What good can’t a walk do you—especially with the perfect sidekick? The beautifully designed Afoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking, a combination of journal and quote compendium, is just that. Each of the book’s six sections—Sense of Place, Well-Being, Attention, Exploration, Devotion and Transcendence—helps you attain the benefits of walking in a different way. Each features thoughtful prompts for filling the blank pages and a wealth of passages from diverse literary and philosophical texts. Author and Belmont University professor Bonnie Smith Whitehouse brings a deep knowledge to this endeavor, so even if you never pen a word on these pages, you’ll be wiser just having perused them. Should you wish to track down the books, poems and essays she draws from, “For Further Reading” at the back of the book is a fine place to start. I’d like to give a copy of this smart, fetching book to everyone I know.
A cookbook is a popular wedding present, so why not gift one specifically written for a new duo? The Newlywed Table: A Cookbook to Start Your Life Together makes the brilliant assumption that both spouses will be getting their hands dirty at mealtime: “Let’s do away with any notions of who should be responsible for cooking and start with a clean slate,” writes author Maria Zizka. “You’re in this together. You’re a team.” This solid, basic guide is full of modern recipes with origins in diverse culinary traditions. A section on “Common Cooking Issues and How to Fix Them” is a godsend. And there’s a recipe for Chocolate Toast. Um, hello. Newlywed I am not, but my husband of 13 years and I will find much to work with here.
“Perhaps we have reached peak distraction,” Rob Walker writes in the introduction to The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday. “Attention panic” is another term he uses to describe this modern crisis. In this ingenious book, Walker compiles 131 specific ways to restore our capacity for attention. These activities are designed to employ the senses strategically: look with the eyes of a child or historian; listen selectively; create sound maps and inventories of objects around you. Some of these exercises are more surprising than others, as Walker draws from his own experience teaching at the School of Visual Arts as well as research on artists, designers, writers and entertainers. One of my favorites? A prompt from cartoonist Lynda Barry. What do you notice and why? It matters, and you can control it, and this book will show you how.