What to read on World Health Day

Books on the heart, the human microbiome, and the secret to longevity for World Health Day

This year to mark World Health Day, we are sharing books that discuss many aspects of health—like mental wellness, physical health, and the healthcare systems that aid (and sadly, oftentimes, fail) us. Read on to explore just some of our recent books on health and wellness, and sign up for our newsletter to hear more updates from the Press.

The Biology of Kindness: Six Daily Choices for Health, Well-Being, and Longevity by Immaculata De Vivo and Daniel Lumera

The science is in: being good is actually good for you. In this bracingly original book, The Biology of Kindness—the first in a trilogy on the topic of daily wellness—the science of mindfulness and the findings of biology come together to show how kindness and optimism improve overall well-being in profound, organic, and demonstrable ways. Daniel Lumera, an expert in meditation and mindfulness, and Immaculata De Vivo, a preeminent researcher in molecular epidemiology, outline a revolutionary approach to health, longevity, and quality of life—and explain the scientific evidence that supports their work.

“The world desperately needs this book right now. As we risk losing our moral compass, De Vivo and Lumera muster hard scientific evidence for the guiding principles that will help us survive and thrive.” —Robert J. Waldinger, Harvard Medical School; coauthor of The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness

Rebel Health: A Field Guide to the Patient-Led Revolution in Medical Care by Susannah Fox

Anyone who has fallen off the conveyer belt of mainstream health care and into the shadowy corners of illness knows what a dark place it is to land. Where is the infrastructure, the information, the guidance? What should you do next? In Rebel Health, Susannah Fox draws on twenty years of tracking the expert networks of patients, survivors, and caregivers who have come of age between the cracks of the health care system to offer a way forward. Covering everything from diabetes to ALS to Moebius Syndrome to chronic disease management, Fox taps into the wisdom of these individuals, learns their ways, and fuels the rebel alliance that is building up our collective capacity for better health.

Rebel Health is a crucial look at how patient communities can make the difference when the medical field ignores their concerns.” —Andy Slavitt, Town Hall Ventures; author of Preventable

The Exquisite Machine: The New Science of the Heart by Sian E. Harding

Your heart is a miracle in motion, a marvel of construction unsurpassed by any human-made creation. It beats 100,000 times every day—if you were to live to 100, that would be more than 3 billion beats across your lifespan. Despite decades of effort in labs all over the world, we have not yet been able to replicate the heart’s perfect engineering. But, as Sian Harding shows us in The Exquisite Machine, new scientific developments are opening up the mysteries of the heart. And this explosion of new science—ultrafast imaging, gene editing, stem cells, artificial intelligence, and advanced sub-light microscopy—has crucial, real-world consequences for health and well-being.

“How the heart works, how it fails and what can be done about it. A remarkable read from a world renowned researcher.” —Stephen Westaby, author of the Sunday Times bestsellers Fragile Lives and The Knife’s Edge

Gut Feelings: The Microbiome and Our Health by Alessio Fasano and Susie Flaherty

We are at the dawn of a new scientific revolution. Our understanding of how to treat and prevent diseases has been transformed by knowledge of the microbiome—the rich ecosystem of microorganisms in and on every human. These microbial hitchhikers may hold the keys to human health. In Gut Feelings, Alessio Fasano and Susie Flaherty show why we must go beyond the older, myopic view of microorganisms as our enemies to a broader understanding of the microbiome as a parallel civilization that we need to understand, respect, and engage with for the benefit of our own health.

Gut Feelings reveals how understanding this alien inner world will make it possible to target medicines to an individual’s needs at the molecular level.” —New Scientist

Methuselah's Zoo

Methuselah’s Zoo: What Nature Can Teach Us about Living Longer, Healthier Lives by Steven N. Austad

Opossums in the wild don’t make it to the age of three; our pet cats can live for a decade and a half; cicadas live for seventeen years (spending most of them underground). Whales, however, can live for two centuries and tubeworms for several millennia. Meanwhile, human life expectancy tops out around the mid-eighties, with some outliers living past 100 or even 110. Is there anything humans can learn from the exceptional longevity of some animals in the wild? In Methuselah’s Zoo, Steven Austad tells the stories of some extraordinary animals, considering why, for example, animal species that fly live longer than earthbound species and why animals found in the ocean live longest of all.

“Brilliantly insightful and wonderfully hopeful!” —Emma Teeling, University College Dublin

The Human Disease: How We Create Pandemics, from Our Bodies to Our Beliefs by Sabrina Sholts

The COVID-19 pandemic won’t be our last—because what makes us vulnerable to pandemics also makes us human. That is the uncomfortable but all-too-timely message of The Human Disease, which travels through history and around the globe to examine how and why pandemics are an inescapable threat of our own making. Drawing on dozens of disciplines—from medicine, epidemiology, and microbiology to anthropology, sociology, ecology, and neuroscience—as well as a unique expertise in public education about pandemic risks, biological anthropologist Sabrina Sholts identifies the human traits and tendencies that double as pandemic liabilities, from the anatomy that defines us to the misperceptions that divide us.

Crowded Out: The True Costs of Crowdfunding Healthcare by Nora Kenworthy

Over the past decade, charitable crowdfunding has exploded in popularity across the globe. Sites such as GoFundMe, which now boasts a “global community of over 100 million” users, have transformed the ways we seek and offer help. When faced with crises—particularly medical ones—Americans are turning to online platforms that promise to connect them to the charity of the crowd. What does this new phenomenon reveal about the changing ways we seek and provide health care? In Crowded Out, Nora Kenworthy examines how charitable crowdfunding so quickly overtook public life, where it is taking us, and who gets left behind by this new platformed economy.

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