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24 Must-Read Fitness, Health, and Happiness Books for 2013

A great book can lift our spirits, make us think, or even change the world. From cookbooks to investigative journalism to a guy just trying to run a certified organic pig farm, these are our must-read books for 2013.
24 Must-Read Fitness, Health, and Happiness Books for 2013
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With the new school year in full swing, it’s time to bury our heads in the books. But we’re not here to assign you any nap-inducing texts — instead we’ve put together a list of 24 books that will keep you up and reading way past your bedtime. With plenty of pictures, humor, and hardcore science, these books tackle topics as varied as sex, nutrition, and endurance running. Check ’em out and put good old-fashioned learnin’ back in style.

It’s worth noting that there are tons of health and fitness books out there, and we had to be extremely choosy about which ones to include on this list. All the books here have come out in 2013, or are due to come out in 2014. The authors offer new and insightful takes on subjects in health, fitness, and happiness, and most are pretty influential on social media or on a personal website. Read on and don’t forget to let us know your favorites in the comments section!

Food and Cooking

Mastering the Art of Soviet CookingMastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen
As almost everyone knows, food is more than just sustenance. The smell of certain meals cooking takes us back to our childhood, making us feel comforted or scared. Food writer Anya von Bremzen grew up in the former U.S.S.R., where food had a special significance, representing everything she could and couldn’t have. In her latest book, she and her mother Larisa take on the tremendous project of cooking their way through their own history. Each dish — fish pie, Georgian stew, blini — represents a different time of their life, and with each recipe von Bremzen tells an equally captivating story about her memories from that period. — SL

 

A Year of HolidaysThe Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays by Ree Drummond
Even city slickers can get plenty out of Drummond's frontier-themed cookbook. After meeting and marrying a rancher (yep, an honest-to-goodness person who wrangles cows), the author moved from L.A. to rural Oklahoma and learned to cook for a crowd. In her latest cookbook, Drummond covers 12 holidays, from New Year’s Eve to Valentine’s Day to Thanksgiving, and all the traditional foods that go along with them. We’re talking glazed Easter Ham and caramel apples for Halloween, each recipe complete with step-by-step directions. Most of the recipes are hearty rather than healthy, with plenty of dishes that work well for a crowd. Best of all, perhaps, is Drummond's storytelling voice. At the same time warm, goofy, and competent, she comes across like a combination between your best friend and your favorite aunt. — SB

 

The Taste of AmericaThe Taste of America by Colman Andrews
What's so special about eating in America? Colman Andrews, a noted food writer and editor of The Daily Meal, explores distinctive foods made in the U.S. of A. in his new book. Taste of America features 250 hand-picked food items, from Blue Point oysters to Junior Mints. Andrews explains the cultural, regional, and culinary significance of each entry in the anthology, accompanied by beautiful illustrations. You'll never be curious about the provenance of beef jerky again! — SB

 

 

 

The Oh She Glows Cookbook

The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon
Five years ago, Angela Liddon created her blog, Oh She Glows, as a platform to share how nourishing, plant-based meals that actually look and taste good helped her recover from an eating disorder. Now the enormously popular blog is killing it with hundreds of healthy recipes and drool-worthy pictures of hearty salads, homemade energy bars, and raw dessert bars. Due out early 2014, "The Oh She Glows Cookbook" is an extension of the blog with original breakfasts, snacks, entrees, and desserts. Most recipes are allergy friendly with many gluten-free and soy-free options. — NM

 

The French Market CookbookThe French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes from My Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier
Julia Child may have made mastering French cuisine accessible, but many of those meals centered on meat, fish, and poultry. "The French Market Cookbook" is all about shifting that focus to the fresh, colorful, seasonal produce France has to offer. Written by Paris-born food writer, Clotilde Dusoulier, this book includes 90 seasonal recipes — many of which are vegan — as well as 75 beautiful color photographs. From ratatouille to gnocchi, "The French Market Cookbook" goes to show, vegetables can be the main act of any meal. Check out Dusoulier’s accompanying blog, Chocolate and Zucchini, to continue the discussion about plant-based eating, food ethics, and food and the environment. — NM

 

Forks Over KnivesForks Over Knives: The Cookbook by Del Sroufe
The adjectives “vegan,” “oil-free,” and “low-fat” don’t exactly conjure up images of mouthwatering cupcakes and ice cream. But Del Sroufe and his collaborators (including Isa Chandra Moskowitz) are here to prove that healthful, plant-based eating can be tasty, too. "Forks Over Knives" is actually a food movement that inspired a 2011 documentary film, and the new cookbook is full of classic recipes from around the world for all three meals. There's breakfast quinoa with apple compote, grilled eggplant steaks, polenta pizza, and apricot fig squares. Best of all, there’s no slaving away in the kitchen or emptying our wallets: All the recipes are relatively easy and affordable to prepare. — SL

 

Psychology and Self-Help

David and GoliathDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
The age-old tale of David and Goliath teaches us that underdogs can win. But it's not always as easy as throwing a stone. Malcom Gladwell, staff writer for the New Yorker and author of other bestselling psychology books, challenges modern perceptions of obstacles and setbacks. After he breaks down the story behind the giant and the shepherd boy, Gladwell asks the question: "When it comes down to the underdog versus the favorite, who really has the advantage, and why?" To tackle this topic, "David and Goliath" examines heavy topics from the minds of cancer researchers, murderers, and civil rights leaders to poor education, disability, and loss. — NM

 

Before HappinessBefore Happiness by Shawn Achor
Some people are blonde; some are brunette. Some people are happy; others are doomed to a lifetime of misery. Right? Wrong, at least according to Shawn Achor, a psychology researcher who’s written and spoken on cultivating happiness in the workplace. In his latest book, Achor talks about changing the way we perceive reality so that happiness actually becomes a legitimate possibility. It’s all about the small stuff — think keeping a daily gratitude journal or starting the workday by listing everyone’s successes. "Before Happiness" is not only an uplifting read — it’s also an impressively well-researched book that’s still a breeze to read. — SL

 

Making Hope Happen by Shane Lopez
See the glass half full! Everything will turn out OK! That thinking, says Gallup senior scientist Shane Lopez, is just B.S. While wishing and optimism might be outdated, Lopez wants to convince us that hope is something different that can change our lives for the better. Instead of just believing that success will come to us, we have to actively work to make it happen, by setting practical goals and plans to achieve them. The book, Lopez’s first, balances scientific research with anecdotes about students, business entrepreneurs, and those facing medical illness. For those wondering whether they really have control over their lives, this book is a healthy dose of realistic empowerment. — SL

 

Full Catastrophe LivingFull Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the "Father of Mindfulness," wrote the first edition of this book 25 years ago — and the updated version is just as applicable today as the first version was then. Stressed out? Anxious? Sick? Tired? Of course you are, or you will be at some point — it's only human. And Kabat-Zinn believes you (and everyone) can cope with these human tendencies thanks to the power of mindfulness. The Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School is dedicated to teaching people how to use mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and mind-body practices to manage stress and anxiety, even in the face of pain and ilness. Think of this book as a wellness guide for every single aspect of your life. — LN

 

Lifestyle and Relationships

Twenty SomethingTwenty-Something: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck? by Robin Marantz Henig and Samantha Henig
What does it mean to be in your twenties? Beyond the legal ability to purchase alcohol, Robin Marantz Henig and her daughter Samantha explore the intracacies of young adulthood — financial pressures, the devotion to Internet and social media, and the changing cultural expectations that come with emerging adulthood. Incorporating neuroscience, psychological research, and the voices of dozens of Millennials and Baby Boomers, the mother and daughter pair work to answer the question, “Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?” The duo show the differences and similarities — based on career, education, love — between today’s 20-somethings and the 20-somethings of the past. — NM

 

AdultingAdulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
Sensing a theme? Well being a 20-something is tricky. You’re sort of an adult (I pay my own rent! I wear clean socks!), but also sort of a kid (I eat peanut butter every day. I call my mom when I’m sick). Kelly Williams-Brown, 28, totally gets that, and in this witty, sketch-filled book, she tells us it’s okay to feel confused and exactly how to cope in every confusing “adult” situation. What do you do when you run out of toilet paper? Why does everyone else’s makeup look perfect all the time? The advice in here isn’t of the existential, what-do-I-do-with-my-life variety, but more about how to survive on a daily basis without freaking out in the vegetable aisle at the grocery store. Which, ultimately, might just leave us feeling more confident to answer those bigger life questions. —SL

 

What Do Women WantWhat Do Women Want by Daniel Bergner
While it is perhaps problematic that the most recent "definitive" guide to female sexuality was written by a man, that hasn't stopped Daniel Bergner from making a name for himself as a pioneer of women's sexuality research. In "What Do Women Want?," Bergner draws on research and interviews with behaviorial scientists, sexologists, psychologists, and laywomen to bust myths about female sexuality wide open. Are women really the least monogamous sex? How do intimacy and connection actually affect lust? And what has society been getting wrong when it comes to what women want? Bergner explores these and other questions as he chronicles his "adventures in the science of female desire." — LN

 

Modern DatingModern Dating: A Field Guide by Chiara Atik
HowAboutWe is a dating site for happily-coupled people, so the company knows a thing or two about successful dating. And thank goodness they're here to help, because dating in modern times is, well, really freaking complicated. That's why the folks at HowAboutWe have compiled a "field guide" to modern dating, which picks up where all the classic dating manuals left off. What's the best way to ask someone out on Twitter? Is it OK to Facebook-stalk an ex? Who pays for the date? How and when should sex come into play? These may not be questions your grandparents had to face, but they're the realities of dating in the world today — and this spunky, engaging guide can help you navigate them with aplomb. — LN

 

Nutrition

Salt Sugar FatSalt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
OK, the bad news first — American's eat three times as much cheese as they did in 1970, we ingest twice as much salt as we should, and we consume about 70 pounds of sugar a year. Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Michael Moss puts the blame on an a dangerous trio (salt, sugar, and fat) that seves as the basis for a majority of the junk food we consume every year. This book tackles America's obesity problem by laser-focusing on the role that major food brands are playing. Moss uncovers how these brands (think Kraft, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Oreos, etc.) bend the rules to make money and how their race for profits might be doing permanent damage to our collective health. Moss has strong claims, but he also has the reporting to back it up. — ZS

 

VB6VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health... For Good by Mark Bittman
Mark Bittman is not exactly wishy-washy. He doesn't go just halfway. A renowned food writer and vocal supporter of the Slow Food movement, Bittman's as well known for his strong opinions as he is for his tasty recipes. In "VB6," though, he's all about compromise. Bittman truly believes that a vegan lifestyle is best for our health and the planet — but he also acknowledges that it's darn hard to give up all dairy, fish, eggs, and meat. He promotes eating vegan before dinnertime (hence the title, which stands for "Vegan Before 6 p.m." and whatever you want after. His book provides plenty of scientific research and explanations to back up his diet theory, plus vegan and non-vegan recipes to get you started down the "flexitarian" path. — SB

 

CookedCooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan likes strong opinions. Fortunately, as a James Beard winner, New York Times Best Seller, food activist, and journalism professor, Pollan can be pretty convincing. In "Cooked," Pollan's seventh book, he applies his familiar four-pronged approach to his own kitchen. Pollan explores the four classical elements (fire, water, air, earth) and how they impact the way we eat and cook (grilling, braising, baking, fermenting). Sprinkled throughout are Pollan's thoughts on the ills of processed foods and how a refocus on the power of homecooking could be our path to a healthier future. — ZS

 

Real DirtReal Dirt: An Ex-Industrial Farmer's Guide to Sustainable Eating by Harry Stoddart
What does a born-and-bred hog farmer turned management consultant turned organic farmer have to say about the way we eat food? A whole heck of a lot. Stoddart grew up in a farming family but this book is about his effort to transform his family's confinement pig farm in Ontario into a certified organic, grassfed, alternative. A lot of books explain why factory farming is bad but "Real Dirt" takes a raw approach to what it takes to make the leap including the highs and lows, a near bankruptcy, and what Stoddart's journey taught him about how we get our food. — ZS

 

Fitness

Pedal ForwardPedal Forward by Trey Hall
While the idea that overcoming challenges in your sport can help you overcome challenges in your life isn’t exactly groundbreaking, this book is filled with great anecdotes and lessons that combine bike-riding, business, and self-improvement. Author Trey Hall builds his book around a bike accident that resulted in shattered bones, torn joints, and dozens of surgeries, and uses it as a springboard to share the lessons he’s learned from 30 years of working in both business and non-profits. It can be heavy, but damn it if it isn’t inspiring. — NE

 

 

The Sports GeneThe Sports Gene by David Epstein
Is it all in the genes? That's the driving question behind "The Sports Gene," David Epstein's evocative look at what genetic predisposition has to do with athletic success. The discussion can be controversial, thought-provoking, and at times even uncomfortable, but Epstein navigates the landscape of genes and performance with focus and clarity. Can world-class athleticism be reproduced through hard work and innovation, or are we prone to success or doomed to mediocrity at birth? Read on for answers, just don't expect any easy truths. — DT

 

 

No Meat AthleteNo Meat Athlete by Matt Frazier
Blogger-cum-author Matt Frazier is determined to overthrow the notion that meat is a necessary component of athletic performance, and he’s doing a pretty good job of it. Known for his personable writing style and his passion for ultramarathons, his new book is jam-packed with research, recipes and regimens for new and experienced athletes alike. The science is solid enough that there’s no reason not to experiment with a plant-based exercise program, so give it a shot — it just might grow on you. — NE

 

 

Hell-BentHell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr
What happens when finding your inner zen just isn't enough? In "Hell-Bent," writer and yoga convert Benjamin Lorr explores the world of competitive yoga. For the uninitiated, there's a lot more here than finding the best "Down Dog" and comparing hip openers with the yogi a few mats over. Lorr dives deep into the intersection of personal practice and competitive drive, even throwing himself into the ring at the National Yoga Asana Championship. It's a tale that will expand your perception of the yoga world — and leave you sweating for more. — DT

 

 

Run or DieRun or Die by Kilian Jornet
Arguably one of the world's greatest endurance athletes, Kilian Jornet has made a career out of pushing human limits. He's run up mountains in record time, conquered the world's toughest ski routes, and won world championships in multiple disciplines — all before the age of 25. "Run or Die" is Jornet's remarkable story, a recap of an unprecedented life and sports career that's just getting started. But instead of simply chronicling his triumphs, Jornet writes from the heart to motivate readers of all abilities. Get ready to chase your own extremes. — DT

 

 

The Longest RaceThe Longest Race by Ed Ayres
Ed Ayres is no newbie: he’s been a long-distance runner for over 50 years, and founded the popular Running Times magazine. He’s also quite the philosopher, and his book links the struggle of the endurance runner to that of the human race, asking the question, “How long can you last?” Interweaving tips on distance running with urgent calls for sustainability (Ayres has written several books on the environmental movement), this is a book that’s uniquely obsessed with finish lines and overflows with blood, sweat, and tears. — NE

 

Want even more great reads? Check out the  27 Must-Read Fitness, Health, and Happiness Books for 2012!

Disclosure: All affiliate links on Greatist highlight products the team has either reviewed or thinks are kick-ass. Greatist's editorial team is completely removed from the business side, which handles these fancy links.

Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below or tweet the author at @ShanaDLebowitz.

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