By Denis Faye

We know, we know—you're so busy working out and taking in all the information you get from the Beachbody® and P90X® newsletters, you don't have time to read a new book. Well, this isn't about you! It's about all the friends you still need to buy presents for, and for them, books are an ideal gift. They're affordable, you can mail them cheap, and by giving someone a book, you suggest to them that you think they're at least quasi-literate. So with no further ado, let's check out some great reads.

For fitness seekers looking for a little spirituality with their sweat:

A Course in Weight Loss: 12 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever by Marianne Williamson (Hay House, $24.95)

The opening paragraph of A Course in Weight Loss reads, "This book is a spiritual curriculum consisting of 21 lessons. It is separate from anything else you might do regarding diet or exercise. It is a retraining of your consciousness in the area of weight."

Heady stuff, huh?

Author Marianne Williamson has a good point, though. While it's theoretically simple to get your body to do a program like TurboFire® and eat a diet of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and veggies, getting your brain and your heart onboard is another thing. That's why so many of us try and fail over and over. This book tries to break that cycle.

Most of the lessons within are nothing new in terms of self-help. Williamson openly admits to borrowing from A Course in Miracles and the 12-step method, but what makes this book different is that she's directly targeted overeating and body image. Some chapters are standard feel-good lessons, such as Lesson 14, "Feel your Feelings," or Lesson 17, "Forgive Yourself and Others." Others look directly at the issue at hand, such as Lesson 6, "Build a Relationship with Good Food," or Lesson 7, "Love Your Body," which contains a question I wish someone would have asked me back in my overweight days: "Is it your body you hate, or its size?"

As the title indicates, there's also a strong religious aspect here. Williamson tries to lessen this by proposing readers use the Alcoholics Anonymous theory of "it doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you call on it." That said, there's a lot of talking to God through the book. Even if that's not your thing, don't let that deter you. There's also a lot of insight to ponder and self-discovery to be learned, whether or not you talk to a higher power.

If the person you're playing Santa Claus for is already deep into one of our programs and having great results, she or he probably doesn't need A Course in Weight Loss, but if that person is still fumbling, this book makes a welcome companion, either as passing inspiration or a serious tutorial.

Beachbody Rating: 8 out of 10 bikinis.

For the budding home gardener with a conscience:

From Seed to Skillet: A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting, and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthful Food to Share with People You Love by Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger (Chronicle Books, $30)

Even the quickest perusal of this beautiful, instructional coffee table volume on home gardening is enough to make you want to dust off your hoe and overalls and convert your back deck into an organic tomato plot, but be warned: It's not that easy. Sure, veteran green thumb Jimmy Williams and his coauthor, home and garden feature writer Susan Heeger, do a great job at showing you how it's done, but keep in mind that produce gardening, especially without the time-saving aid of hellishly evil chemicals, is a time-consuming passion. You don't get weekends off. If you don't tend to your fruits and veggies, they'll probably die.

Public service announcement aside, this is a wonderful book. Williams is a particularly fascinating person. He walked away from a thriving career as a clothing designer to pursue his first love, growing organic produce—a skill learned from his South Carolina grandmother, who carried on the traditions of her Caribbean slave ancestors.

You'll find in-depth information on all aspects of gardening, from choosing and creating spaces to soil management to plant grouping to saving seeds for next season. On the gardening end, there's not much missing here, right down to the blueprints for raised beds and a chart on pairing plants. I also really enjoyed Williams's "Edible A-List of Must-Have Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruit," a series of essays on his favorite produce.

That said, however, it's a bit light on the "skillet" side, devoting just 19 pages to favorite recipes. Also, in my home garden, I often end up with a surplus of some produce, and even after sharing with the neighbors, one can only eat so much squash or watermelon. It would have been nice if the book delved a little into canning and preserving.

But that shouldn't stop you from buying From Seed to Skillet. If you're interested in starting a home garden, making your existing one better, or just having a beautiful coffee table book to show your forward-thinking friends, this is a great investment.

Beachbody Rating: 7 out of 10 organic tomatoes.

For the anyone with a little salt water in their soul:

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey (Doubleday, $27.95)

Surfers, myself included, tend to take pause when outsiders take on their sport in print. Our attitude is that if you don't ride waves, it's difficult to understand what it's all about, so don't try to tell us about it.

Wisely, author Susan Casey isn't really trying to explain the mysteries of "the tribe" in her latest book, The Wave. She's just using their adventures as a narrative in trying to explain the mysteries of what the tribe rides—waves. And although surfers tend to have a better understanding of meteorology than most thong-wearing slackers, few of us have the in-depth understanding of the waves that you'll get from reading this book. It should be required reading for all water people.

Casey avoids turning this into a 300-plus page weather report by interspersing two narratives filled with colorful characters and catchy cliffhangers. First, she follows legendary big wave rider Laird Hamilton and his peers as they chase 80-foot giants around Hawaii. Second, she follows a group of scientists chasing the same giants, "nature's biggest tantrum," in hopes of understanding the devastating impact they have on humankind during deep-sea storms and coastal tsunamis.

The most compelling of the aforementioned characters in the book are the waves themselves. Casey paints them as deadly, mysterious creatures that confront—and are confronted by—humankind on all levels.

If you know someone who has any curiosity about the ocean and likes his or her nonfiction to be of the thrill-a-minute page-turner variety, The Wave is a great ride.

Beachbody Rating: 9.5 out of 10 surfboards, dude.

For the locavore with a serious Green Acres fetish:

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (Scribner, $25)

When Kristin Kimball met Mark, the man who would soon become her husband, she was a New York City journalist, scraping along in a typical urban existence. Mark, conversely, was anything but typical. The eccentric, handsome, organic-farming savant with a gift in the kitchen and a penchant for wearing his T-shirt inside-out every other wearing (so that they’d wear more evenly) swept her off her feet. Before she knew it, she'd moved out of her rent-controlled apartment and into a dilapidated farmhouse on 500 acres near Lake Champlain to live Mark’s dream of building an organic, "all diet" farm.

Today, 100 people are members at Essex Farm. For $2,900 annually, they travel to the farm every Friday to stock up on all the beef, chicken, pork, eggs, milk, maple syrup, grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, fruits, and veggies they can eat for the next week. For many of them, it's all the grocery shopping they need.

The Dirty Life is Kimball's account of her transformation from city girl to farmer. At first, it may seem a bit off-putting to see this very independent woman completely change her life for a man, but as much as Mark is no fumbling Eddie Albert, this lady is no prissy Eva Gabor. Mark's dream farm was a lofty ambition and Kimball went after it as an equal—and a determined one at that. They often butt heads throughout the book. Furthermore, her calling was that of writer, not urban socialite, and this book is evidence that she's every bit the scribe she ever was. By weaving her relationship with her husband into the story of founding this farm, she's created a story about the glories of locavorism—a movement that involves eating locally produced, sustainable foods—that deserves a place on the bookshelf next to Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Beachbody Rating: 9 out of 10 free-range eggs.