The best self-help and health books that health experts read in 2022

(Rey López/Styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)


The health and self-help sections of a bookstore can be difficult to navigate. How do you know which books to choose? What advice stands up? To help answer those questions, The Well-being+Being Desk asked best-selling authors and leading health experts to recommend their favorite nonfiction read of 2022. For this article, we take a broad view of what self-help means, as any book that makes you think differently on health and wellness can be a self-help book.

Most of the recommendations were published this year, but our list includes some older classics. What and healthauthor of “Upstream: the quest to solve problems before they happenhe says, “One of the great things about nonfiction self-help books is that they’re timeless.”

‘How Minds Change: The Amazing Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion’

Author: David McCraney (buy it here)

Recommended by: adam grantauthor of “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

Because he likes me: “This book inspired me to rethink my assumptions about how to motivate others to rethink theirs. In an age where closed minds seem to be all around us, it’s a masterful analysis of what it takes to open them.”

‘Bittersweet: How Pain and Longing Make Us Whole’

Author: susana cain (buy it here)

Recommended by: susana davidauthor of “Emotional Agility: Letting go, embracing change, and thriving in work and life

Because he likes me: “In a world that often tries to force the bright side and positive thinking, this book refreshingly explores the truth of life: beauty and longing, joy and sadness are all our companions. Bittersweet brings out the power of strong emotions and guides us on how to understand them in a healthy and complete way.

‘Happiest Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Extend Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most’

Author: Cassie Holmesbuy it here)

Recommended by: katy milkman author of “How to change: the science of getting from where you are to where you want to be

Because he likes me: “’Happier Hour’ shares tips on how to think differently about your time to build a more fulfilling life, which is an incredibly important topic. I love this book because it is evidence-based, practically useful, and a joy to read. It has already changed my life for the better!”

‘What happened to you? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing’

Author: Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry (buy it here)

Recommended by: Tara Parker-PapaWell+Being editor and author of “For the Better: How the Amazing Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed

Because he likes me: “At a time when mental health services are hard to find, listening to this audiobook for just a few weeks can feel like 10 sessions with a therapist. This book will not only explain how trauma can shape who we are, but also its ongoing influence on our relationships and the decisions we make every day.”

‘The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully’

Author: Frank Ostaseski (buy it here)

Recommended by: lakeasha sullivanWell+Being Contributing Columnist and Clinical Psychologist

Because he likes me: “Death is the ultimate teacher, and suppressing thoughts about it robs us of invaluable opportunities to use it as a beacon for our lives. This book helps us bravely face the truth about our mortality, making everyday decisions easier because we can align them with our highest values.”

‘Ingredients: the strange chemistry of what we put in and on us’

Author: Jorge Zaidán (buy it here)

Recommended by: maria cockroachauthor of Fuzz: when nature breaks the laws

Because he likes me: “Zaidan guides readers through the hype and misunderstandings surrounding the word ‘natural.’ We learn what is safe and what is not, why it is safe, and how science reaches these conclusions. Plus, he’s the funniest science writer I know. He hated chemistry in high school, but I loved this book.”

‘What My Bones Know: A Healing Memory of Complex Trauma’

Author: Stephanie Foo (buy it here)

Recommended by: Sahaj Kaur KohliWashington Post advice columnist, mental health professional, and creator of brunette girl therapy

Because he likes me: “As a mental health professional, I love this book because it explores trauma from a cultural perspective. As the son of immigrants, I feel like I know Stephanie and by investing in her journey, I learn to invest in my own. While this book confronts heavy and difficult issues, it is ultimately hopeful.”

‘Normal Family: About Truth, Love and How I Met My 35 Siblings’

Author: Christa Bilton (buy it here)

Because he likes me: “It is an extraordinary memoir about identity, family secrets, the nature of love and forgiveness, and resilience that is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, redemptive and triumphant. I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I never stopped thinking about this story long after I finished it.”

‘The genetic lottery: why DNA is important for social equality’

Author: Kathryn Paige Harden (buy it here)

Because he likes me: “A provocative, and often brilliant, look at how the randomness of the genes we inherit affects the course of our lives, and why acknowledging this uncomfortable fact is essential to understanding who we are and how we can build a more just society.”

‘Stumbling into happiness’

Author: Daniel Gilbert (buy it here)

‘Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending’

Authors: Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton (buy it here)

Recommended by: and healthauthor of “Upstream: the quest to solve problems before they happen

Why you liked them: “Lately I’ve been thinking about how much these two books changed my life (for the better). I can track specific decisions about how to spend time and money, including which house to buy! — to the advice given by those books.”

‘The Mindful Path Through Depression: Breaking Free of Chronic Unhappiness’

Authors: Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn (buy it here)

Recommended by: richard simaBrain Matters columnist

Because he likes me: “This book got me through a difficult time in graduate school and is one I return to for guidance and wisdom. He offers practical advice and exercises on mindfulness based on science, which I think many will find useful and transformative as I did and continue to do.

‘Different: What apes can teach us about gender’

Author: Francis de Waal (buy it here)

Because he likes me: “This is a very timely book that bravely tackles some of the hottest political issues from an interesting scientific perspective.”

‘The Joy Choice: How to Finally Make Lasting Changes in Diet and Exercise’

Author: fresh michelle (buy it here)

Because he likes me: “Since the pandemic started, I’ve been reading mostly fiction, but I’ve gotten over this. It offers gentle, practical guidance on how to stop setting and then backtracking on ambitious exercise and eating goals and instead find the “perfect imperfect match” that motivates us to do something, anything, healthy right now. “We can find joy,” Segar writes, “in even the smallest push toward our biggest health goals.”

‘The mind and the moon: the story of my brother, the science of our brains and the search for our psyches’

Author: Daniel Berger (buy it here)

Recommended by: ethan crossauthor of “Chatter: the voice in our head, why it is important and how to take advantage of it

Because he likes me: “This is a beautifully written, deeply personal, and rigorously researched book that explores what we know about how the brain contributes to mental illness.”

‘Girls on the Brink: Helping our daughters thrive in an era of increased anxiety, depression and social media’

Author: Donna Jackson Nakazawabuy it here)

Recommended by: peggy orensteinauthor of “Boys and Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Pornography, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity

Because he likes me: “The The repercussions on our children’s mental health in recent years have been profound, which is why I find myself recommending this book to all my friends with daughters. It is invaluable not only for understanding girls’ vulnerabilities, but also for providing useful and actionable ways to build resilience and foster well-being.”

‘Strangers to Ourselves: Inquiring Minds and the Stories They Make Us’

Author: Rachel Aviv (buy it here)

Recommended by: Carlos Duhiggauthor of “The power of habit: why we do what we do in life and in business

“This book is not only beautifully written, with luminescent prose and vivid characters, but it is also stunningly original. It is about how we define mental illness and how those definitions come to dominate the experience of those who are ill and those who care about them. But it’s also about so much more: how the stories we tell ourselves can become dangerous, empowering, limiting, and liberating, and the skepticism we must bring to the stories we believe to be true.”


An earlier version of this story misspelled Ethan Kross’s name. This version has been corrected.

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