The best books to read if you don't want to die (any time soon)

Who am I?

I’m a science journalist published in The Washington Post, Scientific American, The Atlantic, etc., and the author of bestselling Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100. I’m also a slightly obsessive parent who really cares about her family’s health—that’s how “Growing Young” was born. To write the book, I’ve read over 600 scientific studies, talked to dozens of scientists and had some experiments conducted on myself (some a bit painful, some rather fun)—and ended up changing my own outlook on what it means to live healthily. 


I wrote...

Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism, and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100

By Marta Zaraska,

Book cover of Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism, and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100

What is my book about?

A research-driven case for why optimism, kindness, and strong social networks will keep us living longer than any fitness tracker or superfood. 

We are fixating on all the wrong things—miracle diets, miracle foods, miracle supplements etc. We swallow vitamins. We obsess about BMI. While healthy nutrition and physical activity are important for health, there are things we all too often sacrifice that have an outsize impact on our centenarian potential. Friendships. Purpose in life. Empathy. Volunteering. Science shows that these 'soft' health drivers are often more powerful than diet and exercise.

The books I picked & why

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Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

By Martin E. P. Seligman,

Book cover of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

Why this book?

Optimism, studies show, is a great longevity booster: it can add anywhere between four to ten years of life. I’m a bit of a neurotic worry-wart and I used to believe I was doomed to stay that way (goodbye extra ten years of life!). Yet Seligman’s well-researched book showed me there was hope: most people can learn how to become more optimistic—with all its health benefits. Although I’m still not a Pollyanna, this book certainly helped me become a more “glass-half-full” kind of person. 

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

By Martin E. P. Seligman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Learned Optimism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The father of positive psychology draws on more than twenty years of clinical research to show you how to overcome depression, boost your immune system, and make yourself happier.

"Vaulted me out of my funk.... So, fellow moderate pessimists, go buy this book." —The New York Times Book Review

Offering many simple techniques anyone can practice, Dr. Seligman explains how to break an “I–give–up” habit, develop a more constructive explanatory style for interpreting your behavior, and experience the benefits of a more positive interior dialogue.

With generous additional advice on how to encourage optimistic behavior at school,…


The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest

By Dan Buettner,

Book cover of The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest

Why this book?

Blue Zones inspired me to look deeper into the many connections between social interactions and longevity. It’s a delightfully researched tour of places where people live exceptionally long, from Italy and Japan to Costa Rica and Singapore. And although, as Buettner shows, diets do matter a lot for the health of the inhabitants of Blue Zones, it’s also their social habits that boost their chances of becoming centenarians. Since I now live in France I can see how the Mediterranean diet, for example, is not only about what you eat, but also how you eat: with others, enjoying your time together. That’s what Blue Zones is about, too.

The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest

By Dan Buettner,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Blue Zones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A long, healthy life is no accident. It begins with good genes, but it also depends on good habits. If you adopt the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are you may live up to a decade longer. Buettner has led teams of researchers across the globe--from Costa Rica to Sardinia, Italy, to Okinawa, Japan and beyond--to uncover the secrets of Blue Zones. He found that the recipe for longevity is deeply intertwined with community, lifestyle, and spirituality. People live longer and healthier by embracing a few simple but powerful habits, and by creating the right community around themselves. In The…


Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

By Francesc Miralles, Héctor García,

Book cover of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Why this book?

When I traveled for research in Japan, one word I kept hearing was “ikigai”. Ikigai does not have a perfect equivalent in English, but is often translated either as “purpose in life” or “life worth living.” And, as science shows, it’s a very important reason for why the Japanese are among the longest-lived people on the planet. For me, García’s and Miralles’s well-written book was a rewarding deep dive not only into the Japanese culture but also into the science linking meaning in life, happiness, and longevity.

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

By Francesc Miralles, Héctor García,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ikigai as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • 1.5 MILLION+ COPIES SOLD WORLDWIDE

“Workers looking for more fulfilling positions should start by identifying their ikigai.” ―Business Insider
 
“One of the unintended—yet positive—consequences of the [pandemic] is that it is forcing people to reevaluate their jobs, careers, and lives. Use this time wisely, find your personal ikigai, and live your best life.” ―Forbes

Find your ikigai (pronounced ee-key-guy) to live longer and bring more meaning and joy to all your days.

“Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years.” —Japanese proverb
 
According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai—a reason for living.…


The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert

By John Gottman, Nan Silver,

Book cover of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert

Why this book?

While you don’t have to be married to live long, studies show that a happy romantic relationship can boost health (people in such relationships have fewer heart attacks, less diabetes, and even better teeth!). While I’m generally very satisfied with my two-decades-long marriage, there are always things that could be improved—and that’s why I reached for this book by one of the best researchers on marriage out there: John Gottman. It was not only thought-provoking but also loaded with practical tips (I swear I’ll never roll my eyes at my husband again—or at least I’ll try not to).

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert

By John Gottman, Nan Silver,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The revolutionary guide to show couples how to create an emotionally intelligent relationship - and keep it on track

Straightforward in its approach, yet profound in its effect, the principles outlined in this book teach partners new and startling strategies for making their marriage work.

Gottman has scientifically analysed the habits of married couples and established a method of correcting the behaviour that puts thousands of marriages on the rocks. He helps couples focus on each other, on paying attention to the small day-to-day moments that, strung together, make up the heart and soul of any relationship. Packed with questionnaires…


How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

By Michael Greger, Gene Stone,

Book cover of How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

Why this book?

While friendship, ikigai and optimism are important for our health and longevity, diet and exercise still matter—a lot. For me, How Not to Die is a go-to book when I want to check the science on what works—and what doesn’t—in terms of nutrition, physical activity, supplements, etc.

How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

By Michael Greger, Gene Stone,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How Not to Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'This book may help those who are susceptible to illnesses that can be prevented with proper nutrition' - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The international bestseller, Dr Michael Greger's How Not To Die gives effective, scientifically-proven nutritional advice to prevent our biggest killers - including heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes - and reveals the astounding health benefits that simple dietary choices can provide.

Why rely on drugs and surgery to cure you of life-threatening disease when the right decisions can prevent you from falling ill to begin with?

Based on the latest scientific research,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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