The 16 Most Life-Changing Health & Wellness Books of 2022, Say Therapists and Readers
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Transformation is exactly what we seek when we pick up a new book. These have all appeared on the leading bestseller lists in 2022—and the best part? Every pick on this list is available as an audiobook, so you can enjoy listening and learning during your self-care practice.
Feeling good has never been so on-trend. According to the market research firm McKinsey, almost every age group and demographic actively prioritizes health and wellness these days. For you, that could mean anything from enhancing your sleep quality with a state-of-the-art tracker, testing out the latest fitness wearable, or logging time on your mindfulness app.
Yet, while today’s wellness technologies are impressive, none are as timeless as the original self-care toolkit staple: Health and wellness books. “Reading books like these can be incredibly powerful and affirming,” says Sarah Kaufman, LMSW, a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy in Brooklyn. “For me and many of the clients I work with, there is nothing more validating than reading words that someone else wrote in such a beautiful way and realizing—Wow, that is exactly how I feel.“
With the rise of audiobooks, it’s even easier to inject a bit of self-care into your routine, no matter how crazy your day gets. And in case you’re wondering: You’re not “cheating” or missing out by listening to an audiobook. A study published in SAGE Open found that people recall the same amount of information regardless of whether they’d read the content or listened to it. Never tried audiobooks before? Consider signing up for a free Audible Plus trial.
Still, no matter how you consume them, Kaufman adds that these books are not meant to be substitutes for personalized therapy. They’re great for workshopping new wellness techniques, processing experiences at your own pace, and gaining different perspectives—but for individualized support for your mental health, consider turning to a professional for help. (It can feel daunting to start on this mental health journey, so we collected 14 therapist-approved tips to help you find a therapist you can trust.)
Read on to learn about 2022’s best wellness audiobooks, the perfect companions to brighten up your commute, household chores, walks, or whenever you need a pick-me-up.
The Body Keeps the Score
“This book is a revolutionary take on how mental health and trauma directly impact physical health,” explains Sally Twellman, RD, a nutritional therapist with Heading Health. The Body Keeps the Score—a classic recommendation in the world of psychotherapy—explores scientific evidence that unravels the brain and body’s response to traumatic events—and how these physiological changes can affect our physical and mental health for the rest of our lives.
“People are often slow to address their trauma and convince themselves that if they ignore it, it’ll go away,” adds psychotherapist Jennifer Weaver, LMHC. “But if you ignore your trauma, your body will find a way to remind you—and this text is helpful in assisting patients in understanding this.” With more than 50,000 reviews and a 4.8-star rating on Amazon, it seems those patients agree.
What’s more, the overarching message is a game-changer for those who have struggled to find success with traditional therapies, according to Mark R., a reader who suffered from PTSD and severe anxiety. He called The Body Keeps the Score “the new Bible for trauma,” which teaches how to “feel and experience what is going on inside us—not just think about it.”
The book is also a big proponent of EMDR, a psychotherapeutic modality worth learning more about.
“I loved this book!” Twellman says, adding that she regularly recommends Atomic Habits to clients struggling to create new, healthy habits. “It provides a simple and approachable way to achieve your goals,” not only through step-by-step strategy, but mindset shifts that facilitate sustainable change.
Readers back this up, too. Haical Sajovic Haddad updated their review after applying the Atomic Habits system for 100 days “because [it has] sincerely worked.” And with nearly 100,000 reviewers (at press time) who back the book’s 4.8-star rating, this may be the tool to help you finally break out of negative habits while forming others that stick.
Atlas of the Heart
“This book is like a textbook for being human,” writes reader Tomas Milo about Atlas of the Heart. “[Brown’s] books give me the language to help me understand my hard feelings and experiences.” By mapping out 87 distinct human emotions, Atlas of the Heart explores how these thoughts and feelings shape our lives and behaviors. This understanding aims to teach readers to turn inward in order to strengthen connections and relationships with others. And it’s done just that for the more than 12,000 reviewers who rate it at 4.8 stars.
“[It’s] the emotional dictionary you didn’t know you needed,” wrote therapist Rob Jordan. “Many of the emotions we recognize and discuss are just the tip of the iceberg, and this book helps you discover what’s under the surface.”
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer brings together two perspectives she knows well. As a botanist and an ecology professor, Kimmerer is very familiar with using science to answer the mysteries of our natural world. As a member of the Potawatomi Nation, she also considers plants and animals to be our oldest teachers—and to hold answers all their own.
Her book marries her scientific background with Indigenous wisdom to help people connect to the world around them, recognize the gifts nature holds for us and how to offer our own gifts in return.
Five-star reviewer Melody called Braiding Sweetgrass “beautiful and important,” writing, “Dr. Kimmerer has the kind of quiet voice that everyone hushes to hear, not wanting to miss a word of her eloquence. Reading this book has reminded me to cultivate my love for the Earth in ways that my daughters can participate in, and to recognize the relationship between people and nature as a two-way street. We do not simply destroy or protect nature—we evolved in direct relationship with plants, and plants evolved in direct relationship with us. As an environmental scientist, I like to think that I look at the world through a lens of love and concern for the earth, but this book pushes me further in love and hope and urgency.”
With more than 12,000 ratings on Amazon, Braiding Sweetgrass also received praise from Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. If you haven’t already checked out this beauty, now’s the time to click above and listen to a sample.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK
“Self-improvement is a journey, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK provides a great read and great perspective to apply in today’s world,” says Stephanie Stathas, MS, LPC, NCC, CIT at Thriveworks in Reading, PA. “It teaches us how to have an honest assessment of ourselves,” she adds, an exercise that can build greater trust and respect in relationships while helping us to develop the strength to face feelings like fear or anxiety.
“I loved how matter-of-fact this book was, and how it delivered some of the hard realities that make a reader wake up and realize the futility of sweating the small stuff,” says Erica Alter, LMSW, a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy in New York.
More than 75,000 Amazon reviewers seem to agree, lending The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK a 4.6-star rating. Among those readers, Aria Ursa called out how the book offers “a much-needed reminder to choose your battles wisely,” which helped her learn to “let negativity wash over me now without letting it absorb into my soul, and my life has been much more enjoyable as a result.”
The Body: A Guide for Occupants
Bill Bryson’s book, The Body: A Guide for Occupants, is like a love poem to the human body, marveling at the million and one different jobs it performs—and that we all too often take for granted. Deeply researched but fully engaging, the book’s fun facts and captivating anecdotes encourage a sense of wonder among its nearly 14,000 reviewers (who offer up an average 4.7-star rating).
What’s more: it’s a super fun read. Bryson answers nearly any question you’ve ever wondered about the body, reader Angie Boyter reflected. “Let me give you one caution: it might be best to read this book when you are alone because otherwise, you will annoy your family members, whom you will interrupt VERY frequently because you MUST share the latest fascinating and/or funny tidbit with them.”
From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life
Written by bestselling author, Harvard professor and The Atlantic’s happiness columnist Arthur Brooks, From Strength to Strength sets out to help you understand that happiness isn’t just a young man’s game. With nearly 2,000 Amazon reviews since its early 2022 release, this is a message that’s clicking for many readers.
Brooks uses social science, philosophy, biography, theology, Eastern wisdom and interviews with dozens of people to outline a roadmap to happiness after 50. He reframes the idea that aging limits our abilities, and instead suggests that it’s an opportunity for progress.
A. Dix’s five-star review reads, “As an executive coach, I am always on the lookout for accessible resources to help my clients growth. This book is now my top recommendation for anyone over 40. It explains my own encore career choice as well as the many personal struggles I am experienced in my transition from achievement orientation to satisfaction, service, and gratitude. Well researched and highly readable.”
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
The Boys in the Boat is a true story about a young rowing team occurs during the turbulent years between the Great Depression and World War II. From within this setting, the book builds an inspirational message of perseverance, fortitude, and hard work—and how it all relies on strength from within.
“This book is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster,” reviewer Katie Nana said, calling the story both heartbreaking and uplifting as the young men overcome tremendous loss and hardship. But it’s a tale of true grit, and according to almost 30,000 other reviewers rating the book at 4.8 stars, it’s tough to press pause on the narrative.
Keep Sharp: How to Build a Better Brain at Any Age
Keep Sharp is a practical guidebook must-have for anyone who wants to take ownership of their own aging. Dr. Sanjay Gupta quashes outdated myths and misconceptions about the aging mind, offering actionable—and research-backed—advice to ensure long-lasting wit, intellect, and brainpower alike.
The book doesn’t just present you with the research, either. It weaves these lessons into a workable routine of realistic, healthy habits while describing why these behaviors are valuable to long-term health. “This book is a good roadmap for being our best now and mitigating future challenges that a good portion of us will face as we move through the faces of life,” wrote Christopher Sheridan, one of more than 10,000 readers who rate the book 4.7 stars.
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
“I loved how You Are a Badass was motivating and gave real, tactical tools for recognizing your worth—and communicating it to others around you,” Alter says. The biggest lesson she took away from the book? “You set your own frequency, so set it high, and others will meet you here.”
That message is what makes You Are a Badass such a stellar read for anyone—but it’s particularly powerful for those struggling with imposter syndrome, making a career change (or feeling stuck in their current job), or striving to become an entrepreneur. In fact, many of the 35,000 reviewers on Amazon describe how the book helped them navigate crossroads in work and personal lives alike. “Every day when my alarm went off, or while I was driving to work, there was this overwhelming sense of dread,” noted reader Guy. He added that this book helped him through some much-needed self-evaluation that spurred the changes he needed to make in his life.
This memoir extols the virtues of living bravely by trusting in your own instincts. Untamed is written so that it doesn’t read as a raw journal entry focused on despair and without hope, Kaufman says. “Still, [author Glennon Doyle] gives us her authentic emotions and true experience, making this book approachable and relatable even if we haven’t gone through the exact same thing.” This accessible storytelling rings true for more than 52,000 reviewers who rate the book at an average of 4.6-stars.
Just ask reader Serina Hertel, who struggled with loneliness, fatigue, homesickness, and anxiety as a traveling nurse practitioner during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Enter Untamed: the one thing keeping me going during this whole thing,” she wrote. “Glennon’s words and stories have been a balm for my soul. A battle cry. Permission to feel all my feelings about my current situation and about my life in general. Inspiration to keep going even when I am tired and anxious because nursing is what I’m here for.”
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Myth-busting the idea that only raw talent succeeds, Grit Angela Duckworth develops the concept of “grit” in her 4.6-star, 12,000 reader-approved book of the same name. Through well-crafted storytelling, we learn that grit is made—not born—by combining elements like passion, persistence, modesty, and self-control, all factors within our individual control.
“[The author’s] interviews and general research have found that people who are very successful in their careers didn’t simply find their passion from one incident,” writes reader Jarin Jove. Instead, they build a mindset revolving around these gritty character traits—and, as the book explains, you can, too.
Feeling inspired? Read up on the six happiness books mental health experts swear by.
How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Your Self
Dr. Nicole LePera’s How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Your Self offers a “manifesto” to heal yourself from past hurt, and build a more joyful life for yourself. Dr. LePera tackles childhood trauma and adverse experiences, teaching her readers how to unlearn the unhealthy patterns and destructive behaviors they’ve developed.
Known as “The Holistic Psychologist” on Instagram with over five million followers, Dr. LePera’s uniquely accessible insights resonate meaningfully for her followers. One of more than 10,000 reviewers, Jaclyn, said in their five-star review, “I just spent 60 seconds hugging this book and taking deep belly breaths in honor of the monumental change The Holistic Psychologist’s Instagram account has already made in my existence. I’m half way through the Audible version so I can tell you this much: If you are looking up reviews for this book you’re ready. And we are all here for you. Thank you, Dr. Nicole.”
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book
A classic self-help tome for over 20 years, its recent appearance on the New York Times bestseller list demonstrates The Four Agreements is still connecting with audiences today. In it, Don Miguel Ruiz shares wisdom of the Toltec, an Indigenous civilization that thrived in Mexico before the Aztecs, to help people break down self-limiting beliefs to truly set themselves free.
The age-old wisdom of the Toltec is still ringing true for many people today. One of more than 80,000 reviewers, Nick, wrote in their five-star review, “The wisdom in this book has completely transformed my life, more than anything thing else I’ve ever read or meditated on. This is not hyperbole. … As I started to unpack what I was learning, I cried some good tears. This happened over and over, like the wounds in my soul were beginning to heal. They were healing through my active attention and I learned how to speak to myself without being judgmental. I thought I already knew how to do this through meditation and therapy, but this book uncovers something for me that I just can’t explain.”
The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream
The Alchemist is a modern classic, inspiring readers into self-discovery and teaching the importance of listening to your heart. It tells the story of a shepherd boy, Santiago, as he chases his dream of traveling the world in search of treasure. He travels from his homeland in Spain to the pyramids of Egypt, learning about the transformative power of his dreams along the way.
Though it may sound more fantasy than wellness, The Alchemist is an age-old fable with a powerful message. Five-star reviewer Kayleen, one of 88,000 reviewers, wrote, “To put it simply, this book changed my life. The author is overtly religious, and even though I am not, I admire the messages of this story in my own way. I think that this book would have had a profound influence on me no matter what state (good or bad) my life was in when I read it, and I would recommend it to anyone. There were many parts that I read over two or three times—not because I didn’t understand, but I was so amazed that I found myself wanting to experience a passage again.”
Meditations: A New Translation
The ancient Meditations of Marcus Aurelius have been supporting spiritual exercise and thoughtful reflection for centuries. This 2003 translation breathes a new life into them, sharing Aurelius’ powerful insights in clear, concise language.
His teachings are still profoundly relevant today; today, his words of wisdom would not be out of place in an inspirational meme on someone’s Instagram story. In their five-star review, K. Carter says “profound” doesn’t even do it justice. “You can open this masterpiece to any random page, read just ONE passage, and realize something incredible which may be contemplated for hours, days, weeks or years,” they wrote. “One sentence may alter the way you think and act – even something you may have read previously can come into a new focus on subsequent reading. The depth of observation and thoughts brought to bear in these pages can make you feel simultaneously meaningless and infinite. It is crazy! If another example exists where so much meaning can be gleaned from so few words, I do not know it.
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- Sarah Kaufman, LMSW, a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy
- Sally Twellman, RD, a nutritional therapist with Heading Health
- Jennifer Weaver, LMHC, psychotherapist at JL Weaver & Associates
- Stephanie Stathas, MS, LPC, NCC, CIT at Thriveworks in Reading, PA
- Erica Alter, LMSW, a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy
- McKinsey: "Feeling good: The future of the $1.5 trillion wellness market."
- SAGE Open: "Does Modality Matter? The Effects of Reading, Listening, and Dual Modality on Comprehension."