 12/24/2008   9:13:45 AM
    I love to read it is so relaxing. All the books seems to be interesting reading material. The treadwall is way out of my budget range. Would love to try it though. Could use a good workout. - 12/16/2008   3:54:24 PM
  • 41
    Cold Weather, cup of coffee, a blanket and a Good Book! - 12/16/2008   10:33:07 AM
    I love books. I have grown and found out a lot about myself and others by reading them. - 12/15/2008   9:46:00 PM
  • 39
    I put Chi Walking on my list of must read list. - 12/15/2008   10:33:47 AM
  • ZEPPLIN5002
    I'm glad I found this list just before Christmas - 12/15/2008   8:02:01 AM
  • 37
    A Christmas Memory by Capote--I thought there was a movie made on it long ago? - 12/15/2008   12:56:35 AM
  • 36
    I enjoy reading self help books - 12/14/2008   2:51:36 PM
  • SHERI1969
    Books are great for working out on the bike with. We have several used bookstores here and their prices are awesome. Thanks for the idea. My parents are bookworms and can read an entire book in a day. - 12/13/2008   12:22:25 AM
  • 34
    Love Love Love this. Thanks for the great reading ideas! This is a Chrismas gift in itself. - 12/12/2008   8:22:48 PM
  • 33
    Would love to have one of each but that would be way too selfish. Great ideas but I do love the Treadwall but can't afford it. - 12/12/2008   5:55:19 PM
    This is a great blog, thank you for the inspirational reading and a timely reminder that we are a part of a far greater thing. - 12/12/2008   4:18:14 PM
  • 31
    I read alot, but have no time for reading the likes of books listed here. I am currently reading THE MARKETING OF EVIL. And I just finished David Jeremiah's book WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON. Give me more like this! - 12/12/2008   2:37:08 PM
  • 30
    There are some great ideas here. Thank you! - 12/12/2008   2:30:15 PM
    I think I would like to have that Treadwall. Unfortunately, it's not even close to being in my budget, monetarily or spacewise! - 12/12/2008   1:54:24 PM
  • 28
    I find the book "Mindless Eating" to be intriguing. - 12/12/2008   11:46:43 AM
  • 27
    I love to read any about health and wellness. You sold me on In Defense of Food. Looking forward to more of your blog. - 12/12/2008   11:07:14 AM
  • 26
    As an English major, I rarely get to read for pleasure, or not have to analyze novels, however my two favorite "feel-good" books (that aren't necessarily health-related) are "The Kite Runner" by Kholed Hosseini, and "The Five People You Met in Heaven" by Mitch Albom. - 12/12/2008   10:12:10 AM
  • 25
    That treadwall is the coolest thing I've ever seen. I'm going to forward the information to my local gym owner! - 12/12/2008   10:10:35 AM
  • 24
    Thanks for the book ideas. I enjoy reading so getting suggestions on books helps me decided what to read. - 12/12/2008   10:10:10 AM
  • 23
    "The Shack" by William Young is my fav for spiritual insights. For the treadwall, you may be able to check out your local health club. They may have one. - 12/12/2008   10:01:10 AM
  • 22
    I think that "Chi Walking" looks fascinating! - 12/12/2008   9:55:16 AM
  • 21
    Thanks for the great ideas! Pat - 12/12/2008   9:55:14 AM
    Book lover, just not non fiction. Have never understood reading recipe books or books on food. Just can last. - 12/12/2008   9:55:00 AM
    I'm not much for reading. I do too much of it at work, but I might have to check out a couple of these listed. Thanx for the insight! - 12/12/2008   9:52:14 AM
  • 18
    Hmmm, I wonder if there are any Treadwalls on Craigslist??? - 12/12/2008   9:49:51 AM
  • 17
    I read "In Defense of Food" but I'd like to read his other one too: "The Omnivore's Dilemma." That treadwall idea is not very realistic for most people though. :) - 12/12/2008   9:43:11 AM
  • 16
    Haven't read any of these books, but they are great options and sound very interesting. Thanks for giving us a chance to own them along with that treadwall. - 12/12/2008   9:42:32 AM
    I hope it's not to late to put some of these on my Christmas list-thanks! (I need a sugar daddy to get me that treadwall :-) ) - 12/12/2008   9:18:48 AM
  • 14
    Thanks for this list - and I even have some of them but have not read yet - will have to move them up in the que - 12/12/2008   9:15:33 AM
  • 13
    Awesome blog and list of books. Thanks for sharing. - 12/12/2008   8:14:00 AM
  • 12
    Thanks for the list of books. - 12/12/2008   8:08:33 AM
  • 11
    Mindless Eating is a really interesting book...I have a Master's degree and actually enjoyed the fact that he explained his studies in layman's terms instead of making it sound like a journal article. The book is easy to understand and the information is intriguing. - 12/12/2008   7:34:03 AM
  • 10
    Mindless Eating is a must read for anyone and everyone who uses the "but I don't eat that much Idon't know why I can't lose weight" excuse. Really opens your eyes to things. My biggest criticism of the book is that it was written for a person with probably a 4th grade education... not a lot of detail -glosses over a lot of information that more detail would have been great.. .I'd love to see the actual studies he conducted... But definitely interesting... and makes you think twice when you think you're being virtuous when you go to subway for a fast food fix :) the mind is fasctinating.

    Michael Pollan is a wonderful writer, though I preferred the Omnivore's Dilemma over in defense of food...

    The food section in the bookstore has A LOT of great choices... Cookbooks are pretty much my porn - but the food section makes me fire off one or two brain cells... - 12/12/2008   2:13:45 AM
  • ...REBECCA...
    Glad to know someone else enjoys the classic Capote story "A Christmas Memory"! The movie from the mid 60s with Geraldine Page is simply brilliant. Definitely a must for the holidays...or, any time. - 12/12/2008   12:46:43 AM
  • 8
    Reading is awesome!!!! It gives your mind something else to do to imagine the places and people you are meeting as you turn the pages, you can set yourself back in time in a small town and stroll down a trail with your new friends and feel like you are part of new family it is just fun to read. You can visit Paris or Vienna or sometimes NY ... It opens up the imagination and mind!!! Thanks!!! - 12/12/2008   12:20:18 AM
  • 7
    Buy the book "SHRINK YOURSELF" by ROGER GOULD, M.D. on stopping emotional eating. It isn't a diet book, but how to stop the yo-yo cycle. - 12/12/2008   12:02:33 AM
  • VONNIE130
    Treadwall I wish could have that under my x-mas tree! - 12/11/2008   11:03:22 PM
    If anyone buys the Treadwall; I am available to come over to play! - 12/11/2008   8:52:58 PM
  • 4
    I went to check out the site where the treadwall was ...oh my that is like a dream site to own some of that stuff!!!! I guess we all have to have dreams! - 12/11/2008   8:49:38 PM
  • 3
    Chi Walking is a great book... I've read it at least twice - once paying attention primarily to the physical, learning to walk more comfortably and efficiently and also once with attention to the spiritual, learning to walk more mindfully. - 12/11/2008   8:48:31 PM
  • 2
    That Treadwall is by far the coolest thing I've seen this week. Saddly I have neither the money nor the room. - 12/11/2008   7:53:52 PM
  • 1
    Thank you for so many great book options. I saw In defense of Food and have been considering it so now I will pick it up on my book buying trip this weekend. - 12/11/2008   7:52:40 PM

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