Editor’s Note: Are you looking for gift ideas for this holiday season? We asked authors and friends for ideas to share, not just of books as we’ve provided in earlier years, but also of movies and music and experiences as well.Our list starts with suggestions by Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, whose new book, The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does, is coming out in January.
The list ends with suggestions by Martin Seligman, whose latest book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, is still a great gift.
Books last. So if there aren’t enough ideas here, try visiting the articles from earlier years for more ideas. Here’s a link to the 2011 holiday list, which has links to earlier years.
- Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs
- Michael Sandel, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?
- Robert Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (also recommended by Martin Seligman)
- H. Gilbert Welch, Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health
- Bryan Caplan, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think
- Kathryn Harrison, The Kiss: A Memoir
- Peter Millar, 1989 The Berlin Wall: My Part in its Downfall
- Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
Fiction booksLisa Sansom: I recommend the gift of your time. Get something that you can share with someone else. Sports equipment (especially if you live in a snowy climate – skis, snowshoes, good boots, and so on) are all important to living a flourishing life, no matter WHAT the weather!
I found a blog, The Happiness Experiment bookshelf, with 20 great books on happiness. Any of them look good to me. I am just learning about Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time by Rick Hanson. His website has very short videos about the steps and topics to help you get a “Buddha brain” (as opposed to a Buddha belly, I suppose…)Louis Alloro: Give experiences over material things. Research shows how sense memories of these types of gifts go much further than a widget or gadget or scarf.
One idea I used for my sister last year was to make her a playlist of songs that I collected from some of her closest friends when I asked them, “What song reminds you of Lisa?” I made her a CD with not only the songs but the stories I collected.
- Gift certificate for dance lessons
- A plant (succulents are good low-maintainance nature)
- A soprano ukelele (it’s only got 4 strings and is so easy to learn) and a starter book
- Write a letter to a family member who doesn’t often come around, recalling times that they had been there, and thanking them for being who they are.
Marie-Josee Shaar: I have two books to recommend:
- Tom Rath and Jim Harter’s book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, is a powerful book, packed with shocking information on how our everyday decisions affect our well-being. Explaining what creates high career, social, financial, physical and community well-being, it also shares highly usable advice on how to concretely improve our lives.
- Stephen Post’s book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving, helps us understand the full power of giving and the role it plays in a life well lived. It identifies 10 ways of giving to 4 different groups of people. Of the 40 possible combinations, it helps us identify our favorites and invites us to use these “giving strengths” to make the world a better place.
For music, one of my favorite CD’s of the year is Love Is a Four Letter Word by Jason Mraz. His music promotes mindfulness, perhaps best exemplified by his song, Living in the Moment.
For books, I recommend:
- Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, although not necessarily “positive” in nature, is an account of stereotype and identity by social psychologist Claude Steele. It’s thought-provoking and raises important questions. Possibly one of the most important books I’ve read this year.
- The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates is an intriguing true story told by the author, Wes Moore, about the path of his life in contrast to the life of another man named Wes Moore. The two Weses are about the same age, grew up in the same city, and had many of the same life circumstances. Yet one ended up winning a Rhodes scholarship, while the other ended up in jail.
- The Pocket Pema Chodron is a go-to for me in times of sadness or stress. This small book is filled with mindfulness gems that remind me about what is truly important.
- Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion is one of my favorite books on leadership, this work reminds me that the best leadership rests on mindfulness, hope, and compassion. Authors Boyatzis and McKee make a strong case for the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership and the need for rejuvenation to avoid what they call “”sacrifice syndrome,”” a trap that many leaders fall into.
- Movie: Cinema Paradiso
- Movie: Bread and Tulips
- Movie: Strictly Ballroom
- Book: Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success by Chip Conley
- Book: The Best American Short Stories 2012 edited by Tom Perrotta
- Song: Donde esta Santa Claus by Augie Rios
My dad wrote this interactive book that creates a bond between child and parent because there are choices for the child to make and then talk over with parents. I think it’s phenomenal in terms of the depth of discussion it can bring about.
One mom says, “My boy thinks about the vignettes over and over… we discuss at length! It’s his favorite book.”
A dad says that it’s great training for analytical thinking, and he wishes he’d had it as a kid.
Editor’s note: Ryan has recommended many films both in his book, Positive Psychology At The Movies: Using Films to Build Virtues and Character Strengths, and in his annual articles about the positive psychology Oscars. Orin Davis: Let me start with four books:
- The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work by Theresa Amabile and Stephen Kramer
- Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing by Barry Schwartz
- Successful Intelligence: How Practical and Creative Intelligence Determine Success in Life by Robert Sternberg
- The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date by Samuel Arbesman
Throughout the eight days of Hanuka, we remember the many miracles, great and small, that occur in our daily lives and that have enabled us to maintain our character and values. We remind ourselves of what is important to us and the values, causes, and aims to which we should dedicate our lives. Actually gift-giving has little-to-nothing to do with Hanuka, and is a later invention. Jews have other holidays when gift-giving is called for, especially Purim.Bridget Grenville-Cleave: I have three suggestions this year:
- If the World Were a Village – Second Edition: A Book about the World’s People (CitizenKid) by David Smith & illustrated by S Armstrong. This fabulous children’s book is now in its 2nd edition. Because it’s hard for children to grasp how big the world is, the book talks about it as an imaginary village of 100 people and scales everything down. So for example, although there are more than 6000 language in the world, of the 100 people living in the global village, more than half speak the following 8 languages: Chinese (21 villagers), English (9), Hindi (9), Spanish (7), Arabic (4), Bengali (4), Portuguese (3) and Russian (3). The book looks at many aspects of life from what we eat and our religions, to school and work, money and possessions. I think it’s a great way for children to understand the vastness of the world and explore how different nations are, but at the same time to appreciate the similarities. Our son really loved this book.
- Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss. I think I’m one of the few people who didn’t like Dr Seuss books as a child (it was the illustrations which put me off) but this one was given to me by a friend a couple of years ago, and I love its positive psychology messages! It is featured, quite rightly, in Toni Noble and Helen McGrath’s Bounce Back! Resilience curriculum for kids. I’ve heard it’s a popular graduation gift in the US, but why wait till then?
- Ilona Boniwell’s Positive Psychology in a Nutshell: The Science of Happiness 3rd edition. This is a fabulous book which has been updated to include new material on mindsets, mindfulness and well-being at work. It covers all the main subject areas in the field and also contains some great tips and techniques so whether you’re curious to know what positive psychology is about or you want to increase your well-being, this is a great book to have on your bookshelf.
Music? Meet together for a holiday drink and organize an activity in 2013 where you spend time together going to a music concert. Can’t be together to organize it? Meet by telephone or Skype.
Books? A family can make a book together to give to others.
Movies? Don’t give a movie voucher, make it into an event where you take your friends to the movies at a future date.
There are endless ways to think differently about how to give gifts which do not add to our piles of ‘stuff’ but which bring people together to give and share.Kathryn Britton: I put Chris Peterson’s new book, Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology on my gift wish list. I haven’t read it yet, but I know it will be wise, and the experience will be poignant since it is the last we will get to read from Chris. Spending time with my mother in Seattle after she broke her hip this fall, I found my spirits lifted by two short books by Erica Bauermeister. Both books are set in Seattle, and both are stories about every day people, people you might meet at work or church or in the public library. Every day people, yet bravely dealing with their own strange, funny, tragic, human every day lives. My kind of book!
- The School of Essential Ingredients: About series of cooking classes at a classy restaurant. The first lesson is about how to kill a crab. The participants range from a life-drifting youngster to a mind-drifting elder. Each has a poignant story, which start unfolding together.
- Joy For Beginners happens after one member of a group has emerged from breast cancer treatment. Each member of her support group agrees to do something she chooses — something that the supporter is afraid to do. From going on a trip alone to getting a tattoo in middle age, each challenge becomes a window into the protagonist’s ongoing story.
The next two contributors will be publishing their first articles for PPND in 2013. Welcome, Lucy and Tom.
Lucy Hone: “I’ve asked my son to give me a voucher providing me with monthly music updates on my ipod. This came from struggling to maintain my running routine, so I gave some thought as to how I could use the kids’ strengths to help my lack of strength! This is what I came up with:
- Ed, 14yo, provides monthly running playlists for my ipod. He always finds good new tunes, and I find his music really uplifting to run to.
- Paddy, 12yo, loves running so has pledged to come running with me next year “whenever i tell him I need a push.”
- Abi, 10yo, loves swimming and needs to train for surf club, so I’ve given her swim credits, whereby she can say “NOW MUM,” and I have to join her in the water once a month.
Otherwise, I try to always record a story on my iphone at this time of year, and upload & download it to their ipods so they can have a story from me even when I’m too tired to read or not there to read.
Finally, I’ve made 2 printed photo albums this year: one for my 12 yo leaving primary school (did this for the other one two years ago) so he can look back and savor all the incredible experiences and friendships he’s had these last 7 years; one of our puppy dog for each of the kids, with ridiculous captions. These gifts make memories last longer.Tom Heffner: I recommend any book by Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell is a psychologist at heart and many of his books and topics encompass a diverse array of psychology domains (e.g. social psychology, neuropsychology, etc). Gladwell, however, is as good a writer as you will ever read. He writes about complex subjects in a way that is not only interesting to read, but also easy to read. Take your pick from the following:
- Outliers: The Story of Success
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
- What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures
- Jeffrey Hawkins, On Intelligence
- Monthly subscription to the Berlin Harmoniker Digital Concert Hall, which includes access to the entire archives of the Berlin Philharmonic
- Robert Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
- Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
Reach for a book! courtesy of Patrick Feller