Top 11 Life-Changing Wellness Books of 2023

Top 11 Life-Changing Wellness Books of 2023
30.12.2023

Many of us have a love-hate relationship with self-help books, and for good reason—for a genre with great intentions (at least on paper), a few too many fad diets and get-well-quick schemes tend to steal the spotlight. But this section of your local bookstore isn’t all charlatans and too-good-to-be-true promises: We’d be remiss to let the bad eggs overshadow the truly useful, informative, and reassuring titles out there.

We’ve rounded up a dozen of the year’s best health, wellness, and self-help books that inspired us, delighted us, and helped us live a little better. These favorites—pulled together from our staff’s picks, bestseller lists, and hundreds of glowing reviews—are well-researched, inclusive, compassionate, and often very funny. It’s a diverse reading list that takes us from the kitchen to the bedroom to the great outdoors—all through the perspectives of licensed therapists, beloved talk show hosts, professional strongwomen, and more.

There’s something for everyone to take away from each of these titles. We hope that they’ll convince you of your capabilities, help you learn something new, remind you of all that you deserve, and come back to you with tattered covers (after all your favorite people ask to borrow them, that is).

1. The Wellness Trap: Break Free from Diet Culture, Disinformation, and Dubious Diagnoses, and Find Your True Well-Being by Christy Harrison

If the promises and (often unfounded) prescriptions of the wellness industry tend to leave you feeling, well, worse, The Wellness Trap by Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, belongs on your bookshelf. In her second book, Harrison—a journalist, registered dietitian, and certified intuitive eating counselor—tackles diet culture, influencer trends, and the alternative medicine practices that can end up causing more harm than their more conventional counterparts. Turning a critical eye on a multi-trillion-dollar global industry, The Wellness Trap equips readers to navigate tempting promises and claims in a way that will actually leave you feeling seen, heard, and helped.

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2. “You Just Need to Lose Weight”: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon

Aubrey Gordon—author, columnist, podcaster, and the voice behind Your Fat Friend—is tired of the same cultural myths interrupting conversations about fat justice. Her second book, You Just Need to Lose Weight—a 2023 SELF Well-Read Book Club pick—dismantles some of the most harmful misconceptions about fat people (see chapters like “Being Fat is a Choice” and “Fat Acceptance Glorifies Obesity”). With an arsenal of data and historical references, Gordon guides us in taking a good, hard look at our own ingrained fat biases, challenging our culture’s stubborn associations between body size and health.

3. Microjoys: Finding Joy (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay by Cyndie Spiegel

Microjoys, as author Cyndie Spiegel defines them, are the glimmers of delight that actually exist all around us—once we know how to look for them. In a thoughtful collection of essays and prompts, Spiegel teaches a master class on joy hunting, with an emphasis on the power of changing your mindset, particularly when you can’t change your circumstances. Microjoys was SELF’s March 2023 Well-Read Book Club pick—you can read an exclusive excerpt here.

4. XOXO, Cody: An Opinionated Homosexual’s Guide to Self-Love, Relationships, and Tactful Pettiness by Cody Rigsby

XOXO, Cody isn’t your typical memoir: It reads like a loving slap from your best friend, a long anticipated gossip session, and the deep breath following the best spin class of your life. That’s exactly why we chose beloved Peloton instructor Cody Rigsby’s debut as the September pick for SELF’s Well-Read Book Club. Rigsby’s advice and completely unguarded opinions lend an extra sparkle to the self-help genre, making XOXO, Cody a pep talk you can’t put down.

5. Secrets of Giants: A Journey to Uncover the True Meaning of Strength by Alyssa Ages

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Perhaps your conceptions of physical and emotional strength are entirely separate. Alyssa Ages believes they’re more connected than not—and as a strongman competitor who has literally carried 300 pounds on her back, she would know. Secrets of Giants interweaves Ages’s story of rebuilding her strength after a physical trauma with diverse perspectives from the world of professional weightlifting. The result is a testament to the true meaning of building strength (mental, physical, and beyond) from which everyone can learn something.

6. Laid and Confused: Why We Tolerate Bad Sex and How to Stop by Maria Yagoda

The social conversation around sex is more open than ever before, but journalist Maria Yagoda has noticed a missing piece: Still, nobody seems to be talking about bad sex. In Laid and Confused, Yagoda employs in-depth research, humor, and stark honesty to unpack why our culture encourages people to tolerate and expect sub-par sex, and how to get intentional about having more fun in bed.

7. For the Culture: Phenomenal Black Women and Femmes in Food by Klancy Miller

For the Culture is a soul-nourishing anthology of stories from Black women and femmes working in food and hospitality today. With this collection of recipes and firsthand experiences, chef and writer Klancy Miller creates the patchwork handbook she wishes she had when she started in the field. Though each story is completely unique—highlighting farmers, chefs, TV hosts, sommeliers, influencers, and more—they come together over common passions for food and community, teaching valuable lessons about creativity, comfort, and kinship.

8. Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier by Oprah Winfrey and Arthur C. Brooks

If you’ve ever fantasized about reclining on Oprah’s couch, you’re in luck. Her new book, co-authored by Arthur C. Brooks, PhD, is an excellent roadmap for your next adventure: Building the Life You Want. With years of combined experience, thorough research, and a famous sense of compassion, Winfrey and Brooks’s guide to achieving greater happiness is pure, hardcover hope.

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9. Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May

Katherine May’s daily existence was cluttered with social media fatigue, churning news cycles, family tensions, and a general lack of peace and certainty. Sound familiar? With Enchantment, she sets out to rediscover her sense of wonder, and invites us to practice finding magic in the mundane.

10. Falling Back in Love With Being Human: Letters to Lost Souls by Kai Cheng Thom

As an activist, therapist, conflict mediator, and educator, Kai Cheng Thom has centered her life’s work around the belief that every human being is deserving of love. As a Chinese-Canadian transwoman, she’s also no stranger to the structures of hate that exist in the world—and, as she describes, she’s not immune to them, either. Falling Back in Love With Being Human is the product of Thom’s grief for the cruelty people inflict on one another, and a tribute to the hope and goodness that exists despite it all. That, she argues, is what truly makes us human.

11. Owning Our Struggles: A Path to Healing and Finding Community in a Broken World by Minaa B.

It can be hard to open up about your pain without feeling like a burden, and sometimes, suffering in silence just seems easier. But educator and licensed social worker Minaa B.—beloved by her massive Instagram following—believes that true healing only exists through community and connection. Owning Our Struggles is a powerful guide to feeling better that helps us clear the first (and often most difficult) hurdle: sharing our heaviest hurts with others.

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