Editors’ note: Since 2008, we have published an annual article with ideas for gifts for the holiday season. This year we collected enough ideas for two articles. Today’s includes ideas that you may want to order because we know time is getting short. Later this week the second article will include actions and experiences that don’t take quite so much forethought.
If you need more ideas, we invite you to trail through ideas from earlier years. Here’s a link to 2014, which has a link to 2013, and so on.
Martin Seligman’s suggestions
Russell Shorto, Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City: Why and when the Dutch ruled the world
Scott Berg, Wilson: The Rise and Fall of Greatness
Robert Harris, An Officer and a Spy: The Dreyfus Scandal in a novel
Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World: A truly unappreciated Great Person
Sonja Lyubomirsky’s suggestions
Nonfiction (the starred ones are psychology or science)
Judith Harris, The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, Revised and Updated* (An all time favorite)
Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Tom Gilovich & Lee Ross, The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology’s Most Powerful Insights*
Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance* (not published until spring, but definitely put this on next year’s list!)
Andrew Solomon, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity* (An all time favorite)
Michael Lewis, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People*
Richard Thaler, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics*
Henry Marsh, Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery* (An all time favorite)
Fiction and Poetry
Wally Lamb, We Are Water: A Novel (P.S.)
Elizabeth Strout, The Burgess Boys: A Novel (An all time favorite)
John Lithgow, The Poets’ Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family
Jane Dutton’s suggestion
My colleague Bob Quinn’s new book, The Positive Organization: Breaking Free from Conventional Cultures, Constraints, and Beliefs, is terrific. He also has an inspiring blog.
Monica Montijo’s suggestion:
My favorite way to give gifts is to think about the character strengths of the person and to give a gift that helps them engage with or deepen their understanding of that strength. So if someone has a strong appreciation of beauty, I might give a gift certificate for lunch in the botanical gardens or a book about interior design.
Paki Tandon’s Suggestion
Mindfulness. Either a course or a starter book/CD’s such as Jon Kabat Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
Orin Davis’s suggestion
I love giving people gifts of things that they want, but would never buy for themselves because they fear that it is a frivolous indulgence.
Steve Safigan’s suggestion
Kal Barteski is an artist who creates and sells gifts with messages that uplift. I particularly like her customized prints with the gift recipient’s name on it! Her web site is You Are Awesome
Scott Asalone’s suggestions
I’ve learned a valuable lesson this year. Get people what they want, not what you want. Having been steeped in positive psychology I kept talking about how experiences were all we should give each other. However, my husband likes to open presents with things, like a new shirt or tie. Finally I realized that Christmas is not about forcing my values on him, but giving him a loving gift that he will enjoy. So I’m shopping for some great shirts and ties (but I did throw in a trip to Napa).
Homaira Kabir’s suggestion
Beauty: The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue. A beautiful book, with language that is as beautiful as his call to appreciate beauty.
Jeremy McCarthy’s suggestion
The Five Minute Journal: A great daily ritual for focusing on hope, gratitude, and strengths.
Caroline Miller’s suggestion
Notes expressing to people what their friendship means to you, and the ways in which you’ve seen them at their best.
Elaine O’Brien’s suggestion
Following Dr. Jonathan Haidt’s gift-giving lead, I’d recommend Kathryn Britton and Shannon Polly’s wonderful book, Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life. This book, and having more time to read, is on my wish list. I enjoy giving and receiving books.
From the cover of Character Strengths Matter: “This is among the best books in all of positive psychology. It takes one of the most important areas of research — the character strengths — and makes it as accessible, as practical, and as inspiring as could be. I particularly love that it is written for sharing. Every couple and every family should have a copy. This will become my standard dinner party gift, instead of a bottle of wine.”
~ Dr. Jonathan Haidt, New York University, author of The Righteous Mind and The Happiness Hypothesis
This was big year of purging, de-cluttering, and change. I’m looking at material things a bit differently. The gift of time, humor, song, and dance are high on my list.
I’m giving my clients and students goody bags filled with a personal note of loving thanks, some dark chocolate, and a lovely star ornament.
To me the present that keeps on giving is the gift of travel. I arranged a trip to Ireland for my husband’s birthday. The trip is coming up this month, and we’ve been savoring the idea of it in anticipation. We have both been working a lot, and appreciate time to have an adventure. For the completion of my recent PhD, we traveled to Spain, France, and Italy. It was a time of renewal for us as a couple, a rich experience, and a time to appreciate wonder, beauty, and our lives. This holiday we will continue to plan more time, working vacations, explorations, and adventures, to enjoy in the New Year.
Shannon Polly’s suggestions
I am planning on donating to charities that are special to the receiver. In addition, I have been impressed with the Give Well site which tracks the best charities and how far your dollars can go. Recent research shows that giving people money is the best use of your giving because most people are likely to spend it wisely. One of the top charities listed on the Give Well site is giving cash to people in East Africa.
In addition, we are going to give a family member a vacation (an experience) and tell her about it before Christmas so that she can savor a bit longer.
Of course, there will be a number of people who are going to receive Character Strengths Matter!
Senia Maymin’s suggestions
Two must-have books: Character Strengths Matter for adults and Truth: Ethics for Your Child (Color Edition) (or Truth: Ethics for Your Child (Black & White Edition)) for parents and kids.
Front page image: For the love of books courtesy of Vipul Mathur