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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Marta Zaraska Why did I love 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. 

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,…

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

Marta Zaraska Why did I love 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.

By Dan Buettner,

Why should I read it?

4 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…

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

Marta Zaraska Why did I love 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.

By Francesc Miralles, Héctor García,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


“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.…

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

Marta Zaraska Why did I love 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).

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…

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

Marta Zaraska Why did I love 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.

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,…

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Hayley and the Hot Flashes

By Jayne Jaudon Ferrer,

Book cover of Hayley and the Hot Flashes

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer Author Of Hayley and the Hot Flashes

New book alert!

Who am I?

I grew up in a small town, with wonderful librarians who introduced me to books I remember fondly to this day. The Flicka, Ricka, Dicka series, the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, and, of course, Little Women shaped my love for stories about relationships and the simple pleasures of daily life. Whether it’s a mystery or a memoir, I want interesting interactions between the main characters, meaty descriptions of daily activities and affairs, and, of course, a happy ending. As I’ve gotten older, I like books with older protagonists; those are hard to come by—one reason I wrote a novel about the adventures of five middle-aged girlfriends!

Jayne's book list on entertaining stories about relationships

What is my book about?

Country music diva Hayley Swift has fallen off the charts and into a funk. Desperate to regain her place in the limelight, she agrees to a low-budget tour of Southern venues, starting with her 35th high school reunion.

There, in an unexpected but fortuitous reconnection, The Girls Next Door —who sang together in their teens--become Hayley and the Hot Flashes as they embark on a road trip that will forever change their lives. You'll laugh out loud as the ladies deal with stage fright, stalkers, attitudes, egos, harmonies, hormones, and more. Middle age has never been moodier—or more melodic!

Hayley and the Hot Flashes

By Jayne Jaudon Ferrer,

What is this book about?

When five middle-aged girlfriends trade in carpools and casseroles for microphones and music halls, look out!

Hayley Swift, a country music diva who has slipped out of the limelight, gets more attention when she's mistaken for Taylor Swift's mom than for her former glory days. When she's invited to perform at her 35th high school reunion, a bus accident puts her back-up singers in a hospital, Hayley begs her long-gone-domestic quartet from high school to join her onstage for the gig. They're such a hit that she invites the women to fill in on a low-budget tour for a couple…

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