December 8, 2008

Top 20 Books To Give For Gifts This Holiday Season

If you’re a regular reader of Elephant Journal, then by now you’ve gotten a sense that I’m a pretty voracious reader.  So while I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an expert on books, I do know what I like, and from time to time, people do ask me for a recommendation for reading material. Now one thing to realize is that this list actually started out as a top ten, then jumped to 15, then 20, and finally 25 before my sometimes-partner-in-crime got me to trim it back to 20.  So without further ado, here is my list of the top 20 books that would make great holiday gifts this year.  Also included are links to my reviews of them as well as links to where you can buy them.  Click on the title for the review; click on the author’s name to be taken to the product listing to purchase it.

1. The Compassionate Carnivore: Or How To Keep Animals Happy, Save Old MacDonald’s Farm, Reduce Your Hoofprint and Still Eat Meat by Catherine Friend. This is one of the best books on food and sustainability out there. It definitely made a huge impact on me and how I approach the food I buy, especially meat…. I even wrote a follow up blog about it.

2. Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Lester Brown.  I still stand by my statement that this is one of the most important book on the planet.  Strapped for cash?  No sweat… download the .pdf from the website, burn it to cd or email it to someone.

3. Embracing Mind: The Common Ground of Science and Spirituality by B. Alan Wallace and Brian Hodel.  This is a great book for someone that is interested in the split between Western science and spirituality or for someone interested in quantum physics and its implications.

4. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You by Paramahansa Yogananda.  Dense and thought-provoking, Yogananda’s efforts to bring Man closer to God should be recognized, as should his blending of Christianity and yogic philosophy.

5. The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine by Matthew Fox.  Fox’s book represents a sincere connection to the struggle that most men feel around their spirituality.  Spirituality without squishy softness.

6. The Ecology of Wisdom: Writings by Arne Naess; edited by Alan Drengson and Bill DeVall.  There have been several books around the environment this year, but not many around the Deep Ecology movement.  This book represents one of the best of those.

7. A Truthful Heart: Buddhist Practices for Connecting With Others by Jeffrey Hopkins.  An excellent book about relationships, presenting a Buddhist approach to them without platitudes or mushiness.  Hopkins admits that relationships take work, but also feels that the work is worth it.

8. Hurry Up and Meditate: your starter kit for inner peace and mental health by David Michie. The book for that busy executive type that says s/he really wants more out of life but just doesn’t have the time to make for it.  Michie will take their excuses for what they are, and help them realize that living mindfully is worth permanently etching time for it into their Blackberry.

9. Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body by Dr. Reggie Ray.  Dr. Ray is one of the more controversial teachers in Buddhism, but his message that seeking enlightenment within the mind is only half of it; the body needs to be listened to as well. In addition to my review, Ele:blogger Caroline Treadway’s review can be found right here.

10. Light Comes Through: Buddhist Teachings on Awakening to Our Natural Intelligence by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.  A short, but dense book about our own emotions and dealing with them effectively. I had the pleasure of attending a teaching by Rinpoche this summer, and his book is just as approachable and full of depth as he is.

11. The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology by Thich Nhat Hanh.  Another work of elegance and gentle yet forceful challenges to move us toward a more enlightened society.

12. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Mindfulness by Anne Ihnen and Carolyn Flynn.  Don’t let the title mislead you.  This book is simple without being simplistic, and is worth the money, regardless of how much or little experience with mindful living that someone may have.

13. Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life by Alan Watts.  A great collection of essays by Alan Watts; perfect for a fan of Watts’ work or to gift to someone to make them into a fan of his work.

14. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau; Bill McKibben, editor.  Another perfect book for the environmentalist on your list, especially since it offers a historical retrospective of environmental writing over the the past 200 years.

15. The Inner Tradition of Yoga: A Guide to Yoga Philosophy for the Contemporary Practitioner by Michael Stone.  A must-read for anyone that does yoga, no matter how long they’ve been doing it.

16. Quiet Mind: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation; Susan Piver, editor.  The ideal gift book for anyone considering meditation but doesn’t know where to start.  It comes with a cd of guided meditations.

17. The Mythic Bestiary: The Illustrated Guide to the World’s Fantastical Creatures by Tony Allan.  A wonderful book for anyone interested in mythical creatures, no matter how old they are.

18. Mindful Politics: A Buddhist Guide to Making the World A Better Place; Melvin McLeod, editor.  Yeah, it’s an older book, and yeah, the election season is over, but that doesn’t mean this book is no longer relevant.  The insights gained from this book apply equally well to the dinner table dynamic, the water cooler, and the campaign trail.

19. Defining Moments in Science. (Various editors) Got a budding scientist on your list?  This is the book for them. Covering the past century of pivotal moments, people, discoveries and inventions in the world of science, this is the stuff of sugar plum dreams for any Mr. Wizard.

20. Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance and Compassion by The Dalai Lama and Dr. Paul Ekman.  Fans of the work of the Dalai Lama and students of human relationships and emotions will appreciate this book for sure.  The warmth, intellect, and humor of His Holiness shines through these conversations, and the dynamic between the two men also brings forth valuable insights and reflections.

That’s it! There’s my list of some of the best books I’ve read this year.  What did I miss? What books would you recommend?

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