10+ Books to Give as Gifts

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Books are my love language, sharing, discussing, gifting, I love to surround myself with books and to surround other people with books. But, honestly? Books aren’t always so easy to buy for others. What resonates with you might be a flop for them. And then people feel awkward when you pass along a beloved story and they don’t connect with it. For that reason, I’ve (mostly) stopped giving away novels as gifts unless I’m pretty certain of the recipient’s taste. On the other hand, books can make for a great “neutral” present. For a friend or coworker or cousin or white elephant. You can extend a certain amount of thoughtfulness, without too much risk on either side.

And so I present to you a list of books to give this holiday season, in no particular order…

Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss

More and more over the last year or so I’ve found myself turning to Tim Ferriss’s interviews with powerful and creative thinkers. Somewhat sheepishly I’ve been quoting him and his guests and telling people to go listen to his podcast or read his books. We may not “do life” in a very similar way, but I think Tim Ferriss is having some of the most interesting conversations out there, and his latest books are part of these. Last year I highly recommended his book Tools of Titans and this year I’ll be buying Tribe of Mentors for a few people.

The L.A. Cookbook: Recipes from the best restaurants, bakeries, and bars in Los Angeles

I love this cookbook. It looks pretty on a kitchen shelf and it really does have the recipes from some of the best restaurants in town. I’ve already gifted this one several times.

Psssttt…Here’s a list of some of my favorite LA Restaurants.

The League: How Five Rivals Created the NFL and Launched a Sports Empire by John Eisenberg

Confession: I haven’t actually read this one, but someone highly recommended it to me and I jotted it down as an option to give Jeff for Christmas. I’ve also bookmarked this new coffee table book about Kobe Bryant

A Big Important Art Book (Now With Women) by Danielle Krysa

Okay so maybe this one is on my personal wish list for Christmas. I’ve followed The Jealous Curator for years now, and really like what she does in highlighting women artists. 

Banksy. You Are An Acceptable Level of Threat and If You Were Not You Would Know About It. 

I bought this one for my husband for his birthday after we went to a street art show with an awesome Banksy piece we both admired. The photography in this book is great, and I like the black-on-black cover, it looks good on a coffee table or in a stack. (You could also pair this one with the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.)

I’ll Be There For You by Kelsey Miller

If you lived through the must-see-tv Thursday nights when everyone watched Friends and then quoted it the next day (or, if you still watch it in perpetual reruns on cable), this is a fun little book to give. I picked it up for my college roommate because these characters and these plot lines have become part of the pop culture history, and I wanted to know more about that. 

I ended up reading it on the airplane and learned a lot about how Friends has shaped pop culture for decades.

Annie Liebovitz At Work 

Liebovitz is one of the greatest living photographers, and in these pages she’s describing her process as well as sharing some of her more famous photographs and subjects. 

Circe by Madeline Miller

This is the one and only novel on this list, and that’s because I think it will appeal to a broad number of readers across age, race, gender, and taste. I just finished this one, so I’m possibly a little biased, but I think this is such an excellent story based in Greek mythology. Circe is well told, but with simple prose and layered stories and metaphors. I just loved it, and think it would make for an especially lively book club discussion. 

Whiskey In A Teacup by Reese Witherspoon 

I’m a fangirl, I’ll freely admit it. But this book is pretty and fun and sure to please the exact type of person who loves romantic comedies and gets her nails down every two weeks like clockwork.

If your crowd is a little less likely to own A-line, pick up Chrissy Teigen’s new cookbook Cravings: Hungry For More for the same amount of fun with a little different flavor.

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeloma Oluo

Man, this is one of my favorite books of the year, period. I listened to it on audio, but plan to gift it to several people following the discussions we’ve had in the Smartest Person in the Room series on racial bias. This book is incredible, but would not be a good gift for someone resistant to conversations about inequality. This is the for the (white) person who wants to learn more, to know better, who is following this national thread with the intention of unity and understanding in our country. Also not for someone who needs to be coddled. This book is blunt. 

Loving What Is by Byron Katie

This book is gentle and forceful at the same time and I find myself thinking about it regularly even though I read it months ago. Byron Katie walks you through small exercises to help you turn around your thoughts and the stories you tell yourself that keep you in pain and inactive. I found her methods to be really helpful, similar to therapy (though nothing replaces therapy, of course) and if you’re open to change or seeing how your own patterns are contributing to your unhappiness, this is a wonderful book. It doesn’t take the harsh tone that is popular right now, it is full of love and wisdom. 

Eleanor Wyatt Princess and Pirate by Rachael Macfarlane

I interviewed my friend Rachael Macfarlane on an episode of Smartest Person in the Room a few weeks ago about her new children’s book Eleanor Wyatt Princess and Pirate. I love the message of neutrality in kid’s play, and this is a sweet book with a solid message. 

Dare To Lead by Brene Brown 

Brene Brown has cracked us all open with her talks on vulnerability and shame, and Dare to Lead has a lot of this same messaging but with a distinctly business-minded bent. A lot of the examples and role playing that she has in the book is geared towards bosses and team management. For that reason, I think this Brene Brown book in particular would be a good one for those who think self-help for business is silly, or for those who want to introduce to Brown’s work but without as many personal anecdotes. 

Am I There Yet? by Marie Andrew

I absolutely love following byMarieAndrew on Instagram, so I wanted to support her illustrations with her new book Am I There Yet? This would be a great gift for a graduate or college student, or anyone navigating a new world. (And aren’t we all?)

The Actor’s Life by Jenna Fischer

My friend Jenna has written exactly the book she wish she’d read as she was starting out in Hollywood. This book is full of stories and resources for anyone thinking about making acting their career (or even just a hobby). Highly recommended by people in the entertainment industry.

200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World

I actually spotted this one when I was Nashville, and it was too big to put in my carry on, but I made a note to buy it for myself (or as a gift!) later.

Hope this list helps you find something for that hard-to-buy-for person!



#OneDayHH is the ONE DAY on Instagram where thousands of people share what just ONE DAY of their life looks like in this season. Hour by hour. A day-in-the-life...YOUR life!  

The idea is simple: document your day, all day. I usually post 1-2 photos an hour sharing my "day in the life." Capture the mundane details that you usually wouldn't show: routines, messy desks, the inside of your fridge. This is a true "behind-the-scenes" look at your life. It may seem silly at first, but when you look back, you'll see that you're really marking a moment. 

Sure it may flood the feed a little, but it's just ONE DAY. 

All you have to do to participate is document your day and share it using the hashtag #ONEDAYHH

Follow me on Instagram @laura.tremaine and read below for more tips & details!

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#10ThingsToTellYou Instagram challenge

#10ThingsToTellYou Instagram challenge

In September I hosted a 10 day social media challenge to share more of ourselves with the people in our feeds. The whole point of this blog is to encourage one another to share our stuff: the big and the little, the shallow and the deep. So I came up with 10 prompts, and posted and answered each one for 10 days consecutively using the hashtag #10ThingsToTellYou.

Follow me on Instagram. Follow me on Facebook.

I was secretly hopeful that a couple hundred people might jump in and participate, but by the end of the challenge there were over 5,000 posts of people responding to the prompts. It was so fun to do in real time, but lots of people have discovered the challenge after it was in full swing and so they did it at their own pace.

I don’t think it matters when or how you do it, just that you’re sharing! I would love it if you’d use the hashtag and/or tag me so I don’t miss your posts. You can screenshot any of the pink prompt images from this post to give your followers a heads up on what you’re doing.

Here are the prompts and my own answers:

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Sephora Staples & Splurges

Sephora Staples & Splurges

I’m a beauty product junkie, and Sephora is my go-to. 

A few times a year, Sephora has a Beauty Insider sale with up to 20% your entire purchase. The Beauty Insider is Sephora’s free-to-sign-up rewards program. They’ve just revamped their program (which I already thought was pretty good), but there are still three tiers dependent on the amount you spend at the store in a year. Beauty Insider, VIB, and VIB Rouge are the levels and you can sign up here if you’re not already a member.  

I wait for these sales to make some of my pricier splurges or to stock up on my favorite staples.

Here are a few of the things I swear by that definitely will feel better on your wallet with a discount:

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10 favorite episodes of the Sorta Awesome podcast

10 favorite episodes of the Sorta Awesome podcast

For 2.5 years I was a regular cohost on the popular girlfriend chat podcast Sorta Awesome. The show is created and hosted by my longtime dear friend (we’ve been close since I was a sophomore in high school) Meg Tietz and when she asked me to be one of the rotating cohosts, I couldn’t say YES fast enough, even though I had zero experience in audio or in cohosting anything. 

When Sorta Awesome launched in the spring of 2015, podcasts were just beginning to boom in a post-Serial world, but they weren’t quite to the point of explosion that they are right now. We got in at the right time, is what I’m saying. Pretty quickly Meg built up a loyal and enthusiastic community around the show, and it was trial by fire as we figured out how to make an hours worth of compelling listening each week. 

A year in, Meg and I started Smartest Person in the Room as a side project for all the topics and guests I wanted to cover that didn’t fit in the Sorta Awesome format. By the end of 2017, I realized I wanted to be writing more and juggling two podcasts was just too much. I stepped away from a regular role on Sorta Awesome, but still like to pop in from time to time when Meg will let me.

Sorta Awesome is a good mix of funny and thoughtful, and behind the mic I’ve said some supremely stupid stuff and started some conversations I remain really proud of. For posterity’s sake, I wanted to make a list of MY favorite episodes of the Sorta Awesome

Here they are, in order:

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We don't talk enough about anxiety after happiness.

We don't talk enough about anxiety after happiness.

The worst panic attack I’ve had in years came after one of the best nights of my life. It had been an evening of pure happiness, but not overly emotional. There were friends and laughter and drinks and good food. We had my favorite dessert, and a surprise musical experience. I looked around at my loving, creative family, and thoughtful, funny friends, and I was deeply grateful for being exactly right here, right now. Just a few hours later, after I’d fallen into bed pleasantly exhausted, I awoke in total panic. My heart was racing, I was sweating, and I felt absolutely terrified, like the house was a sinking ship and we were all slumbering through its destruction. 

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10 (thousand) words about choosing a personal planner

10 (thousand) words about choosing a personal planner

Every single year around this time I have a mild panic about how disorganized my life is and how all my systems are crap and how I JUST NEED TO PULL IT TOGETHER ALREADY. This coincidentally coincides with planner season. Oh, you thought as adults we structure our years based on the monthly calendar? Well some people (students, teachers, and moms) still revolve their schedules around the academic year. I am a mom, but I think my July stress really has more to do with omg-we’re-halfway-through-the-year-where-does-the-time-go-I-haven’t-met-a-single-goal-HELP type of thing. 

I asked on Instagram stories what paper planners people used and liked, and I got more responses and DMs than anything I’ve ever posted ever. People have BIG FEELINGS about planners. But although many people replied with their recommendations, just as many replied with their own planner angst. People have planner decision fatigue, people feel like they keep choosing the wrong planner, and on and on. Apparently I’m not the only who gets overwhelmed at this decision. 

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10 Favorite restaurants in Los Angeles

10 Favorite restaurants in Los Angeles

One thing about living in a city like Los Angeles, folks are always stopping through. Since I moved here nearly 17 years ago, friends, acquaintances, heck even strangers have reached out looking for recommendations on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in L.A. Hotel recommendations are always the hardest because, um, I live here. So while I can give a thumbs up to general areas in the city, I rarely know much about the inside of local hotel rooms. 

Food, however, food is a different story. In the last few years, LA has become quite the foodie scene (after a history of coming in behind cities like New York and Chicago on this front) and I have a running list of places old and new that I’m dying to try. In my 20s I couldn’t afford the great restaurants (and there were far fewer) and then I lost a good five years of the baby stage when Jeff and I were simply too tired to make much restaurant effort. 

Also, my tastes have changed dramatically in the last five years. Without going off on total tangent, suffice it to say that I’ve had lifelong food anxieties (texture issues and such) that have waned quite a bit through my husband’s gentle prodding. I’m still not an adventurous eater, but I (sometimes) venture off the kids menu. 

I often share new places we're trying on Instagram, using the #10TTTY or #10TTTYfood hashtags.

This is the type of list that fluctuates, of course, but right now here are my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles:

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Thoughts on a 6+ week social media break

Thoughts on a 6+ week social media break

An extended social media fast had been brewing with me for a long time. Facebook has been a thorn in my emotional side since the 2016 election, honestly, but it has been hard to cut the cord because the platform is the only way I communicate in certain personal and professional relationships. Twitter hasn’t ever been a problem for me, it isn’t even a time suck. I check twitter every single day, it’s my favorite source for news and opinions, but I rarely use it on my phone, nor does it make me emotional in any way. 

Instagram has long been my social media app of choice, but more and more I found myself losing (literally) hours to it over the course of a day. I use it to avoid feelings and chores and delude myself into thinking it’s “work” or that I’m actually connecting with people. When my husband left in January to make a movie for five long months, I knew after just a few weeks of solo parenting and general life chaos that I should make some dramatic changes to my personal routines and that included removing the distraction and emotion-swirling effects of social media. 

But I am addicted to this stuff, there is no doubt. I enjoy the creativity of it and the gratification of instant feedback. I genuinely like seeing other people’s creativity and work and their lives as depicted on a little screen. However, by the time I officially started my social media break - using Lent as a loose time frame - I was so ready to make the change that I didn’t suffer the withdrawal I thought I would given social media’s prominence in my brain. 

A few things I did notice, based on notes I took along the way…

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10 Podcasts to binge

10 Podcasts to binge

It's hard to imagine that just a few short years ago I didn't listen to podcasts at all. Now they are such a huge percentage of the entertainment and information that I consume, barely a day goes by that I don't listen to something.

I subscribe to dozens of shows, but it's rare that I listen to episodes on the day they drop. I'm a binger. I will wait until a series is done before I listen to it for 8 hours at a time. If you're a fellow binger, I have a few suggestions for you:

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