In preparation for my books, I read quite a bit of nonfiction. I love books that change the way I look at the world and improve my health and well-being. Lately, I’ve been focusing more on the emotional side of health, which I feel is a missing key.
Here’s what I love about nonfiction books: they are the best deal in town. For less than the price of eating out, you get an expert view on a topic. Often its years of experience and research condensed just for you. And you get to decide when and where to read it.
I was visiting with a friend and rattled off at least three books I’ve read and realized I haven’t shared these books with my readers.
So, here are 10 books to consider as you gear up for the New Year.
As a girl turned women, I never learned how to set boundaries with others. Someone wanted me to do something, I immediately answered yes. “Keep the peace” was always my motto. Problem is, the older I got the more miserable having few boundaries felt.
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud is a perennial best-seller and has been through various editions. The book has religious undertones and I don’t agree with everything he says, but the principles about boundaries are spot on.
You will be able to relate to one of the many stories he uses to bring the importance of boundaries to life. It has changed the way I interact with my kids, husband, and friends. If boundaries are a problem for you, give this book a try.
1. The Body Keeps the Score
Trauma, especially childhood trauma, has a profound effect on health. Yet as a society we do little to address it. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, MD is a must-read for anyone, but especially health professionals or someone who has experienced trauma.
van der Kolk describes why trauma affects health and details the latest research and effective treatments. He uses examples from his work and I must say, I couldn’t put this book down. Every health professional should be educated on trauma so they can recognize and help get people the right help.
3. Running on Empty
There are many good parenting books available, but I believe a book like this is especially important. That’s because it helps adults figure out why they react the way they do. Much of our parenting is affected by how we were parented. It’s easy to disregard this but it has a major impact not just on parenting, but the way adults self-regulate emotions (or not).
In Running on Empty: How to Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect, Jonice Webb Ph.D. runs through various parenting styles and how they can relate to an adult’s behavior. The premise is it’s not so much what was said or what happened (like with trauma) but what wasn’t said or didn’t happen.
The truth is most adults grew up with some form of emotional neglect (this isn’t blame-game as our parents grew up this way as well). We had food, shelter, and love but no help in managing our emotions. Understanding this helps adults then learn how to give themselves the emotional support they didn’t get.
4. The Food and Feelings Handbook
Although Running on Empty does a great job of explaining how adults got where they are, The Food and Feelings Handbook: A Full Course Meal on Emotional Health by Karen Koenig goes more in-depth teaching adults how to manage emotions. It explains the emotions that can be the toughest for dysregulated eaters.
Although this relates to food, it can apply to any type of emotional avoidance habit a person has developed (shopping, gaming, exercise, keeping busy, etc.). A great primer for understanding and managing a wide range of emotions.
Don’t miss my interview with the author, Karen Koenig on The Healthy Family Podcast.
5. Intuitive Eating
I don’t have a favorite nutrition book and prefer to do my own research when it comes to nutrition. But Intuitive Eating is a classic “how to eat” book that is coming out with a new edition in June.
If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth it to take the time to find out what it is all about. None of this means you have to let go of nutrition as intuitive eating isn’t about any type of eating plan.
It’s about listening to your body and realizing that eating well can be very simple and pleasurable.
6. Running Until You’re 100
I’ve run for more than 20 years. As I started to consider running a half marathon again, a friend gave me Running Until You’re 100 by Jeff Galloway. It’s the perfect book for the 40 plus crowd.
When it comes to running as you get older, there are many myths. Some believe you just shouldn’t run (especially if you are prone to injuries) while others continue running the way they always have.
Galloway a retired Olympic runner, explains why both of these strategies are wrong. If anyone wants to continue to run as they get older, he believes they need to make modifications, which include a run/walk program and alternate days. Older runners simply need more rest days, so everyday running is not a good thing. Running this way can decrease injury risk and add years to your running life.
The book is filled with stories of people who start running in their 60s and 70s. I feel pretty confident that if I keep running this way, I can run until I’m 100! Don’t miss my podcast interview with Jeff Galloway!
7. Hidden Blessings
We’ve all seen people go through some sort of midlife crisis. For some it may be feeling depressed, others its restless with their life, and many aren’t able to put a finger on what’s wrong. At midlife things (insert a different word here) hit the fan.
Hidden Blessings: Midlife Crisis as a Spiritual Awakening by Jett Psaris, Ph.D. helps you see this tough time as a blessing in disguise. Psaris who went through her own midlife transformation, describes the 12 stages we go through.
When we get through these 12 stages we end up transformed. The process can be grueling and uncomfortable, but it’s needed to shed the layer of our old selves to become the person we were meant to be.
8. Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image
I loved every minute of Mothers, Daughters, Body Image: Learning to Love Ourselves as We Are by Hillary McBride. This book is for any woman whether or not you have a daughter (because you are a daughter).
The book describes several mother-daughter relationships and how they managed to get things right. Many of the moms grew up with less than ideal circumstances but were able to chart a new course with their daughter.
Although body image is the theme, this book tackles the importance of the mother-daughter relationship as the foundation for building a strong sense of self. Most importantly, it’s beautifully written.
Check out my interview with Hillary McBride.
I found DARE: the New Way to End Anxiety and End Panic Attacks when my anxiety symptoms returned a couple of years ago. I was skeptical at first because Barry McDonagh is not a Ph.D. But it doesn’t matter because he’s able to take the research and put it into an extremely user-friendly program. He also has a Facebook group and a free app to help anyone suffering from anxiety.
It’s all about exposure and accepting the anxious feelings—even asking for more (through the acronym DARE he shows you how to do this). It’s important to note that even if anxiety is influenced by changing hormones or anything else, the treatments available will still work.
If you have anxiety and haven’t read DARE, what are you waiting for?
Mastery by Robert Greene is a book that stays on my nightstand. I read passages to inspire me in my journey to becoming better at what I do. It’s not about recognition, money or anything like that. In fact, those things often get in the way of developing true Mastery.
This book is great for a kid in high school, college or their twenties, but also those at midlife. It describes the process we must go to become a master at something. But it also can be for anyone at any age because it’s never too late to find something meaningful to do, learn all you can about it, and eventually become exceptionally good at it.
We underrate the importance of meaning in our health and well-being. This is often a problem with older adults. They are retired and supposed to be living the good life but with nothing to do—no meaning — their health deteriorates. Why not spend midlife learning and growing so, at the typical retirement age, you can start something new that can fill your time and give you meaning.
That’s it for now. What about you? Got any good nonfiction books to share? Leave them in the comments.
Love this list! Several of your picks sound very intriguing. Thanks so much & happy new year!
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Thanks, Amy! Happy New Year!
I am reading Smart Parenting for Smart Kids by Moore and Lowenthal. Great book to learn on how to deal with kids in their everyday problems at school or everyday life challenges. This is actually also making the parents understand why we do things as we do now by understanding the effect of our childhood experiences. Love the book!