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 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
The 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 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 Cookbookby 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 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 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 2011documentary 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
David 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 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
For a list of 24 must-read fitness, health, and happiness books for 2013, go to Greatist.com.