We’re all about running sneaks and foam rollers, but today it’s time to don those reading glasses and curl up on the couch. We’ve rounded up 27 awesome reads perfect for foodies, fitness fanatics, and anyone fascinated by the human mind. From photo-fabulous cookbooks to better-booty guidebooks, these page-turners might just replace old William in the classics section before we know it.

(Also Check Out: 60 Must-Read Health and Fitness Blogs for 2012)

By the way, we had to be pretty picky about which books made the list, since there’s no end to the amount of great health and fitness literature out there. All the books on here have come out within the last two years or so and offer a unique take on a health, fitness, or happiness topic. Most of the authors are still influential within the health and fitness space, either through social media or a personal website. Plus all these books inspire readers to take charge of their health! Read on for the deets.


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1. The 4-Hour Chef, Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss has made a living out of doing things in four hours. His previous books have shown unconventional techniques that disrupt business, health, and the standard 9-to-5 workweek. Now, Ferriss, a constant experimenter, has focused his attention on how to cook more effectively and in less time—and what it can teach us about learning anything in life. Can an agitator disrupt centuries of cooking knowledge? Ferriss’ methods may be a little off-the-wall for most, but his books are always a fascinating read. — ZS

2. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb Perelman

As a longtime reader of the award-winning blog that inspired this book, SmittenKitchen.com, I’m overjoyed to finally have some of Deb Perelman’s best recipes bound in a book. Beyond simple, delicious, and always interesting recipes, her photography is impeccable. (Check out chocolate swirl buns.) Deb started Smitten Kitchen on the premise that cooking should be a pleasure, and every recipe in the book is completely approachable—regardless of the level of your kitchen skills. — KM

3. How to Cook Everything: The Basics, Mark Bittman

Befuddled by terms like “sauté,” “flambé,” and “mince?” Anxious about boiling water? Mark Bittman’s new book may be the cookbook you’ve been dreaming of! Bittman’s latest volume is designed for culinary neophytes and seeks to turn kitchen fear into expertise through clear examples, beautiful photos, and classic recipes. The cookbook features 185 simple, crowd-pleasing dishes with at least three variations on each recipe. Every recipe features detailed photo instructions showing exactly how to prep and cook each ingredient and—most importantly—when it’s done. — SB

4. In My Kitchen, Ted Allen

From Bravo’s Queer Eye and Top Chef to the Food Network’s Chopped and The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Ted Allen is one celebrity chef whose creativity, attention to detail, and technique can stand up in any kitchen. But what would Ted serve at home? Here’s your in. Covering starters, entrees, desserts, drinks, and more, “In My Kitchen” offers passionate cooks a well-curated selection of 100 show-stopping recipes, many from scratch. — JS


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5. The Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson

For those looking for the ultimate guide to eating primal, look no further than Mark Sisson’s “The Primal Blueprint.” The book is based on the premise that you can reprogram your genes to help with weight loss and overall health by following what Sisson refers to as the “Primal” laws. Sisson advocates eating meat, eggs, and a lot of fat to stay healthy. But exercise is important, too—Sisson explains that slowing down cardiovascular workouts and incorporating strength sessions and sprints can improve the benefits of fitness. It’s an interesting read and an unorthodox method that thousands have found beneficial. — KM

6. Paleoista, Nell Stephenson

When you hear “Paleo Diet,” does a gruff Neanderthal male gnawing at an animal carcass come to mind? The Paleo lifestyle may seem dominated by men, but Nell Stephenson’s work is a welcome invitation for the ladies to partake in a scientifically-backed dietary revamp. Stephenson shows it’s not just about meat and emphasizes the importance of veggies, fruits, lean protein, and good fats without sounding preachy. She also tags a fun, chick-friendly identity to the diet that the more girly among us may find totally fabulous. — KS

7. American Grown, Michelle Obama

When Michelle Obama moved into her new digs, one of the first things she did was rip up the White House’s beautifully kempt South lawn to plant a vegetable garden. In her efforts to encourage Americans to amp up their intake of healthy, nutritious food, the first lady plotted out her very own vegetable garden (beehive included). Her goal: call attention to the food we eat and the people who grow it. “American Grown” delves into Michelle Obama’s trials and tribulations as a novice gardener. She shares with readers the fruits of her own labor, and stories of other gardens that have inspired her to change our nation’s eating habits. — NM

8. Why Calories Count, Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim

Food is personal—but as Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim are quick to explain, it’s also political. In their enlightening book, the authors use the calorie as a lens to examine the food industry at large, giving their takes and helping readers sort through the often-confusing world of our favorite eats and the nutrition labels that get attached. Throughout, they present ideas to help readers eat better and become champions of their own food destinies. — DT

9. Food Rules, Michael Pollan

Famous for his work ripping the veil off big agriculture, Michael Pollan shows a softer appreciation for food in “Food Rules.” Paired with gorgeous illustrations by artist Maira Kalman, “Food Rules” breaks down eating from the scary to the simple, giving readers actionable tips—and hope!—when it comes to dialing in their own nutrition. — DT

10. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, Gary Taubes

Calories in, calories out? Acclaimed science writer Gary Taubes thinks it’s not so simple. This easy-to-read book keeps the scientific jargon to a minimum and examines some potentially key factors in the obesity pandemic. Taubes looks at issues that nutritional science has largely ignored, especially insulin and regulation of fat tissue. He also discusses what role genetics play in weight gain, and whether we should avoid certain foods entirely. — KD

11. The Weight of the Nation, John Hoffman

This companion to the HBO documentary by the same name is a great dive into the need-to-knows of health and nutrition. Hoffman shares insights on how American culture and food processing make us unknowingly put on those pounds; plus he discusses our struggles with dieting and losing weight. — RG


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12. The First 20 Minutes, Gretchen Reynolds

The New York Times fitness writer goes beyond her “Phys Ed” column with this thought-provoking book guaranteed to get anyone up and running. She includes the latest scientific findings on improving physical and mental health (no scientific terms included!) to help readers accomplish any fitness goal, from running a 5K to losing weight and lowering stress levels. — LCS

13. Push, Chalene Johnson

Fans of the Beachbody series of workout DVDs will recognize Chalene Johnson as the creator and star of “Turbofire” and “ChaLEAN Extreme.” Now Johnson turns her attention to writing a book that manages to successfully combine diet and exercise advice with tips for increased productivity and overall inspiration. While the title and catchphrases may seem like the typical dime-a-dozen weight loss books out there, the advice is incredibly intelligent, motivating, and innovative. It’s worth a read just for the tips on how to create to-do lists that really work. — LAS

14. Drop Dead Healthy, A.J. Jacobs

In this autobiographical account, Jacobs takes on the satirical challenge of “becoming the healthiest man in the world.” He explores wacky practices like “Finger Fitness,” extreme chewing regimens, and improving his gastrointestinal health by refusing to sit while using the bathroom. Some books might simply extoll the health benefits of these practices and leave readers to feel like failures for not following them; but Jacobs is hilariously honest about the challenge and pitfalls (like, uh, falling into the toilet). A great pick for those who find typical health and fitness books to be too boring or idealistic, and want a laugh-out-loud read that still educates. — LAS

15. Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body, Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis

Who doesn’t want a better butt? Written by world-renowned gluteal expert Bret Contreras (aka The Glute Guy) and fitness pro (and Greatist contributing writer) Kellie Davis, Strong Curves offers programs to help women develop lean muscle, rounded glutes, and the confidence that comes with the territory. Featuring a comprehensive nutritional guide and over 200 targeted exercises, there’s no excuse not to get that butt into gear. — JS


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16. Running With the Mind of Meditation, The Sakyong

Think running is only about speeding down the streets while toning up? This book provides simple lessons that combine mindfulness with physical activity, improving patience, energy, and focus. And while Mipham is a Tibetan lama, his principles are easily accessible for everyone, regardless of fitness or spiritual background. — LCS

17. Eat and Run, Scott Jurek

Wondering how a superstar long-distance athlete gets that way? Scott Jurek’s story begins with his childhood in a low-income Midwestern town, where he hates running but learns discipline and drive from his strict father. In a remarkably humble way, Jurek shows readers how small changes along the way turned him into a vegan ultramarathon runner who can run 165 miles in just 24 hours. With a favorite recipe to close each chapter, Jurek’s tale is inspiring, and may be the perfect kick to get you out of a diet or exercise rut. — LAS

18.The Long Run, Matt Long

Matt Long was a competitive athlete and a firefighter who went into the towers to save lives on 9/11. Then one morning in 2005, while biking around his hometown of NYC, he was hit by a bus and doctors told him it was unlikely he would ever walk again. Over the next few months, Long defied his doctors’ prognosis and rebuilt his former athlete’s body, relearned how to walk (and run and bike and swim), and became a competitive Ironman triathlete. Long’s achievements and attitude are an incredible inspiration that make for a real page-turner. — LAS


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19. The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

While nail biting may be more annoying than harmful, it’s considered a bad habit, along with smoking and overeating. In this science-backed book, investigative reporter Charles Duhigg explains why habits exist and how we can change them. His idea is that we can transform our fitness, productivity, and overall success by understanding how habits work. “The Power of Habit” takeaway: Learn how to change bad habits to lead a happier, more efficient life. — ND

20. The Social Animal, David Brooks

Brooks bridges the gap between fiction and nonfiction by synthesizing landmark psychology studies in a digestible narrative. “Harold” and “Erica” provide two examples of the pursuit and achievement of professional and personal goals. While some readers may ache for either protagonist’s downfall, most will find inspiration from Brooks’ storyline, not to mention a deeper understanding of their own and others’ motivations. The compelling fiction into which Brooks weaves 50-plus years of human behavior research may leave even the least psych-oriented reader feeling like an expert. — KS

21. Mindfulness for Beginners, Jon Kabat-Zinn

From the man who helped popularize the benefits of mindfulness in Western medicine, “Mindfulness for Beginners” provides readers with the tools, wisdom, and support they need to enjoy who they are in any given moment. This collection of reflections addresses a huge range of mindfulness topics, including the value of tuning in to our bodies, how to experience the present moment, how to liberate our thoughts through awareness, and what the heart has to do with it all. The book guides readers through the process of entering and sustaining mindfulness in everyday life. — LN

22. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain

You can read this book out loud or quietly to yourself—either way, it’s chock full of thrilling insights. Cain argues modern American society privileges extroversion over introversion and ignores a lot of the great qualities that introverts have to offer. A self-proclaimed introvert, Cain combines scientific research and personal anecdotes to make her point and to make readers see the world around them in a whole new way. — SL

23. Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

Don’t be put off by the formidable length—this book is interesting, easy to understand, and probably the most engaging work of nonfiction many of us have read in a while. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman teaches readers about the two systems of the mind that drive the way we think, and how we can use these systems to help us make better decisions in our business lives and personal lives. — LAS

24. Pathological Altruism, Barbara Oakley

The introduction alone will make you question the motivations underlying selfless behavior. In each chapter a different researcher offers a new challenge to the sentiment of just wanting to help. The best part? Even those without a background in psych can grasp the key ideas here. Pages are peppered with bubble boxes, diagrams, and real-world examples to illustrate a not-so-convenient truth about altruistic behavior that, if understood, might actually help us be better people. — KS

Lifestyle and Relationships

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25. The Defining Decade, Meg Jay

The 20s are all about booze, babes, and being broke, right? Not so fast, says psychologist Dr. Meg Jay. The 20s are a time when we make hugely important decisions about our careers, romantic lives, and friendships that will affect the rest of our lives. But Jay doesn’t just make us feel bad for living with our parents and acquiring a taste for cheap beer — she also gives practical pointers for making the most of this intimidating time of life. A quick and enlightening read for anyone who is or knows a 20-something. — SL

26. Fire Starter Sessions, Danielle LaPorte

With some heartfelt straight-talkin’, Danielle LaPorte’s “Fire Starter Sessions” seeks to bust myths about self-help and success. In the process the book enables readers to get straight to the heart of their central strengths and use those powers to achieve their greatest desires. With actionable worksheets throughout and bold declarations such as “life balance is a myth” and “screw your principles,” the Sessions challenge passive assumptions and urge readers to light their own fires. — LN

27. Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin

Some people go to London; some go to France; Gretchen Rubin goes no farther than her living room. In the sequel to the bestseller “The Happiness Project,” Rubin shows readers how real happiness starts with things as simple as making your bed and smiling at people on the street. “Happier at Home” focuses on Rubin’s life with a husband and two little girls — but it’s the kind of page-turner that even folks who are still single and ready to mingle can appreciate. — SL

Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.