Gift-giving season is upon us. The consumer frenzy doesn't appeal to me, but I do like to pick out meaningful gifts for those I love.
This year has produced a bumper crop of thoughtful advice books written for women. No, not about dieting, fashion, cosmetics, and sex. About wisdom.
If you are looking for a book that will warm the heart and challenge the mind of a thoughtful woman on your list, here's my take on some recent books that I recommend. They all could spark deep thoughts, start great conversations, and even lead to new paths and life reinvention.
1. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington. This book assumes we are all running around, frazzled, chasing money and success -- which is not true of everyone. But in writing about her own wake-up call and what she learned about refocusing her life, Huffington offers intriguing insights for all of us. She writes about the importance of sleep, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness, as well as reawakening our capacity for wonder. But my favorite part of this book is her section on wisdom, where she encourages us to recognize what we are really seeking: connection and love. She discusses the need to move from struggle to grace and inspires us to live in a state of gratitude and listen to our inner voice. Once we find balance, she urges us to step out of our comfort zones to help serve others and make a difference in the world.
2. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance -- What Women Should Know, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Most of us with workplace experience can tell stories of men who blustered with bravado and women who hesitated to promote themselves. Why? Television journalists Kay and Shipman examine the psychology and neuroscience of confidence, asking if it's hard-wired in our genetic code as women. They conclude with practical things women can do to boost our confidence, overcoming our tendencies toward people pleasing and perfectionism and instead choosing to take action, court risk, fail fast, and move on. We can, they promise, rewire our brains. Very reassuring.
3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. This 2013 bestseller, now in paperback, examines the "extrovert ideal" that permeates America's culture -- in contrast to the values of Japan and China. Introverts are overlooked and undervalued in the U.S. workplace, but they are often the thinkers with great ideas. Solitude, she says, is a catalyst for innovation, and quiet kids should grow up valuing their strengths. She also gives solid advice on when to act more extroverted than you really are and how to talk to people of the opposite type. As an introvert myself, I found that this book gave me some great perspective.
4. Warm Cup of Wisdom: Inspirational Insights on Relationships and Life, gathered by Dori Jones Yang. Full disclosure: This is my book. In my own search for wisdom at midlife, I interviewed nine older women I admire as wise. I asked each twenty questions about topics we all care about, how to improve difficult relationships, cope with tough emotions, navigate midlife transitions, and achieve a sense of calm and contentment. With humility and humor, these wise women opened their lives with touching stories and the kind of warm advice you might get from a grandmother or favorite aunt. My dream for this book is that it will spark great discussions among women and encourage them to ask questions of people they admire as wise. The search for wisdom can be intentional, and this book offers a model of how to begin.