I really don’t like to shop but I do like to gift at this time of year. I’m always looking for suggestions and I’d venture that many of you are trying to think of things, too. So without further ado, here is my list of holiday gifts to consider.


My favorite cookbook is “Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook’s Manifesto.” This book by Michael Ruhlman will change your life. I learned so much from it. For example, I love lox and this book taught me how to take salmon and make it into the best lox I ever tasted. My wife, Penny, and my kids would agree with this.

Another recommendation is “Nutshell,” a novel by Ian McEwan. It’s a great mystery and the kicker is that the narrator is a yet-to-be-born child, still in the mother’s womb. “Nutshell” is a riot, and McEwan knows how to spin a great yarn (he’s already a Man Booker Prize winner for his 1998 masterpiece “Amsterdam”).

Finally, for anyone who loves adventure travel walking, I suggest “A History of the World in 500 Walks” by Sarah Baxter. It’s unlike any hiking book I’ve ever seen.


My favorite fitness tracker is still the MisFit. Of course, I love the name, but I also love the price and the convenience. The entry-level MisFit Flash comes in at about $20 and MisFit versions go up from there. It runs on one of those little round hearing aid batteries that you only need to change every six months or so. I hate charging all my stuff and this solves the problem.

If you want to go high class, get the Motiv Ring — yes, you wear it on your finger, and it looks just like a wedding ring. It’s a thing of beauty, a thing of technology. It chimes in right at $200, but if you’re up for spending that much, go for it. The Wall Street Journal gave it a great review.

Also along the lines of exercise, consider giving someone a personal trainer evaluation session. Sometimes it’s a visit or two with a good personal trainer that can get a person up and running in the new year. They might be hesitant to spend the money, so you can do it for them.

I know folks who have tried working with a trainer but say it’s a waste. I disagree. If your loved one’s game is off, if they get injured all the time, if they feel like they might get more from a guided workout, then a personal trainer perhaps is just the trick.

And in that same vein, try giving a certificate for an exercise class, sessions at a yoga studio, dance lessons (tap is about as rigorous as you can get) or time in a pool. Any of these might be the right choice to get someone moving.

Personalized gift cards

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Now, when I say gift cards, I don’t mean the regular kind you see everywhere, but an individualized card they can trade back to you for something you do for them. Wash their car, clean the garage, make dinner or maybe breakfast in bed, go to a show – anything you think they might enjoy having you do for them. It’s a personal gift card from you to your loved one.

Charitable giving

Which brings me to the final gift we should all think about: helping others less fortunate than we are.

Giving to a charity on behalf of someone else is an incredibly powerful gift, especially for someone who really does have everything. Every year Penny and I donate to causes that are near and dear to us as a way to honor people. We either make up a card, which we give to them ourselves, or even better we have the charity send them a card explaining that a donation has been made in their name. And they always, always, always appreciate it.

I think the commercialism at this time of year is over the top. This is not something new, it’s been that way for more than 100 years. The best way to temper that is to help others less fortunate. That’s one of the most important gifts on our list this year and every year. Stay well.

This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions.