The very first fitness-related book I ever owned was the New York City Ballet Workout. It was a Christmas gift from my mother and even after nearly fifteen years, it stills holds a spot on my bookshelf.
Over the last 15 years, I have continued to read a variety of books about health and nutrition.
Over the last couple of years, I have also begun to read personal development and productivity books, which I actually credit to improving my work, life and relationship balance.
And let’s just say that over the years, I’ve read a number of wonderful books and also a lot of junk!
If I had to start over with knowledge I have now, these are the top 24 books I would recommend reading to anyone who has a passion for improving their life.
In no particular order, here they are:
Nutrition and Cookbooks
1. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats: An excellent book that breaks down the vitamins and minerals of pretty much every whole food you can put in your mouth, and then it lists recipes you can follow to make meals that are not only healthy, but also delicious.
2. It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways: This book provides the foundation for a diet that is based around whole foods. This is not about the next fad diet that will help you lose weight only to gain it back a month or two later, but rather about why you need whole foods for long-term health. If you suspect you might have a food allergy or food sensitivity, this is a great book.
3. The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor: Love these recipes! This cookbook takes traditionally unhealthy recipes, changes a couple ingredients or cooking method, and turns them into healthy creations that are still just as, if not more, tasty than the original. The author’s website is also one of my favorite for healthy eating inspiration.
4. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers: Suddenly, it seems like everyone I know has some sort of food allergy or disease they can blame for making them fat. This books will have you take a hard look at what you’re eating and how it can affect overall health.
Personal Development and Productivity
5. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness: The first personal development book I ever read. You can read my full review of how small changes can create long term results in every area of your life here.
6. The Compound Effect: Similar to the The Slight Edge, this book takes the theory around the “what you do daily creates your life” and puts more of how to make the changes and put them into action.
7. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: This book made me realize I was dumb for many years, not because I was stupid, but I had a fixed mindset when I should’ve had a growth-oriented mindset in certain areas of my life. If you have children, read this book – it will not only change your life, but the lives of those around you.
8. Beyond Positive Thinking: A No-Nonsense Formula for Getting the Results You Want: If there were a required reading book for personal development in high school, this would be a must-read. Not only will this book help you understand yourself better, but it will also help you realize why people around you do the things they do.
9. How to Win Friends & Influence People: This book is over 60 years old, but the teachings still hold true in today’s society. When I went to a job position that required meeting and talking to new people, this book helped me tremendously.
10. Choose Yourself!: This is one of the books I am currently reading. It’s a factual story with examples of how the author and others have put the above into effect. My biggest takeaway from this book so far is even if you fall, you need to get up and start again.
11. Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion: How to take what you love most in life and turn it into how you make your living. A little outdated though it is only 5 years old, but the main points still holds true, share the knowledge you have about what you are passionate about with the online world. I included it, because it is basically the premise of this site, though I started this site before reading this book.
12. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time: Feeling overwhelmed at work or home? This book helps prioritize in an easy to use stream-lined system. It is more than just using a list to optimize your work day, though that is a big portion. This is a no-fluff book on productivity. Love it!
13. The Richest Man in Babylon: This is the classic book to personal finance. If you have never read a finance book, let this one be your first one. The practices and experiences in this book are how long-term wealth is built.
14. Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen: This is an inspirational book more so than a technique book, although it does touch a bit on footwear. This is a hard book to put down even if you’re not a runner.
15. Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness: Another very inspirational book rooted in long distance running. The author of this book follows a vegan diet, but if you need a jolt to get you moving again, this is a great read.
16. Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika: I used to want to be a Yoga instructor, and this book is amazing. Lots of photos and instructions on Yoga poses, but this book is the best I have read about explaining breathing exercises and their importance.
17. The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy: More than just a book about Yoga poses, this book delves into your inner energy and how to focus in order to improve your body and mind.
Mobility, Flexibility, & Recovery
18. The Roll Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body: I just finished reading this book. I fell in love with the foam roller years ago, but looking back, I was not always using it properly. This book will teach you therapeutic exercise to get you moving and feeling better.
19. Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance: I first stumbled upon the author of this book Kelly Starrett on YouTube when trying to recover from some elbow tendonitis. It is absolutely crazy the amount of knowledge about mobility that is shared in this book. It is an eye-opener and is great for anyone with soft tissue injuries or postural imbalances that could be unknowingly causing problems elsewhere.
20. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding : The Bible of Bodybuilding, Fully Updated and Revised: This is exactly as title says: an encyclopedia of everything related to bodybuilding. What I like most about this book is the exercise demonstrations, if there is a weightlifting move, it is described in detail how to do it with perfect form.
21. Starting Strength: How to squat, deadlift, overhead press and bench press for beginners. This book goes in depth into the basic barbell exercises and how to use these exercise to build a foundation of strength for maximal lifts, and builds the base for more advanced routines.
22. Enter The Kettlebell! Strength Secret of The Soviet Supermen: I’m a novice to kettlebell exercise, and this is my first book on the matter. I just picked it up last week and have skimmed the chapters. I must admit I am intrigued by what I have read and am going to begin incorporating some kettlebell training into my fitness routine.
23. Super Squats: How to Gain 30 Pounds of Muscle in 6 Weeks: Hard to believe that I followed the Super Squats workout plan nearly ten years ago. I did not add 30lbs of muscle, but I did not drink a gallon of milk a day like the book recommends either. This program is pretty amazing: high repetition, heavy weight squats are something we should all try, but I must warn you – this program is not for the faint if heart.
24. NYC Ballet Workout: Fifty Stretches And Exercises Anyone Can Do For A Strong, Graceful, And Sculpted Body: There is simply no way I could’ve left my first health and fitness related book of the list. Along with wanting to be a Yoga instructor, I wanted the shape of a ballerina. This book shows you stretches and moves that can help sculpt your body with body weight exercise alone and is a great first fitness book if you want to perform better athletically or just learn to move like a dancer.
Have Anything to Add?
I tried to make this post not just what I would recommend to beginners on the subject matter, but also to those who have some knowledge and could learn further from reading one of these books.
I read a lot, usually 2-3 books on my Kindle at a time, covering a couple different subject matters. Everyday, I start with 30 minutes of reading and another 30 minutes before going to bed.
I could probably easily add another 20-30 books to this list.
Please leave a comment below of any book that has changed your life for the better.
For me, the book that I think has made the biggest impact is #8, Beyond Positive Thinking.