In case you’re trying to think up holiday gift ideas for members of your family and friends who are interested in issues of right and wrong, and good and bad, Dale Pollock of the Winston-Salem Journal has four suggestions worth considering:

“Mortality” (Hachette Audio, 2 CDs, $22.98) is by Christopher Hitchens, the noted atheist, journalist and debater. It is by far the most moving of the books. This is one book that could not be read after its publication by the author, who died on Dec. 15, 2011. But Hitchens left an enduring work that is emotionally conveyed by the always-excellent Simon Prebble. Hitchens doesn’t rail against death, but he does bravely attempt to face it down, and he is never without a wry phrase or witty deprecation that makes his struggle all the more affecting. …

Death’s opposite, of course, is the vitality that brings pleasure and happiness to our existence, and Andrew Weil is an expert in these matters. He has written 12 books about healing, healthy aging and spiritual peace, and he has taken elements of all these for his prescriptive volume, “Spontaneous Happiness” (Hachette Audio, 6 CDs, $29.98), a sort of self-help book for those who are depressed and unhappy. Weil’s remedies are both predictable and unusual. He’s a big believer in the power of fish oil and vitamins to make us healthier and happier, and while these remedies might not be suitable for everyone living in today’s stressful world, they have proven their efficacy in the patients that Weill continues to treat. …

Probably the most stimulating book was “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets” (Macmillan Audio, 6 CDs, $29.99) by Michael J. Sandel, a Harvard professor and the author of the best-selling, book-length essay, “Justice: What’s the Right Thing To Do?” Sandel spends his new book analyzing the commodification and commercialization of just about everything in American life, from the cap and trade of industrial pollution to selling naming rights to every arena or stadium in the country. …

And for those who don’t want to get healthy, don’t care who lives or dies, and represent what we have been taught as the definition of evil, there is also a magic cure. It is called empathy, and it’s the subject of a fascinating book by Simon Baron-Cohen, a professor of developmental psychology in England and an uncle of comedian Sasha Baron-Cohen. “The Science of Evil: On Empathy, and the Origins of Cruelty” (Tantor Audio, 4 CDs, $29.99) delves into the growing science exploring human emotions, including cruelty. …

For what it’s worth, I am skeptical of Weil’s work on scientific grounds, but I have read Sandel’s “What Money Can’t Buy,” and it was a fantastic popular philosophy book (as is his previous book, “Justice”). If you’re looking to get a taste of what Sandel’s book is like, you might read this review or listen to this preview clip of the audiobook.

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