2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Bookworms, Nerds, and Productive People

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Take heart, last-minute shoppers. It’s not too late to grab a few thoughtful gifts for the people in your life!

I’ve gathered my favorite books, tools, and gadgets from 2017—each with a clickable link—for your viewing pleasure. And some of them are free, which is always a win during the holiday season.

Gifts for Book Worms

Because books are life.

THE RULES OF MAGIC – Alice Hoffman (my #1 for the year)

This is my favorite book of the year, and oddly, I listened to it instead of reading. The story is so lovely, so sad and joyous in its lessons on finding contentment, forgiveness, compassion, and love, in accepting yourself and those around you. I'm recommending it to everyone I talk to. I loved it.

Perfect for: Anyone you love, want to love, those who are looking for love, and those who need to accept themselves for who they are.
A PARIS ALL YOUR OWN – edited by Eleanor Brown

I don't have many regrets, but not traveling to Paris when I was young and inexperienced is one of them. I was honored to share a stage with Eleanor Brown whilst on tour this fall, and her collection of Paris essays is a must-read for anyone who dreams of being a writer in Paris. Funny, poignant, and downright hilarious. This collection? C'est parfait!

Perfect for: The budding writer in your family. 
THE SLEEPWALKER – Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian was a guest on A WORD ON WORDS this year, and this book didn't disappoint. It has a section that is so utterly stunning, so ferociously vivid, that I read it three times and cried. On a plane, no less. The story is stellar, too. Original and well done.

Perfect for: Your literary lover.

I love a fantasy novel that can surprise me, and this story does that in spades. Kendare Blake is a new-to-me author but I immediately grabbed all her books. I mean, a whole generation of "posioners"—people who gain strength from eating posionous food? Awesome!

Perfect for: Fantasy lovers of all stripes, and your tweens and teens looking for feminine power books.
HOUSE OF SPIES – Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva always enthralls, and his second novel in the duology with THE BLACK WIDOW continues the story in the most delicious way. Silva is on top of his game, our finest spy fiction writer. 

Perfect for: Your current affairs junkie, your spy thriller junkie, your aspiring thriller writer.

This book. It's so wrong it's right. From the description, I never thought I would enjoy it, but boy, was I wrong. I laughed, and I cried, and I think everyone should read it. The climate we find ourselves in, at war with ourselves, is addressed on the nose. Plus, Matthew was a guest on A WORD ON WORDS and our interview was something special. Highly recommended.

Perfect for: Anyone on the opposite side of the fence from you politically. Seriously, this book is a treatise for both sides.
NOT A SOUND – Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf always writes excellent novels, but her latest offering is a stunner. Her main character has profound hearing loss, and is holed up in a cabin trying to get her life back in order when she finds a body in the lake near her new home. Imagine the claustrophobia of knowing people are coming for you, but you can't hear them... and that's only scratching the surface of this wonderful book.

Perfect for: The deep ones who like to examine life's mysteries.
BLAME – Jeff Abbott

It's no surprise I have a Jeff Abbott title on this list. I adore his work, and have been a fan since PANIC. BLAME has the same kind of propulsive action as Abbott's previous thrillers, but in the domestic suspense genre. He uses memory loss in unique ways, and nails the twist.

Perfect for: Your nail-biting suspense lover! 

I have a wicked writer girl crush on Sarah Maas, and her third book featuring Rhys and Fayre is by far her best. I like to call her work "Game of Thrones for girls." It's more than just cool battle scenes, though. Maas shows her readers what a loving relationship built on respect looks like. Something for all our teenagers to be reading, and our adults, too. 

Perfect for: Every pre-teen you know, and your friends who say they don't like female-driven fantasy. 

I'm making some diet changes, and I was looking for something that would make the transition easier. I had no idea when I ordered this book that the author's Italian farm was located in the very region I'd just spent several months writing about, nor did I expect the stunning photography and wonderful storytelling. I mean, this is just a cookbook, right? No. It's so much more.

Perfect for: Your health-conscious friend, your travel buddy, your yogi.... 

Gifts for Nerds

A list for general life enthusiasts. Perfect gifts for yourself, for your friends, and for your social consience.

Patreon - To fund independent artists and thinkers. My favorites are Kris Rusch and @NashSevereWx.

Animals Affected by 2017 Natural Disasters - Our furry friends need help, too.
     Los Angeles ASPCA
     Sonoma Humane Society
     Napa Humane
     Houston Humane Society – Hurricane Harvey Fund
     Florida Keys SPCA

BookBook for iPhone - My wallet/phone cover of choice. 

Numi Moroccan Mint Tea - The yummiest mint tea on the planet.

The Genius Deck - I love this for when I'm stuck on a story. It breaks me free every time.

Constant Comment Tea - An old favorite, this is the best afternoon tea.

No/No Bird Feeders - My girls and I love to watch the birds congregate on these feeders. Pro tip: I use safflower seeds so the squirrels won't even try to break in.

Cobalt Blue Betty Teapot - A perfect brewing teapot, in a beautiful cobalt color.

Reading Glasses from Zenni Optical - Because who wants to spend $300 for a cute pair of RX readers?

Steagle Laptop Webcam Covers - Fantastic privacy guards for laptop and iPad. 

Gifts for Productive People

For the writers and go-getters in your life.

Scrivener 3 - The best writing software on the market has just gotten a superb update. It's even easier to use, and easier to learn.

Newton - The most minimalist email program you will ever use—and incredibly powerful, to boot.

Habana Notebooks - I use the Habana for my Bullet Journal. I love the extra lines (though they make a blank notebook, too), the quality of paper, and the durability. 

The Baron Fig Squire Pen - The right pen is a joy to use, and this one is lovely. I also love the Spectre pen with a ghost on it (come on!), though it's sold out for now. And PS: click here to get a coupon code for $10 off!

Passport-Sized Midori Notebook - I love the leather on the Midori notebooks, so this one resides in my purse as my on-the-go notebook.

Lechtturm Pen Loops - Perfect for sticking to the back cover of your favorite notebook.

Tiffany Pen - Spoiler alert: it's a splurge! Mine was a gift, and it's the perfect size to rest inside the Midori notebook without causing lumps and bumps.

Svenja Gosen Word Tracker Spreadsheets - This is how I keep track of my word counts. These trackers are intuitive and such a joy to use.

Freedom - The very best way to bolster your self-discipline during the work day.

Bonus! Gifts for YOURSELF

Because self-care is important.

Jarrow Golden Milk Powder - This is the central ingredient in my delightfully spicy and super healthy Golden Milk.

King Arthur Almond Flour - If you're gluten-free, this is the best baking flour I've ever found. Makes awesome shortbread, too.

Alyssa’s Healthy Oatmeal Bites - For when you need a healthy snack, and you don't feel like baking.

Trinkets from Pottery Barn, HomeGoods, and Wayfair - because who doesn't love a cozy home?

Double Bonus: These are free gifts for yourself. 

These are my favorite blogs, and they keep giving all year long.

Cal Newport's Study Hacks - Brilliant, necessary.

Becoming Minimalist - I especially love the "Inspiring Simplicity. Weekend Reads." link series—a perfect way to unwind on a Sunday.

mindbodygreen - I love this website, chock full of inspiration, healthy recipes, and exercise motivation. 

Buddha Groove - A lovely place to buy gifts for your more spiritually inclined friends and yogis, and they have a weekend blog that's a joy.

DailyOM - A restful spot on the web for daily inspiration and advice.

Modern Mrs. Darcy - For general loveliness, a daily read of this blog will enhance your life.

Desire to Inspire - I love this blog's design posts. I get a lot of remodeling ideas here.

Yoga with Adriene - My go-to online yoga class. Adriene is good people.


Many blessings on you and yours! I hope you've enjoyed the gift guide. Merry Everything!

12.06.16 - Holiday Gift Guide for Bookworms, Nerds, and Productive People

Welcome to the first annual Tao of J.T. holiday gift guide! It’s a bit unfair to call it a full-blown gift guide, since it’s most books, but there are some other suggestions for your favorite bookworm/nerd, too. So let’s jump right in, shall we?


Bookworm Gifts

These are my hands down favorite of the year. I read more than 70 pleasure books this year, and these are the cream of the crop.

The Black Widow - Daniel Silva

Frighteningly accurate modern thrillers are Silva’s specialty, and this latest installment in his acclaimed Gabriel Allon series doesn’t disappoint. It’s the most topical novel I’ve read in a long time, which Silva addresses in his author’s note. It goes to show that well-researched authors truly do have their finger on the pulse of the world. This is a can’t-miss read and my #1 for the year. In my humble opinion, Silva is the finest thriller writer working today.

Perfect for: Thriller junkies and current events enthusiasts




I Let You Go - Clare Mackintosh

What a brilliant book. A masterful, slow-burn suspense novel, Mackintosh’s debut is clever, misleading, and beautifully written. I found myself wishing for the seclusion of a small Wales beach, and then very happy I didn’t have that. You won’t see the twist coming, I promise. 

Perfect for: Your friend who hated GONE GIRL and GIRL ON THE TRAIN but loves a great psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator, and Gothic lovers





Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

What a fabulous romp this book is. I forced myself not to read it in one sitting because I couldn’t wait to see where Cline’s brain took me. An elegy to the 80s and 90s pop culture, this dystopian reality game inside a reality game is wonderfully visual and entertaining—plus, it will be in theaters under Spielberg’s guidance in 2018. An astounding debut.

Perfect for: Anyone from Generation X, fans of video games, John Hughes, and science fiction fans, plus young writers looking for their path.




A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy) - Deborah Harkness

Every year I reread a favorite series, and this year, when I hit a reading slump, I dove back in to Diana and Matthew’s magical world. It took me several tries to get into A Discover of Witches, but once I did, the book became an obsession, one I heartily recommend to everyone. These books are so different, so unique, that even though there are some wink and nods to the vampire/witch/urban fantasy tropes, it never falls prey to them due to the exceptionally high level of scientific knowledge throughout.

Perfect for: Your fantasy, romance, or science lover



Pretty Girls - Karin Slaughter

This book. This hideously scary, depraved, frightening book. I couldn’t put it down, but I couldn’t handle more than a few chapters at a time. Slaughter lives up to her name, and absolutely turns the genre on its ear with her willingness to “go there.” She never flinches, and as such manages to put together novels that plumb the darkest depths of humanity. This isn’t a light read, nor appropriate for readers who can’t handle gore. But it is a masterpiece of fear, perfectly constructed and ingeniously plotted. 

Perfect for: Your dark thriller lover



The Abandoned Heart - Laura Benedict

A spooky end to the Bliss House trilogy, Benedict’s latest creation is dark, scary, and utterly Gothic. Happily, it’s freaky story is accompanied by gorgeous prose and impeccable research. It’s a must read.     

Perfect for: Those who love haunted houses and spooky stories, history, and southern Gothic tales





Flight of Dreams - Ariel Lawhon

A heartbreaking and gorgeous novel about the last doomed flight of the Hindenburg, Lawhon creates the never-before-seen interior life of the airship as it crosses the Atlantic. Seeing the people who were on the ship, and knowing that they might not all survive, gives this book a verisimilitude lacking in others of the Hindenburg canon.

Perfect for: Your literary history lover




Sweetbitter - Stephanie Danler

Another incredible debut, this Bright Lights, Big City for millennials is a behind-the-doors peek into the restaurant industry. Funny and irreverent, with evocative prose and an accessible style. If Danler can write books at this level consistently, she’s a serious name to watch. A true talent. 

Perfect for: Your young culinary friends who love restaurants, food, and wine





Luckiest Girl Alive - Jessica Knoll

Gosh, I am debut central, it seems. Knoll’s creepy, haunting mystery is wonderful, and, like Macintosh, you won’t see the twist coming. Knoll’s personal life informs a lot of the character, and makes the story that much grittier. I couldn’t put it down.

Perfect for: Fans of psychological thrillers and well-constructed mysteries with unreliable narrators




American Housewife - Helen Ellis

Ellis is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, Eating the Cheshire Cat, so when I heard she was putting out a short story collection, I leaped on board. As The Kerr says, these are some of the creepiest bedtime stories ever, all masquerading in the homely skin of the American housewife. With this truly subversive collection, Ellis cements herself as one of my favorites.

Perfect for: A short story lover, a Gothic fan, or that friend who's just a little bit off




Hero of France – Alan Furst

I’ve never been a huge WWII fan, but this book changed all that for me. Furst’s multi-novel oeuvre is set in the war era, with an incredible eye for detail and truly human characters. This installment is about a leader of the French Resistance, and it’s stunning how well the conceit of “history as plot” works. This is a series, but loosely so, which means you can start anywhere.

Perfect for: History buffs, World War II fanatics, and francophiles




Deep Work – Cal Newport

Probably the most impactful book I read this year, Newport has single-handedly saved many of us from the demonic lure of social media. Deep Work talks at length about how important it is to turn off the internet and truly create — whether painting, writing, computer coding, whatever. I credit this book with helping me find a real, sustainable balance between my creative work and online world. As important to the creative life as On Writing, Bird by Bird, and The War of Art, so don’t miss it.

Perfect for: Your friend who bemoans their time on Facebook and Twitter, plus people who are interested in neuroscience, social media’s impact on society, productivity, and all creatives


Nerd Gifts

Blackwing Pencils - To help you go full-nerd (I guarantee other people will take awe in your nerdiness)

Blackwing Long Point Pencil Sharpener  - A necessity for your new Blackwing Pencils.

"I do what I want" Mug - A visual way to inform your loved ones and colleagues of your badassery

Clairefontaine Notebooks - The loveliest paper in all the land will make your note-taking joyful

Midori Travelers Notebook - A gorgeous, rustic idea notebook. People will stop and ask where you got this every time you pull it out.

Gryffindor Pajama Pants - Remember, this is the Nerd Gifts category.


Productivity Gifts

Freedom - Say goodbye to online distractions and hello to quality, uninterrupted work time.

Zen and the Art of Work - This online course helps you find calm and productivity in your work and play. A new favorite of mine!

Scrivener - My go-to writing program, and hands down the world's best writing software. Only $45!

Vellum - Transform a Word doc into a beautiful ebook in ten minutes. Perfect for indie authors.

Shipt - Grocery delivery is such a HUGE time (and headache) saver!

Svenja Gosen word trackers - A free but awesome gift for the writer/CPA in your life


And, finally, a free gift! 🙌🏻

Why not give the gift of my newsletter, perfect for your favorite reader or chef.

A - It costs nothing  

B - It’s a free ebook for your friends

C - There’s a treasure trove of delicious, healthy recipes

D - More book recommendations!

Just sayin’ — it’s the best free gift ever! 


Do y'all have any gift suggestions? Let me know if you find something cool!