Welcome to the first installment in a series of gift guides catered to good taste and good doers. Seriously, though, this gift-giving directory is for anyone and everyone, including you! Over the years I’ve become increasingly attuned to the fact that each and every one of us should be doing all we can in support of our planet. Rather than exploiting (and squandering) resources and animals, I feel we must protect and preserve these entities, for their own ends and also for our collective future as occupants of this Earth. I won’t go into dire detail and stark stats now, after all, these are shopping suggestions! But I suppose that’s my point. My goal is to bridge the gap between dropping dollars and making sense, at the most basic and crucial levels. To help promote compassion in a world where cash is king and big brands tend to overlook the little guys. To make the connection that a cow (also known as leather, suede and steak) is no less sacred than a cat, and to prove that the cruelty-free and vegan alternatives are just as good as their unsavory (and often slimy and secretive) counterparts. Better actually!

This season, ditch household names in favor of something smaller. Purchase from merchants that are the antithesis of, say, Macy’s. Given the current climate (pun intended), can’t we all agree that responsible buying is a top priority? Get ethical with products perfect for all the guys and girls in your life. Peace on earth to all beings!

As it stands, a new gift guide will go live every Tuesday and Thursday from now until Christmas. However, this may be maneuvered to better allow for folks to get the goods well ahead of time. Hanukkah, Kwanza or Festivus, whatever it is you celebrate, this guide’s got something for you.

In honor of December’s start, today’s gift guide pertains to the educational element of saving the world. While next week you’ll find deals for handbags, shoes, cosmetics, men’s gear and more, I thought I’d begin at the heart of the matter: the means of acquiring information and becoming more empowered. The documentaries and books promoted below are excellent resources for digging deeper and becoming a more conscious consumer. Sounds dry, but it’s anything but. If I didn’t stand by an item, I wouldn’t include it, so believe me when I say, you and your recipients will learn, laugh and sometimes cry. But most of all, these glimpses into an all-loving way to live are actually quite transformative. In a good way! If you want to be healthy, prevent and/or reverse disease, say farewell to pharma, be a steward for Planet Earth and maybe even save a few fellow species (and hungry humans) along the way, please check out some of these essential and entertaining tools. What’s likely to mean more in the long run, a typical gift or something your friends and family can actually consider and evolve from? Now get giving! (Those marked with an asterisk include discounts and/or giveaways. You’re welcome!)


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this film is a must-see for anyone who cares about living life free of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, among other things. Now, I’m not saying a whole foods, plant-based diet automatically spares you from medical mishaps, but it greatly reduces your risk. The sooner you kick the crap, the better. But, better late than never. This film features some of the best and brightest in the biz, from doctors T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn to mixed martial arts master Mac Danzig and Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur. If you enjoy makeover stories, this flick is for you. It’s heartwarming and has no lack of eye-opening moments. And, for those who were worried, this film is free of undercover footage. It’s safe for the whole family and will literally do wonders if you let it. If you or someone you love already suffers from a debilitating disease or wants to possibly punt the prescription drugs, check this out ASAP. Order here! Also be sure to check out the New York Times bestselling sister book, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health. There’s some supplemental info plus a bunch of recipes. Yum!


This documentary has a truly grassroots feel. The hottie – err, woman – behind the film, Marisa Miller Wolfson, hails from the Midwest and confesses that she certainly wasn’t raised in a meat-free household. Oh no, not in Indiana. Her moment of clarity actually happened at church during her early 20s! Regardless where you grew up and where you reside today, Vegucated will resonate with you. It follows three ordinary people as they take an extraordinary journey to experiment with veganism for six weeks. We witness their trials and tribulations, their enlightenments and their breakdowns. This film does an excellent job of reminding us that we’re all human, so it’s okay to stumble off the wagon from time to time. Interspersed with animations, field trips, drama and lots of laughs (you should see Tesla in action!) it genuinely qualifies as entertaining. You won’t regret it. Pre-order here!



Did you know that less than 6% of medical doctors have nutrition training? It’s sad but true and reminds us why we need to be accountable for our own holistic health. Why we need to read labels and think critically rather than superficially about what we eat. (The classic ‘Consume more poultry and eat less beef’ diagnosis proves deeply simplistic, not to mention dangerous.) This film reveals remarkable facts surrounding several major players in healthcare and challenges the biggest corporations marketing prescription drugs today. It pokes holes in the failed War on Cancer and shares a shocking story of curing depression with Vitamin C. It discusses Gerson Therapy, which I knew nothing about before seeing this. If you’ve ever had a hunch that education > medication, then this flick is for you. That said, if you are a happily passive pill popper, this is definitely worth a watch for you, too. I was taking notes while watching and refer to them when I visit the health foods store. I by no means depend on supplements, but I now know that Spirulina, cacao beans, turmeric, acai and wheatgrass, among countless other things, are part of a well balanced lifestyle. Purchase the DVD here and enter PompMatters at checkout for 30% off. Or hold off for a week and leave a comment below briefly explaining why you should win one of three copies we have on hand to give away. Good luck!


Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix with music by Moby, this award-winning film is comprehensive in its coverage of the myriad ways in which animals are used and abused for food, fashion, entertainment, medical research and even pets. I’ll be the first to admit that this is no walk in the park and is more depressing than uplifting. But it’s important. It’s difficult to sit through, but the benefits of becoming enlightened and making a change for the better are well worth it. It’s not for everyone, but for those who are serious about getting the facts straight and looking past the façade of modern media, this is essential education. I have been an animal activist for years, evolving from vegetarian to vegan, becoming ever more acutely aware of the divide between appearance versus reality. Still, I learned from this film. I never stop learning. The gap is great, but this film helps to bring it all full circle. Prepare for footage shot at animal shelters, pet stores, puppy mills, factory farms, slaughterhouses, the leather and fur trades, sporting events, circuses and research labs. Purchase or stream for FREE here.


Ah, Eric Schlosser. This brings me back to college. A friend of mine was assigned this book for a class, but I’m pretty sure I borrowed it and never returned it. Whoops. FFN is undeniably compelling, objectively written by a self-proclaimed consumer of fast food. Ironic, right? It covers everything from flavor makers (oh, you didn’t know that strawberry shake doesn’t actually contain strawberries?) to the plight of employees behind the counter, from the dangers of working in a meat packing plant to what’s really in the meat we eat. (Think feces, literally.) It’s a page-turner to say the least. Consuming animal-derived products has far reaching effects and this book expertly illustrates just how sinister and selfish the fast food sector is. Low nutrient, high-calorie crap is fairly apparent, but Schlosser is an investigative genius, suave and savvy, wrangling facts, figures, quotes and unearthing the truth behind your Big Mac. This is a guide for the everyman. You’ll thank me later. Buy it or, better yet, in the spirit of OWS, make a beeline for your local bookstore. If you haven’t yet, supplement your reading with the film adaptation, too, staring a whole slew of Hollywood regulars.

“To love or to eat?” That is the question. My words cannot do justice to this amazing book. Another page-turner, I finished it in a single day. Anyone can appreciate the brevity of this fascinating title. Fit it in over a few evenings or a weekend afternoon. Author Melanie Joy, professor of psychology and sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, introduces a new way of perceiving meat-eating. It’s now called carnism, and it makes perfect sense! More than coining this term, though, Joy engages readers in deeper thinking, inviting us to challenge tradition and “the way things are” to get at the root of our carnist tendencies. My own copy is littered with dog-eared corners and, because of my unyielding adoration of this book, I’m having difficulty nailing down precisely why it’s a must read for you and everyone you know who has a companion animal but still eats meat. As author Kathy Freston says, “It should be required reading.” The book is approachable, palatable, concise and smart. Anyone can pick it up and understand it and, unlike other equally important tomes such as Peter Singer’s , the amount of unpleasant (read: graphic) truths is not overwhelming. That’s been done before. While some publications come at you hard and heavy, wielding a barrage of bad news, this book is subtler, raising legitimate questions and answering them in a way that makes sense, appealing both to our heart and our intellect. Joy asks that we “bear witness,” to sincerely align ourselves with others’ suffering and stop making excuses as to why this creature is destined for the plate and another not. There is no rationale. Take my word for it, this book is right up there at the top of the list. Highly recommend. Pick up a copy .


Born into a farming family in the South, T. Colin Campbell grew up believing that milk was nature’s greatest gift. Fast-forward several decades and this initial misconception (thanks in large part to deception and lies on part of the Dairy Industry and other special interest groups) is being turned on its head. Campbell entered the medical profession with a bias that, once his work proved otherwise, he was forced to confront. And that he does. The China Study is an essential part of any health and wellness library. Too often swept under the rug, what we eat is as integral a component of our overall health as family history and whether we exercise, smoke, drink and all the rest. (Why insurance policies and the medical community neglect to acknowledge this is beyond me.) You or the person to whom you give this book will be blown away by the information gathered in large-scale studies in China and insight gleaned in the Philippines. Did you know that we are able to turn on and turn off cancer, just by changing the amount of casein (a protein found in milk) consumed? As the back of the book touts, “The China Study presents a clear and concise message of hope as it dispels a multitude of health myths and misinformation: if you want to be healthy, change your diet.” It seems so obvious and yet, peep the state of our nation. The Western Diet is killing us, and younger and younger, too. The rate of childhood obesity and diabetes is staggering and the fact that our children may live shorter lives than we do is just plain chilling. We’ve reached a breaking point and it’s time to reverse the downward spiral toward self-annihilation, which is basically what a bad diet translates to. And it isn’t just meat, dairy and eggs. Sugars and oils and, of course, processed foods of any kind contribute, too. As Michael Pollen points out in In Defense of Food, it’s time to get back to eating food. You know, those products that grow from the earth or have short and pronounceable ingredient lists? No more Frankenfood. Anyway, I digress. Campbell supports a whole foods, plant-based diet coupled with a reasonable amount of exercise. As he writes, “It is a long-term lifestyle change, rather than a quick fix fad.” Even those who imagine they’re living a healthy lifestyle may be surprised by just how far they are from optimal health. And you can bet the government guidelines presented in the food pyramid do not have human health and public safety in mind. Think again. I can’t praise this book enough. And, don’t imagine Campbell is on his own. So many reputable references act as evidence. There are two sides to every story, so why not check out the half that news sources and congress refuse to confront? Buy it here. I urge you.


While the title is far from appealing, better the name of a movie than the person you see when you look in the mirror, right? There are a number of compelling reasons to watch this award-winning film, one of which happens to be a sexy Australian accent. Joe Cross, an entrepreneur, stars in this documentary about a cross-country transformation. 100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Cross leaves the land down under for the USA, spends some time in New York City and then hits the open road with little more than a juicer and a great attitude. He’s handsome in all ways and this especially shines through when he sheds the extra LBS and inspires other individuals (sometimes strangers) to get back to basics: fruits and vegetables. This doc is the king of makeover stories, featuring two separate before and after tales, so if you’re into viewing miraculous but achievable overhauls, this is for you. Most of all, it’s about self discipline, finding balance and taking accountability for one’s own well being where conventional medicine can and does fail. Cross sets out on a personal mission to regain his health, vowing to consume just fresh juice for 60 days, but his outgoing, infectious personality touches everyone he meets, even if sometimes sparking controversy and opposition. It’s a fun film to watch and is safe for all ages. Purchase the DVD and other merch here. Enter the code HOLIDAY at checkout for 10% off anything and everything on the site through January 31st.


One word: Oprah. Another word: Martha. A third word: Ellen. I’m not much for name-dropping, but when the likes of O, M and E give the stamp of approval, it makes waves and, naturally, sells stuff. For me personally it had nothing to do with these prime time figures and more to do with Freston’s acceptance speech in May at Farm Sanctuary’s 25th Anniversary Gala. Honored with the Healthy Living Advocate Award, Freston addressed the audience in tears; “The depth and breadth of what’s wrong is just mind-numbing.” She spoke of myriad reasons for eliminating animal products from one’s life and was sympathetic to others “…leaning into it.” In other words, “Progress, not perfection,” as she puts it. At its most elemental, she encouraged, “We can, meal by meal, bite by bite, shift our personal path while at the same time be the global movers and shakers this world so sorely needs.” Her firm but kind demeanor in real life translates on the page. Similar to others before her, like Alicia Silverstone with The Kind Diet, Freston guides with gentle nudges rather than brute force. She treats her readers the way she wishes animals to be treated, with patience, respect and tenderness. The book includes anecdotal stories, extensive research and Q&A’s with experts. It’s super readable. I read it while traveling over the course of a single weekend. She doesn’t fail to address the fact that being vegan is the single best thing someone can do if they care about the global poor…as well as global warming. The most impactful chapter, for me, deals with spiritual traditions and religion, because all too often the Bible is cited as validation for eating meat, whereas she illuminates how that is actually a flawed argument. Lest we forget that the diet God ordains in Eden is strictly vegetarian (Genesis 1:29-30). I’m agnostic, but I feel like appealing to people from this angle is important and makes absolute sense. As for the book overall, even Mario Batali gives it the thumbs up and that’s saying something. Snag a copy or head to your nearest bookstore.


  • Abbey Herman

    I’m always trying to be very conscious about what I eat, these books look like they have some great tips and intersting information that would be very beneficial. This will help others make better health conscious decisions. They would make great gifts!

  • Thanks Nell for putting together this awesome gift guide! I’m looking forward to future installments. This first guide has great ideas for thoughtful & compassionate gifts. It feels so good to give gifts that you know have the power to transform people’s lives in a positive way. These books and movies have done that for so many. They’re the kind of gifts that keep on giving. Giveaways and discounts too!?!! I’m all in!!

  • Christine Rangel

    It’s difficult to know where to start when praising the author of this blog for her unwavering dedication to contributing to a world where all beings are treated with respect and can live in peace. Our culture has lost all sense of self. We have become so complacent, so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives, that we fail to seek answers to questions like “where does our food come from?” Sometimes we even fail even to ask. And that’s the food we’re putting in our bodies–three or more times a day…every day of our lives.
    For once, we should consider that perhaps our individual lives are not as important–that what really matters is what we contribute to this Earth, or what we might be doing to tear it apart, to disfigure it to the point of no return. If we don’t want our children to inherit a piece of tattered, raped and plundered garbage, we need to think differently. It is VITAL that we become informed citizens. Perhaps by becoming informed, people will make choices accordingly…however, choosing to remain ignorant is inexcusable in this day and age. Most of us don’t know the severe damage we are doing with the food choices we make.
    I suffered from chronic sinus infections and endured every winter with cold after cold after ear infection. One day I decided to listen to all the statistics I’d heard about dairy and eggs–even though I was only consuming organic–and I cut them out of my diet for one month, just to try it out. It was difficult making the switch and finding alternatives, but after a couple of days I eased into it better than I thought I would. I accepted that soy milk wouldnt taste like “fake milk”, but different, that soy yogurt was going to taste different, too–but that was ok. I was ready to do anything to feel better. The best part about it was that within three days my chronic post-nasal drip ceased, the sinus pressure was relieved and my ear aches healed on their own about 3 weeks later. I will be the first one to admit that I was skeptical prior to the switch, even as a “socially-conscious omnivore” (and part-time vegetarian) that I just didnt WANT to believe all the negative things I’d heard about meat, dairy, and eggs. Sure enough, whenever I get sick, I know what I need to do, and I know that a healthy, balanced, plant-based diet is the most powerful medicine on Earth! (In regards to the free copy of “Food Matters”, I think the film would reaffirm what I may already know, so that’s why I believe I should win a free copy). :)

  • I’ve seen a few of these movies and, judging from their quality, the others are definitely making my Christmas wish list! Awesome list!

  • Hannah

    Thanks for putting together such an interesting and inspiring list. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your health, and many people don’t understand just how much their habits and choices can impact their well being (in good and bad ways). I’ll definitely be adding some of these above movies and books to my wish list. Look forward to the next edition of your gift guide!

  • [...] DO GOODER GIFT GUIDE: PART II By Nell Alk, on December 6th, 2011 Last week in Part I we kicked off this series with a much-deserved nod to some of the foremost books and films shaping [...]

  • Rachel

    You are amazing, brilliant and thank you so much for putting together such a wonderful and inspiring list.


  • Ande

    What a great collection of literature and film for the health-conscious friend or family member on your Christmas list.

  • Dana

    Bravo Nell! This is so well written and is just what is needed. It is the antithesis to the mindless consumerism that unfortunately can mar the beautiful season. Thank you for these excellent suggestions.

  • [...] be well equipped to move onto more materials, many great titles (of films and books) listed in Part I of this gift [...]

  • Hello, all. It’s come time to select 3 winners to each receive a copy of the “Food Matters” DVD.

    It’s a tough decision, but I’ve read over all comments and believe the winners to be:

    Christine Rangel

    Sharon at Big City Vegan


    Ladies, please let me know where to ship or, if you live in NYC, maybe we meet up and I hand off to you in real life. You can reach me at .

    Also, if you are already vegan and feel like the video could do better by being given to a non-vegan, please do let me know.

    Thank you all for commenting and participating!

  • [...] you’ve been tuning into the gift guide series since Part I, or at least since Part III, to help you navigate better and save some time, we’ve labeled [...]

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