I love giving books as gifts -- during the holiday season, and throughout the year. I constantly recommend a million books, but there is a handful of books that I find myself giving over and over, because they've had such an influence on me.
Here are the seven that I most often give as gifts:
1. Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes.
As I write about in Better Than Before, this book changed my life in dramatic ways, and all for the better. It also changed my father's life. I hand this book out constantly. It's easy to read, interesting, and (for me) utterly convincing.
2. A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander.
I'm not a visual person, and this book was a revelation to me; it allowed me to understand space and design in an entirely new way.
3. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte.
Yes, I know, it's the worst title ever, but it's a gorgeous, brilliant book that changed the way that I think about information. I just gave this book to a friend last week.
4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
This is the novel that I give someone who's stuck in the hospital and needs to be distracted. It's so absorbing and exciting.
5. Selected Essays by George Orwell.
I admire Orwell's writing tremendously, and am always trying to encourage other people to read his work.
6. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
This is by far the most useful and entertaining parenting book that I've ever read. I use the advice to deal more effectively with my daughters, and also with adults. I've probably read it five times.
7. Open by Andre Agassi.
I don't know anything about tennis, but I love memoirs, so I read this book because so many people praised it as a memoir. It's a brilliant, fascinating book, but I give it as a gift because it's an astonishingly accurate portrait of an Obliger. Some people make inaccurate assumptions about the Obliger personality, so I often say, "Read Open, and you'll get a very different understanding of how this Tendency can play out." (Don't know what an Obliger is? Read here.)
I hear from a lot of people who give my books as gifts, and that's always thrilling to hear.
What books do you most often give as gifts?
You'll notice that I didn't include any works of children's literature or young-adult literature. That's a whole different category. If you'd like to see my 81 favorite works of kidlit, look here.
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