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Oh man, the holidays are upon us, which means we have to start thinking about giving and getting gifts, for ourselves and others. I love books. I love reading them, I love buying them, and if you’re curious about what to get me this year, I love getting them. (Though I really prefer a Barnes and Noble gift card because I also love going to the book store and browsing).

This year I did a lot of reading on various subjects, so I thought I’d pick out my favorites that you can get for someone else in your life or pick out for yourself.

  1. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventure in the Art and Science of Communicating
    by Alan AldaI was on the phone with someone who was thinking of hiring me for an improv workshop working with medical residents at a hospital in the suburbs. While we were on the phone she said, “I like to do the mirror exercise from Alan Alda’s book.”“What book?” I asked. Me, the improv nerd, had not heard about it. She said that he wrote a book about using improv games and exercises with scientists and doctors to help them become better communicators. As soon as I got off the phone with her, I went to the book store and got a copy, and I was surprised how good it was.

    Alda is a great writer, and I appreciate the humor he brings to his writing, as well as his passion for bringing improv to scientists and doctors. He draws on his acting, theater and improv background as well as stories from his own life of miscommunication. And what I especially loved was he gives you specific games and exercises you can do. If you teach improv, this is recommend reading!

  1. Lose Well
    by Chris GethardYou may know Chris Gethard from his podcast, Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, or The Chris Gethard Show or his HBO one-man show “Career Suicide.”He started out at the UCB Theatre in New York back in 2000, and he performed with the legendary Harold team The Step Fathers before branching out to do stand-up. What I admire about Gethard is that, like Mike Birbiglia, he has succeeded on his own terms, outside the Hollywood system. In this book, he shares with us the lessons he’s learned along the way and the rules that he created that came from his failures, like having his Comedy Central sitcom cancelled after ten episodes.

    Gethard encourages us to fail and to fail big, and he helps rewire our brains about our thoughts about failing. Though this is book can be funny at times, it’s not New Age-y and it comes from Gethard’s real-life experiences.

  1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
    by Elizabeth GilbertElizabeth Gilbert is the author of the phenomenal best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love. And in this straightforward book she demystifies the creative process. It’s full of inspiration in a very practical way.What I took away from her book is that it is our job is to create. It doesn’t matter if we make a living off of our creations or not; it’s important to create just because it brings us joy, and the results are not always guaranteed. In fact, at times Gilbert is so honest about her creative process that the book is sobering to read, but that is also its strength. By taking the magic out of creativity, we are freed up to be even more creative and feel that maybe we are creating for a higher purpose. She is an excellent writer and you can feel that she has poured herself and her process into this book.
  1. Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You Will Ever Need
    by Margot LeitmanI often hear improvisers say they want to do stand-up, which can be intimidating and a less forgiving art form than improv. If you’ve been craving to do some solo performance but you’re afraid to try stand-up, I would suggest trying a storytelling open mic instead. And a great place to start would be to read this very practical book on storytelling. Leitman started the storytelling program at UCB Theatre in New York and she was a five-time Moth StorySLAM winner and was the Moth Grand Slam champion in New York in 2011. So she speaks from experience as a performer and a teacher and it shows. Her book is very thought out and she gives you easy-to-follow tips and suggestions to help you go deeper in your stories.
  1. The Law Of Divine Compensation: On Work, Money and Miracles
    by Marianne WilliamsonYou know I am good for at least one spiritual book on the list, and this is a good one. I was debating whether I should choose this one or Marianne Williamson’s classic, A Return to Love, but I chose this one because it’s about was so many of us artists suffer from: Lack of self-worth. Williamson bases this book, like many of her other ones, on the Course in Miracles, which she distills down to understandable concepts. I often get fearful and anxious about money, my career, and what should I do next, and Williamson addresses these issue and offers us a spiritual solution. Her theory is that if you want to have an abundant career and an abundant life, you have to change your thoughts from those of fear to those of love. And while that isn’t always as easy as it sounds, it’s a concept that I would love to embrace.What are some of your favorite books that you’ve read in 2018? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Give yourself the gift of great improv! Sign up for Jimmy’s Two-Person Scene Tune-Up on Dec. 30. Only $79 when you register by Dec. 14!