Let's be honest. For many women, the holiday season isn't entirely joyful. They spend untold hours shopping, baking, cleaning and traveling like madwomen, and they deserve a little reward. We've selected an array of books designed to give your mother, wife, sister or best friend a respite from the hectic holidays. Covering everything from beauty advice to the miracle of birth, these gift selections aim to refresh mind, body and spirit and not a moment too soon.

When was the last time you really savored a cup of coffee, or paused to listen to a songbird? For most women, it's been awhile, and Sarah Ban Breathnach is out to change that. During the 1980s, Ban Breathnach lost her senses literally. A ceiling panel fell on her head in a restaurant, leaving her extremely sensitive to touch and sound, and unable to taste or smell for months. Bedridden and disoriented, she was struck by a profound yearning for simple pleasures, such as the taste of a ripe peach or the smell of freshly washed clothes. After she recovered, Ban Breathnach compiled her thoughts in her best-selling Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, and Something More, among others. In the same vein comes her new release, Romancing the Ordinary, a guide to rediscovering the mystery and surprise in everyday life. This inspirational litany of recipes, rituals, decorating hints, fashion and gardening tips is intended to reinvigorate body and soul. With chapters designed to be read in increments throughout the year, Ban Breathnach invites female readers to join her on a journey to renew their sense of wonder and bask in ordinary delights.

Beauty knows no bounds, including age. That's the theme of makeup guru Bobbi Brown's new book, Bobbi Brown Beauty Evolution: A Guide to a Lifetime of Beauty. Written with Sally Wadyka, Brown's guide takes a practical look at the changing face of beauty. Each chapter focuses on a different stage of life and outlines the shifts women should make in their beauty routines through the years. This down-to-earth reference encourages women to celebrate their looks at any age and gives them the know-how to get started from choosing the right makeup brushes to selecting a flattering hair color. Brown's book also includes a section on beauty and health tips for pregnant women, for those going through chemotherapy, and for those considering plastic surgery. It presents interviews with women about self-image and a section on makeovers. A chapter full of grooming tips for men rounds out the mix. With a warm, inclusive tone and more than 300 glossy, color photographs, Beauty Evolution redefines beauty and celebrates it across the generations.

Supermodel Christy Turlington may be rich and gorgeous, but she's also a thoughtful, spiritual woman dedicated to living a balanced existence. In Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice, the cover girl and serious yoga student presents the basics of the practice, interspersed with reflections and anecdotes about her ongoing journey toward personal discovery. In straightforward prose, Turlington tells how her dedication to the ancient art has helped her weather difficult times, including her father's death from lung cancer. She describes the benefits of meditation, clears up some common misunderstandings about yoga and explains the philosophy behind different poses. Complete with a history of yoga, an overview of different styles, an extensive glossary of terms and a resource directory, this elegantly illustrated book is ideal for beginners or advanced practitioners looking for some inner equilibrium.

If you're searching for the perfect gift to bestow on expectant mothers, look no further than From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfoldsby Alexander Tsiaras, with text by Barry Werth. This lavishly designed book combines stunning visual art with medical science to present a child's development in the womb as never seen before. Scientific visualization software, designed and patented by Tsiaras, presents the developing baby from new angles and in luminous images "painted" by Tsiaras on the computer. The accompanying text explains how a child's life begins, starting with the basics. It also includes information about heredity, DNA, infertility and more all written in an engaging, light style. Absorbing from a scientific as well as an artistic perspective, From Conception to Birth is the kind of book that parents-to-be will consult in wonderment throughout the pregnancy and beyond.

And finally, in a delightfully small package comes a tribute to that most feminine of carrying cases the purse. Who would have thought that so much could be inferred, stated and communicated about the purses, pocketbooks and handbags in which nearly every woman carries her necessities, conveniences and other mysterious paraphernalia? In Handbags: The Power of the Purse author Anna Johnson examines the evolution of the purse, from the era when it brought independence to women (who previously relied on men to carry items for them), to today's functional and fashionable trends.

Purses of all shapes, sizes and materials announce the carrier's character and status from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's chunky "trusty companion" to Grace Kelly's elegant Hermes Haute Courroies bag. Most women aren't content to own just one or two purses; there must be choices fit for work and play, fun and function, day and evening. With more than 900 color photographs, Handbags aims to capture every imaginable variety of the purse, from beaded to brocaded, from dainty to downright dorky. This wallet-sized selection would make an ideal stocking stuffer for the fashion-conscious lady on your list.

comments powered by Disqus