Healthy Living Books That Occupy a Time-Honored Space on My Shelf

healthy living books

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Several of you asked me to share the non-fiction books on healthy living that occupy a hallowed space on my bookshelves.

I recently read a startling statistic that only 30% of those who read a nonfiction book will finish it. Why, then would I compile a list of “must read” healthy living books? According to the statistic, most of you won’t finish the non-fiction book you order or borrow.

The possible causes that birthed the statistic swirled in my head for days.

Bewildered, I pontificated the reasons why non-fiction books fail to grip readers in the way that fiction books do. Is it that writers of non-fiction forfeit writing style in the delivery of valuable, practical information?

As a writer, the fact that few people finish a non-fiction book beyond the first chapter generated a little writer’s paralysis in me. Writing a non-fiction book on healthy living is one of my current projects, so when I read that statistic, it stung.

The tell-tale signs that a book has earned perpetual space on my shelf are the coffee stains splattered across pages, a rainbow of crinkled post-it tabs peeking from the margins, and passages underlined in neon. The haggard and tattered books on my shelf are like high ranking officers, a veritable storehouse of information and ideas.

What to Look for in a Non-Fiction Book, so You Actually Finish It

Ann Hadley advises that “Good, pathologically emphatic writing strives to explain, to make things a little bit clearer, to make sense of our world—even if it’s just straightforward product description.”

Before you purchase your next non-fiction title, consider the elements that make a book captivating. The recipe for enthralling writing requires ingredients like strong verbs, active voice, analogies, and simile/metaphor. The writer knows when to partner an adverb with a verb that flows like the fluid movement of a conductor’s baton.

Before I launch this list at you, I want you to know that writing a riveting narrative about food is a tall task. The books on food that I recommend here are both zestful narratives and evocative calls to change. Change for the good of your body and the environment.

Healthy Living Books on Healthy Living That You Will Devour

These books do not point you to specific eating programs or diets. That is why I like them so much. The books that made it to this list navigate you through the food quagmire created by industrialized farming and food science.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is not written from a faith-based perspective but contains information about stewardship that every faith-based individual should consider. More often than not, the pulpit remains silent regarding the topic of stewardship. Kingsolver speaks loudly and passionately about the subject.

Kingsolver and her family chronicled a year of eating in season and eating locally grown food. The book reads like a memoir woven with humor and honesty. Kingsolver’s prose enlightens readers about consumer responsibility regarding the food we eat.

Reading this book could change the way you view food. The resolve and conviction put forth by the family of four to steadfastly prove “you are what you eat” is jaw-dropping.

Kingsolver admits that when American women “traded homemaking for careers, we were implicitly promised economic independence and worldly influence. But a devil of a bargain it has turned out to be in terms of daily life.”

healthy living books

Food Rules by Michael Pollan

The food industry complicates eating, which should be a simple process. Pollan simplifies eating throughout the pages of this eater’s manual. He addresses three major components of eating:

  1. What You Should Eat
  2. What Kind of Food You Should Eat
  3. How You Should Eat

A food manifesto that everyone should read.

healthy living books

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Yes, Pollan’s books occupy six inches of my bookshelf space. His investigative journalism uncovers secrets about the food you eat. When you finish the final page of this book, you will become a food sleuth, unapologetically.

healthy living books

Real Food, Fake Food by Larry Olmstead

Olmsted’s groundbreaking book that informs consumers about the deception entrenched in specific foods. He unveils the fraud on some of America’s most beloved foods like cheese, seafood, beef, tomatoes, and such.

After reading this narrative, you will willingly develop food sleuthing skills that will benefit your health and your budget. Olmsted’s book helps you spend your money on food that is real, not fake.

Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck

A primer for anyone new to healthy eating. It’s the book that should reside on your shelf if you care about what you eat and why you eat you should eat certain foods.

Hailed as the “patron saint of farmers’ markets” by the Guardian and called one of the “great food activists” by Vanity Fair‘s David Kamp, Nina Planck was on the vanguard of the real food movement, and her first book remains a vital and original contribution to the hot debate about what to eat and why.

healthy living books

Whole 30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

If you’ve spent any time in the no-FUSS healthy living community, you will come to realize that I am not a proponent of fad diets or long-term restrictive eating programs.  The Whole 30 program offers participants a thirty-day elimination program with the intent of reintroducing eliminated foods back into your food plan.

I’ve written extensively about why I use this program myself and why I think Whole 30 is a wise starting point for anyone new to healthy eating.

healthy living books

Whole Grain Baking and Grinding Made Easy by Tabitha Alterman

healthy living books

Rather than give bread the boot from your food life, consider banishing the loaves of commercially made bread from your grocery cart. The bread stacked on supermarket shelves masquerades as nourishing food wrapped in a well-executed marketing strategy.

Wrongly accused, bread/flour are not the real villains. The actual food villains are the highly processed refined flavorless bags of flour that end up in your grocery cart.

Most commercially made bread is anything but nutritious. If you enjoy bread, then don’t renounce it from your meal plan, just because that seems to be the current health trend.

Unless you suffer from a chronic illness that prohibits you from consuming grain, grind your grains.

Alterman takes readers on a fascinating journey of the history of milling grain. She builds a robust case for milling grains at home. Operating a microwave is more complicated than milling grain. If you can press a button, you grind grain.

And enjoy bread again.

Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg

Feinberg weaves an intriguing narrative that unearths God’s perspective on food.  Only a handful of faith-based books exist on the topic of food which puzzles and perplexes me because references to food saturate the pages of the Bible.

You may be taking your first steps toward building a lifestyle of healthy living. If so, then Taste and See will lay a solid foundation.

You can purchase a companion study guide.

Other Healthy Living Books

Super Natural Home by Beth Greer

Greer uncovers the formidable dangers in body care and cleaning products. Super Natural Home not only discloses popular products that contain toxic ingredients, but it also offers simple natural solutions.

Super Natural Home is the must-have handbook to use when curating a natural home.

The Art of Natural Cleaning by Rebecca Sullivan

Rebecca is an advocate for sustainable living. The recipes for natural cleaning products are as beautiful to look at as they are to prepare.

healthy living books

101 Easy Homemade Products for Your Skin, Health, and Home by Jan Berry

Jan Berry, also known as The Nerdy Farm Wife, provides no-fuss recipes to make skin and body care products as well as recipes for your furry friends.

The non-toxic solutions for the home allow you to “ditch the store-bought toxins and their health-damaging side effects.”

healthy living books

Natural Beauty From the Garden by Janice Cox

You don’t need a sprawling garden to make these recipes. Urban gardeners can use their patio or balcony to grow enough herbs and flowers needed to make the beauty products suggested in Natural Beauty From the Garden.

Just Keep Reading

The trend now is to arrange books not by topic but by the color of the spine. Designers and Pinterest call it color blocking books. Forgoing trend for tradition, I organize my books by subject. Besides, what lies beyond the cover is what matters most.

A few months ago, while flying to the Midwest, I initiated a conversation with a woman seated next to me who pulled out her Kindle before we left the tarmac. She started swiping her screen during the flight emergency procedures. In between swipes, I asked her if she prefers reading Ebook or print.

healthy living books

Unsplash: Nick Hillie

Without hesitation, as though she rehearsed her answer, she prefers print books for non-fiction so that she can mark-up the pages. A reader after my own heart. Swipe girl went on to explain that for fiction, she uses her Kindle. It makes sense to me. At least she’s finishing the book.

Whether you arrange your books by color, not topic or you prefer an electronic book versus a hard copy, what matters most is that the narrative engages you enough to read cover to cover.



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  1. Amber on May 17, 2019 at 12:19 pm
    I love the Whole 30 cookbook so much. Thanks for sharing this list!

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