The 13 Best Books to Give as Gifts this Holiday Season

These 13 books are some of our favorites, and all of them make excellent Holiday Gifts. Check them out, and let us know what books we should add to the list!

1. Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion. –Tim Ferriss

Tribe of Mentors contains much more than what meets the eye. At first glance, it is a collection and distillation of 200+ interviews from world class performers from the Tim Ferriss Show. That alone would make it valuable to read and reflect on. But the book also contains far more than that, and the sum total is a primer to optimize your health, wealth, and wisdom in modernity.

Let’s be honest, 90% of people who buy or receive books do not read them. What’s so great about Tim’s recent books is that their content seems to up the probability that people will read the book. What do we mean? Well in each book, each chapter is practically a stand alone book and entry point for the skeptical reader that might only want to read a book for 5 minutes. With so many places to begin reading each book, Tim’s books will continue to be Holiday best sellers.

Whether it’s The Four Hour Chef, Tribe of Mentors, or Tools of Titans, each is an excellent Holiday gift for anyone who is looking to get more out of life.

2. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another. –Angela Duckworth

Imagination can’t be channeled into creation without serious levels of grit.The topic has been covered superficially by many in the media, but Grit by Angela Duckworth takes a rigorous look at the subject.

Grit, by Angela Duckworth

Grit is a must read for those trying to harness their imagination and create/find their mission. “Grit” may be a buzzword, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t value to be gained by following the threads all the way back to the original scientific source material. Angela Duckworth’s book points the way there.

3. I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. –Walt Whitman

With recent obsessions around AI and robotics, it’s easy to forget that the human body is already a collection of millions of highly complex biological nanobots (bacteria, microbes, and our micro-biome). As science begins to show that almost all of our mental health and brain health are correlated with the health of our gut and micro-biome, it’s important for each of us to begin learning about the multitudes of miracles inside ourselves. You contain multitudes.

4. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

Man is a deterministic device thrown into a probabilistic universe. In this match, surprises are expected. –Michael Lewis

If Michael Lewis writes it, I’m in. This book is a story about the friendship and discoveries of two Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The men were polar opposites of each other, yet became fast friends. They faced enormous adversities of war and dictators, yet still managed to create work that went on to win the Nobel Prize and pioneer the new field of Behavioral Economics.

This book was a hard-hitting reminder of the importance of finding a single, true friend to be a collaborator and co-conspirator in your efforts, projects, and pursuits. Without someone working alongside you and challenging you, it is difficult (maybe impossible) to make meaningful achievements.

5. Death’s End by Cixin Liu

The faction opposed to researching lightspeed vessels felt this way for political reasons. They believed that human civilization had suffered many trials before reaching a nearly ideal democratic society, but once humanity headed for space, it would inevitably regress socially. Space was like a distorting mirror that magnified the dark side of humanity to the maximum. A line from one of the Bronze Age defendants, Sebastian Schneider, became their slogan: When humans are lost in space, it takes only five minutes to reach totalitarianism. For a democratic, civilized Earth to scatter innumerable seeds of totalitarianism among the Milky Way was a prospect that these people found intolerable. –Cixin Liu

I was losing my hope that I’d find any great modern science fiction to read. Then came Cixin Liu, a Chinese author that restored my faith. His trilogy, The Remembrance of Earth’s Past, is awe inspiring, and I just finished the third book in Cixin Liu’s trilogy called, Death’s End. The above quote is just a snippet of the genius contained within. If someone in your life has a powerful imagination or enjoys sci-fi, we recommend getting them the trilogy. The Remembrance of Earth’s Past is it.

6. Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian, and Tom Griffiths

Seemingly innocuous language like ‘Oh, I’m flexible’ or ‘What do you want to do tonight?’ has a dark computational underbelly that should make you think twice. It has the veneer of kindness about it, but it does two deeply alarming things. First, it passes the cognitive buck: ‘Here’s a problem, you handle it.’ Second, by not stating your preferences, it invites the others to simulate or imagine them. And as we have seen, the simulation of the minds of others is one of the biggest computational challenges a mind (or machine) can ever face. –Brian Christian

If you like nerding out about mental models, or thinking in stages, game theory, etc… then you’ll probably like this book. I especially liked that the book wasn’t a push or call to cede all of our agency to algorithms. The next book highlights the more obvious reasons why.

7. The Industries of the Future by Alex Ross

Serendipity fades with everything we hand over to algorithms. Most of these algorithms are noiseless. They gently guide us in our choices. But we don’t know why we are being guided… –Alex Ross

The Industries of the Future is a must read for those who want insights on recent developments in robotics, cybersecurity, genomics, and big data. There isn’t any need to be overwhelmed by these fields, because it’s still day one in all these industries. After all, just consider that “venture capital funding in robotics is growing at a steep rate. It more than doubled in just three years, from $160 million in 2011 to $341 million in 2014.” But as a whole, U.S. venture capital in 2015 deployed $58.8 billion dollars. This shows how small the investments in these emerging industries are. Now is the perfect time to paddle into the proverbial waters of information and get ready to surf the waves of robotics, cyber security, genomics, and big data. The Industries of the Future is a surfboard for the ride.

8. Wealth, Poverty, and Politics by Thomas Sowell

Differences in habits and attitudes are differences in human capital, just as much as differences in knowledge and skills — and such differences create differences in economic outcomes. –Thomas Sowell

In college, Thomas Sowell became one of my intellectual heroes. He still is, and his work on economics, politics, ideologies, and race are unparalleled. This isn’t light reading, but if you want to go deep on why wealth inequality exists, and what policies cause or prevent it, Dr. Sowell is the authority.

9. Originals by Adam Grant

Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong. –Adam Grant

One fun lesson and case study from the book was from how Jerry Seinfeld created, sold, and promoted his show. When Jerry Seinfeld first pitched Seinfeld to NBC, the pilot was rated as mediocre. Seinfeld didn’t make any progress until he found a single champion inside NBC, Rick Ludwin. You don’t need everyone to like you, but you do need a single champion. After all the work Seinfeld, Ludwin, and others put in selling the show, they didn’t get a big yes from NBC. They got an offer to order just four episodes. According to Ludwin, that was the smallest amount of episodes ever ordered for a show. Many people would have considered this an embarrassment, given up, or stopped taking the project seriously. Seinfeld, on the other hand, knew he had his foot in the door, and that was all that mattered. Sometimes, the path towards originality isn’t pursued because its origins are so humble. Take any start or foothold you can get. Embrace humble beginnings and do the work that others don’t want to do.

10. The Power of the Other by Henry Cloud

Self-control is a big deal in human performance. Getting better depends upon it. You cannot get better if it’s not you who has to get better. You are the performer, period. You are the only thing you can control. –Henry Cloud

How much do other people influence your behavior? This book helps to become more aware of the influence of others, escape the negative aspects of this reality, and harness the upside of it for good. Almost all of human culture is learned through imitation, so naturally, others hold power over us. When we start talking about those in positions of influence, crowds, or mobs of people, the power to elicit mimicry can become tremendous. The Power of the Other is a vital first step in seeking to understand the pull of others. If you want to gain more personal freedom, this is a must read book. The unseen pull to mimic others is like a tractor beam, and this book arms you with the awareness and language you need to escape that pull.

11. Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen by Robert McKee

Dialogue concentrates meaning; conversation dilutes it. –Robert McKee

I’m a big Robert McKee fan. His first book Story, is a first principles approach to storytelling.

Dialogue, by Robert McKee.

His latest book, Dialogue lays out principles for character development and– you guessed it– dialogue! McKee’s books provide invaluable story, screenplay, and dialogue advice, along with case studies and frameworks applicable to everyday life. If you’re not obsessed with learning how stories are made, you might not like his books, but if you like diving deep into the nuances of what makes stories resonate, Story and the recently published Dialogue are a must. Case studies and breakdowns in this book range from Macbeth to Breaking Bad.

12. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive — no matter how skilled or talented you are. –Cal Newport

A recent study by the University of Southern California media center found that Americans interact with some form of media (their definition was broad) for an average of 12 hours per day. We all know our attention and focus are valuable, but we need reminders and a toolkit to help channel and direct them. Deep Work provides just that. Our children are likely to look back at a lot of our behavior with technologies in the same light we view smoking cigarettes today. This is the book to put it all in perspective and remember that each day you need to practice doing work or sharpening your skills that matter. In our distraction dense digital age, Deep Work contains insights that cannot be overstated. I’ll be revisiting my highlights from this book often in the coming year.

13. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

There comes a time in every life when the past recedes and the future opens. It’s that moment when you turn to face the unknown. Some will turn back to what they already know. Some will walk straight ahead into uncertainty. I can’t tell you which one is right. But I can tell you which one is more fun. –Phil Knight
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

One of the best audiobooks I listened to this year was Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. It’s the memoir of the co-founder of Blue Ribbon, which later became a little company called Nike. The book was excellent, with a 4.8 out of 5 star rating on Amazon. It even made me tear up twice.


Hope you enjoyed this giftsicle of some of our favorite books to gift! If you’re looking for more gift recommendations, check out The Mission’s Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide.