When we think about what it means to live a healthy, balanced life, we like to look at the 360-degree picture. It’s not about following the perfect nutrition plan, sweating through the most efficient workouts or drinking the exact amount of wine that will keep us young rather than kill us faster. Instead, it’s about all of the spaces in between — from how we care for ourselves internally to how we choose to treat and value others around us. So if you’re looking for ways to make changes that provide a lasting and meaningful impact in your life, check out the seven books below.
1. “The Gifts Of Imperfection” — by Brené Brown
This guidebook from research professor and thought leader Brené Brown will help you first approach the world of wellness from the inside, understanding the concept of worthiness as it relates to how you treat yourself and how you engage with the world surrounding you. In the preface of the book, Brown writes, “Knowledge is important, but only if we’re being kind and gentle with ourselves as we work to discover who we are. Wholeheartedness is as much about embracing our tenderness and vulnerability as it is about developing knowledge and claiming power.” Consider this read your jumping-off point.
2. “How Not to Die” — by Michael Greger, M.D. and Gene Stone
If you’ve ever considered adopting a plant-based diet — or simply being better about prioritizing produce in your meals — then this book is about to convince you that the lifestyle adjustment is entirely worth it. Dr. Michael Greger, the brain behind NutritionFacts.org, compiles dates from thousands of scientific studies to explore the top 15 causes of premature death in the United States and how following a predominantly plant-based lifestyle can serve as some of the best preventative medicine for virtually all of these ailments. It’s a harsh reality check for some, sure, but it has also inspired tons of people to live longer and healthier lives.
3. “When Things Fall Apart” — by Pema Chödrön
If you’re currently experiencing a significant hardship (and let’s face it — many of us are), ditch that cheesy self-help book that leaves you rolling your eyes more than feeling inspired and follow along with American Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chödrön instead. This beloved book from her collection of work teaches you that, when facing life’s difficulties, moving toward the pain you’re experiencing and becoming intimate with it will bring you into the space of healing and joy that you’re ultimately seeking. Many of the tools she offers stem from her Buddhist roots, helping those new to meditation approach the practice in a more cerebral way.
4. “Eating Animals” — by Jonathan Safran Foer
American novelist Jonathan Safran Foer veered from his traditional path with his third work, a memoir-investigative research hybrid about his experience of raising his first child in our current food climate. As a person who previously dabbled with vegetarianism, he delved into the moral questions that come along with our current farming practices, the foods we choose to eat every day and explaining to a child why we do the things we do. His reporting inspires readers to ask themselves what it really means to live humanely and how important it is to them. He’s also pleasantly witty despite the severity of the topic at times.
5. “Everything That Remains: A Memoir” — by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
If you ever look around at your life and ask questions like, “How the hell did I get here?” and, “How could I have accumulated all of this stuff that doesn’t make me feel happy at all?” then this powerful work from The Minimalists will jive with your soul immediately. It might even inspire you to make some changes, both big and small. The often heart-wrenching storytelling encourages readers to consider how they prioritize time each day, how they feed into our rampant consumer culture (even if it happens subconsciously), and what life satisfaction and contentment really look like when they push all distractions and societal constructs aside.
6. “The Wellness Project“ — by Phoebe Lapine
This pick from the voice behind the beloved blog Feed Me Phoebe will connect with anyone who has ever struggled to understand why their body does what it does. Faced with an autoimmune disease diagnosis in her early 20s, Lapine spent years navigating restrictive protocols set by her doctors that felt too depriving to be truly sustainable. So she began her journey of curating and adopting 12 wellness practices, ultimately discovering what did impact her health for the better. From cutting crappy sugar to swapping her beauty products out for 100-percent natural options, she shares her funny and all-too-real journey of what it’s like to overhaul your health on your terms.
7. “The Weekend Effect” — by Katrina Onstad
Last but not least, consider how you spend your coveted free time with this book from award-winning journalist Katrina Onstad. You don’t need us to tell you that this narrow window of downtime only seems to shrink with each passing week. But by telling stories of people, companies and countries who are working to protect this vital component of life, Onstad inspires her readers to reclaim the idea of working less, living more and what that can look like, focusing on the weekend specifically.