Top Wellness Books to Read This Fall

Top Wellness Books to Read This Fall

Learn to breathe, eat well, and embrace discomfort with these three wellness books — just released this summer.

With 24/7 news, constantly refreshing social media feeds, and your favorite podcast hosts constantly recording episodes, it can be hard to keep up with what’s going on in traditional print media. Yet taking the time to dive into a book or two will inevitably offer greater depth and understanding than the usual 3-minute article scan. With that in mind, here are three noteworthy books that were published this summer to invest your time in. 

1. The Breathing Cure by Patrick McKeown

Big wave surfers have to learn how to breathe well to survive being tossed off huge faces and held down by slabs of water before calming down when they eventually get back to shore. It’s no coincidence, then, that Laird Hamilton turned to Irish breathing expert Patrick McKeown to help him in this area and provide expertise for his XPT training program. Hamilton also wrote the foreword for McKeown’s latest book, The Breathing Cure, which is the follow-up to his bestselling The Oxygen Advantage

In The Breathing Cure, McKeown explores how breathing more functionally from your diaphragm and through your nose can offer you meaningful change in your physical, mental, and emotional health, and can help you remedy issues like low energy, disturbed sleep, and chronic anxiety. At the heart of McKeown’s comprehensive yet highly accessible breathwork manual is the Buteyko method, which involves taking light, almost nonchalant breaths to restore the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide that is thrown off by heavy mouth breathing. 

Having delivered seminars all over the world, McKeown knows how to turn his deep research into practical exercises that can help you fix your breathing pattern and, as he says, “breathe better to feel better.” Of the 26 exercises included in the book, this one might be the best for increasing your carbon dioxide tolerance. Note that if you have a heart or lung condition or any other problem that might compromise your breathing, please consult your doctor before doing this or any other breathing exercises.

  • While walking, take a breath in, breathe out, and hold your breath 
  • Walk 20 to 100 paces while maintaining the breath-hold. Create a strong need for air, but don’t lose control of your breathing.
  • Resume relaxed nasal breathing and continue to walk
  • After about one minute of walking with nasal breathing, repeat the breath-hold
  • Repeat this sequence six to eight times with a breath-hold every minute or so
  • Maintain control of your breathing throughout

2. The Fatburn Fix by Cate Shanahan

OK, we cheated a little here because this book came out in the spring. But it’s just as relevant as it was on publication day, and unlike a lot of diet-related books that are penned by “influencers” and bloggers, The Fatburn Fix is actually authored by a board-certified family physician. In her previous book, the brilliant Deep Nutrition, Shanahan explored how we got here with our modern diets, and brought some common sense to the madness of conflicting fads. Now in The Fatburn Fix, she turns her attention to how you can use fat to power your best performances. 

One of the best things about Shanahan’s approach is that she eschews the exclusions that have become all too common in nutrition. What’s left is a common-sense way of looking at and consuming food that doesn’t require you to cut out entire food groups or take radical measures. As such, The Fatburn Fix is refreshing in its moderation and is easy to apply to your day-to-day choices in the kitchen and at the grocery store. If you want more background on Shanahan’s philosophy, you can go back and read Deep Nutrition, but if all you want is an accessible guide to getting the most out of fat as a fuel, start with The Fatburn Fix. 

Another downfall of many books is that in their effort to push Paleo, keto, or some variation, the authors start making far-fetched claims about why you don’t need carbs and how your body can become fully “fat-adapted.” As my co-author Dr. Frank Merritt explains in The 17 Hour Fast, this isn’t true. Your body has two main energy-producing pathways: gluconeogenesis from carbs and some proteins, and ketogenesis from fats and other proteins. Regardless of what you do with your diet, your body will remain able to use both. But as Shanahan points out, eating in a certain manner will enable you to use ketogenesis a bit more effectively. 

The first way to do so is to eat natural fats and eliminate highly processed or artificial ones. The first category includes olive, avocado, coconut, butter/ghee, and macadamia oils (cold-pressed if possible). The second group is what Shanahan has dubbed the “Hateful Eight.” These are high polyunsaturated seed oils that promote chronic inflammation and contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular conditions, metabolic diseases, and certain cancers. Here are the eight oils to eliminate from your pantry: 

  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Cottonseed
  • Soy
  • Sunflower
  • Safflower
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Rice bran oil

Shanahan also suggests avoiding highly processed versions of the “good” oils. To complement the book, she provided this list of approved, non-PUFA foods via her website

3. The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter

In his latest book, The Comfort Crisis, veteran writer and editor Michael Easter makes good on his promise to be an “explorer of the edges.” His fact-finding took him to the peaks of Bhutan, the wilderness of Alaska, and beyond to meet with “off-the-grid visionaries, disruptive genius researchers, and mind-body conditioning trailblazers who are unlocking the life-enhancing secrets of a counterintuitive solution: discomfort.” Like Scott Carney in his book What Doesn’t Kill Us, Easter’s contention is that modern conveniences have lulled us to sleep and made us too soft to deal with the physical and cognitive stressors we are subjected to daily. As a result, we’re sicker, more anxious, and more discontent than ever before. Fortunately, there’s a fairly simple fix: do something challenging that pushes you out of your comfort zone. When possible, this should be a physical task that requires you to get out in the elements. 

One such activity is rucking, which simply means walking with weight. Legendary strength coach Dan John distilled 40+ years of coaching into a simple exercise methodology: “Pick up weights, put weights overhead, carry weights.” It’s the final part of this prescription that Easter believes has been most neglected in today’s training techniques. As a remedy, he suggests loading up a backpack and hiking with it. Don’t let the slow pace you’ll likely adopt fool you – the calorie burn is comparable with running. Plus, carrying extra load can help you remedy back issues, build leg and glute strength, and encourage better posture. Not to mention being a great excuse to get outdoors. Can’t afford a customized pack? Then load up your old hiking one with books or other heavy objects.