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Fast Company staff recommends the best books to give as presents

From self-help books and poetry to biographies – these are books you can wrap for your loved ones

[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Finding the right book for the right person is a challenge – some dabble into biographies or poetry collections, not necessarily an entire-blown novel.  

But for everyone who enjoys a riveting read, gorgeous writing, suspense, and magic, all in a book that can be read easily, books are the best gifts. And Christmas might be a chance. The unfamiliar becomes the familiar – that’s one of the joys we’d like to share in reading.

With that in mind, here are some of Fast Company Middle East’s picks on what could make a great gift for your loved ones this holiday season. It could be the most satisfying reading experience of the year. 

Recommended by Suparna Dutt D’Cunha, Editor

Vermeer – The Rijksmuseum’s major exhibition catalog

Making the world see beauty in a quiet and introspective way, looking sensitively at ordinary people in ordinary places, is no mean feat. I have been admiring with awe the extraordinary works – The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Milkmaid, and other works – of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer and reading about him since my recent visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It’s easy to see why the art of Vermeer finds its natural audience in everyone’s heart. This book, Vermeer, is the best I can give to my loved ones this holiday season – help them cherish everyday life and turn their eyes to the real and unpretentious art of this great modern artist. It’s one of the best literary gifts I have ever received. And I know it will get dusted off for a read once a year.

Monet: The Restless Vision by Jackie Wullschläger

Another book I would love to gift is my other favorite artist, Claude Monet (love his glorious pastel sunsets). Written with skill, Monet: The Restless Vision by Jackie Wullschläger, is the first account in English of the much-loved artist’s life and work. Monet’s most lasting relationship in art was with water, the principal motif in over 1,000 of his paintings. In this book, one can peek into the painter’s life and art, rummage through his correspondence, and understand his art. For example, did you know Monet’s Impression, Sunrise gave the Impressionist movement its name or that Women in the Garden, the enormous canvas, was painted by Monet digging a ditch, which helped him with stability? He thought that was better than climbing a ladder!

Recommended by Karrishma Modhy, Managing Editor

Losing Earth: A Recent History by Nathaniel Rich

Losing Earth talks about how we were aware of the implications of climate change back in the 1970s but missed the opportunities to tackle them. It unveils the intricate detail between scientific understanding and political will, exposing missed opportunities to address global warming. It doesn’t only talk about history but also about personal reflection and action to move toward a sustainable future.

Recommended by Rachel Dawson, Senior Correspondent 

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun

There’s nothing like cozying up to a good book and hot chocolate during Christmas, but what’s more fun is gifting books to non-readers. One that works well for readers and non-readers is Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun. Replete with bite-sized life lessons, the story follows a lonely alien who finds a home on our planet. Through this story and its illustrations, you’re left feeling content. Also, the misspelled words aren’t an issue but to prove the scientific belief of the brain’s ability to make sense out of misspelled words — stemming from the fact that most readers don’t read words one letter at a time.

Recommended by Myriam Mikhael, Correspondent

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle mirrors its title’s surreal and psychedelic essence. It compels readers to release all preconceptions and immerse themselves in a sequence of truly bizarre occurrences. What initially appears as an ordinary day in an average man’s life—marked by the loss of his wife—quickly spirals into a whirlwind of increasingly peculiar events. Dreams meld into reality, blurring the lines between the natural and supernatural, while a parade of eccentric characters enter and exit the narrative. It’s a gripping read that defies prediction, leaving you teetering on the brink of madness as you attempt to decipher its trajectory.

However, amidst the bewildering narrative, Murakami skillfully explores broader themes of alienation, loneliness, and an individual’s quest for identity. This adds a profound dimension to the narrative, leaving you with a sense of gaining more from the book than just a whirlwind journey.

Recommended by Liji Varghese, Audience Development Lead 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“Heartbreaking and inspiring” are the two words that best describe this extraordinary memoir of a 36-year-old neurosurgeon coming face to face with his mortality. Kalanithi beautifully blends science and philosophy, which is intellectually stimulating and deeply moving. Through the book, he poses fundamental questions about the pursuit of knowledge, the nature of identity, and the pursuit of a meaningful life. It challenges the readers to confront their mortality and prompts a deep reflection on the meaning of a well-lived life.

Recommended by Aryan Patel, Associate Producer

Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab

Everyone should read this book at least once in their lifetime. From discussing the types of boundaries to explaining how one could enforce them in one’s life, this book is a step-by-step guide to becoming a better version of yourself, both emotionally and mentally.

 “Communication is key” is a quote that has been overused and sometimes used without fully understanding the context of the situation. I believe communication and comprehension go hand in hand, and this book re-affirms that. This book has changed me in more ways than one –  my perspective, outlook on life, and how I approach things.

Recommended by Suha Hasan, Correspondent 

Rifqa by Mohammed el-Kurd 

As a Palestinian, this poetry collection hits home. El-Kurd brilliantly combines different styles of poetry with references to renowned Arab talent’s works, as well as verses from the Quraan. Not to mention, the book is an ode to the author’s grandmother, Rifqa el-Kurd, telling her story of a life under occupied Palestine. 

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

It can be interesting to read into the mind’s of both sides in a relationship, which I appreciate in this novel. This is a light-hearted book that takes on the theme of love and romance, alternating between both perspectives of the relationship, who connect via the power of rock and roll music.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

This book covers the separate yet intertwined lives of seven women from different walks of life–addressing womanhood through the brutal and juxtaposed realities of misogyny and racism. The beauty of this play comes with its poetic structure, with Ntozanke Shange having coined the term “choreopoem” to define choreography and poetry combined to tell the story of the women who use this format to reclaim their black feminist identities. 

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