Looking for unique and inspiring gifts for friends or family? This bouquet of motivational books has something for everyone close to your heart.

When Candy Chang covered an abandoned house with chalkboard paint and stenciled “Before I Die I Want To . . .” on the wall, she had no idea what, if anything, would happen. Not only did her New Orleans neighborhood become a safer place (her project brought people outside and together), she spawned an international art movement. Oh, and the house was saved and is once again a home. Before I Die features photos from the original wall and its spin-offs, and collects a global sample of people’s dreams, which range from practical (“grow a salad”) to dreamy (“eat a salad with an alien”). Taking your bucket list public connects you with your neighbors, who are there dreaming alongside you, and may inspire you to live your fantasy sooner. The book also includes a breakdown of materials needed to create your own wall, so if that’s your dream, you’ve got no excuses.


You could be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t a single jot of marrow left to be mined from the legacy of Julia Child. We’ve read her letters, watched her cook on TV and cooked along or done so vicariously via blogger Julie Powell. Along comes Karen Karbo with Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life, and it’s as if we’re meeting Child for the first time. This collection of biographical tidbits and advice endorses a life of adventure and indulgence within reason, hard work coupled with as much play as possible, and self-acceptance with face-lifts as needed. Nothing came easy to Child except money—she used roughly 300 pounds of flour while adapting French bread to the American kitchen, and often worked tireless 12-hour days. But she loved the journey as much as the end result, in every area of her life. So stick to it, whatever your “it” is, and enjoy the learning process.


In Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book, longtime Golden Books editorial director Diane Muldrow pairs adages for adults with illustrations from the classic children’s series. The book extols the virtues of simple pleasures, but the cautionary messages are a riot. After “Work hard” (a man in a foundry) and “Play hard” (dogs, cats and a rabbit running riot) comes the warning, “But not too hard,” along with a two-page spread of animals who have invaded a picnic and popped a cork or two: A boa constrictor is eating a galosh, a stork pours pink liquid from a can into the pouch of a pelican, and there’s some inter-species snuggling going on in the background. With illustrations by Margaret Wise Brown, Richard Scarry and other titans of kiddie lit, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book reminds us that nothing recommended here has ever gone out of style. It’s hip and wholesome, and a great deal of fun.

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