The Best New Wellness Books Hitting Shelves In January
Welcome to SHAPE's monthly book club, where we round up this month's must-reads across wellness, nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness.
Ancient Babylonians supposedly invented New Year's Resolutions, which means people have been making them for the past 4,000 years. Sure, you could sign up for a new workout plan or take on a reading challenge, but you could also commit to some real soul-searching that might be harder to quantify. For some, the pandemic has offered time and space for dealing with insecurities, embracing flaws, and finding new ways to stay connected to loved ones — and many of these new habits are worth carrying into 2021. This month, five new nonfiction books offer strategies for boosting your confidence, keeping anxiety at bay, and making time for the things that truly matter. Scroll on for inspiration and new reads to start your new year right.
Every Body by Julia Rothman and Shaina Feinberg
Little Brown, Jan. 5
Julia Rothman signed her book deal right after a breakup, and on first dates, she would mention that she was compiling sex stories to be published anonymously in a book. Men would let her to take out her tape recorder on the spot and proceed to tell her all about their threesomes, penis issues, and fetishes. (Talk about getting to know someone.) She also received hundreds of submissions through social media, representing men, women, and nonbinary people from all over the globe. Rothman and her co-writer Shaina Feinberg then set up a booth in parks around New York City and New Orleans, collecting even more stories in person.
The product of all this research is a compendium of real stories about first times, STIs, porn, sex toys, pregnancy, and abortion, among many other topics, sharing an honest (and often messy) take on sex and dating in the digital age. Aside from the anonymous stories, the authors also include essays by writers such as Fariha Róisín (author of Like a Bird and How to Cure a Ghost) and interviews with sex educators such as Betty Dodson. Ambitious and progressive, Every Body is a thoughtful and well-rounded addition to anyone's sex ed shelf.
Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price, Ph.D.
Atria, Jan. 5
For years while working towards a doctorate in applied social psychology, Devon Price, Ph.D., balanced professional success, creative output, and transgender activism "without letting anyone down." They would hopscotch from one obligation to the next thinking their lack of energy made them "lazy." Spoiler: they weren't lazy, they were burned out. Even though they followed society's script for being "virtuous" and respected, they felt tired, overwhelmed, and disappointed with their performance. "I learned at an early age to tie my self-worth to how productive I was," Price writes, detailing their working-class childhood in Appalachia. "This pressure to achieve my way into stability caused me significant anxiety, but the alternative struck me as far worse." (Related: How to Avoid the Burnout You Might Be Heading for)
In 2014, Price came down with a mysterious illness that plagued them for over a year, a flu-like sickness that came with a heart murmur and severe anemia. (To this day, they don't know what it was.) After resting — doing absolutely nothing for two months — Price's energy returned and the symptoms disappeared. As they continued making time for rest and relaxation, they realized that their hyper-productivity was part of a bigger social problem in America they call the "Laziness Lie": the idea that work is the center of life and anyone who isn't accomplished and driven is worthless.
Using examples from social psychology research, interviews, and their own life, Price argues that there's real value in quiet time, and that working less can actually make you more creative, effective, and content.
Social Chemistry by Marissa King
Dutton, Jan., 5
When most people think about social networks, they often think of platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. But the truth is, social networks are all around you IRL, too. You probably have two to five people in your innermost circle, 15 people you feel emotionally close to, 50 friends you'd invite to a barbecue, 150 casual friends, and between 450 and 600 acquaintances. (If not, that's okay, too. Probably better, TBH...but more on that in sec.) After decades of research as an executive trainer for Fortune 500 companies and professor at Yale, Marissa King, Ph.D., argues that it's the quality of relationships that leads to happiness and stability, not the quantity.
In Social Chemistry, King examines the different types of social networks you may form (depending on whether you're an Expansionist, Broker, or Convener), and offers key insight about how to make the most of your relationships once you understand what type of network you've built. She also goes deep into the loneliness epidemic and offers some insights that can be used to counteract feelings of loneliness during these uncertain times (i.e. ongoing global pandemic).
Now that so many relationships are filtered through the internet in new ways, real-life relationships are more important than ever, and King offers a blueprint for making every connection count.
Ladies Get Paid by Claire Wasserman
Gallery Books, Jan. 12
After a friend lamented to Claire Wasserman that her male competitor was making twice as much money for the same amount of work, Wasserman took it upon herself to start a group helping women organize around wage transparency, advocate for their worth, and ultimately close the wage gap. During its first year, Ladies Get Paid hosted 250 town halls in 19 cities, where thousands of women shared stories about money, power, work, and self-worth; now the brand has 120,000 followers on Instagram and an open Slack group (think: the ultimate professional group chat) that quadrupled in size during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her first book, Wasserman shares nine stories of Ladies Get Paid members who struggled to find fulfilling work, overcome perfectionism, build a lasting network, or negotiate a new job. She also shares case studies on women who have attended Ladies Get Paid events (like her college friend Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez), and breaks down topics like "how to take critical feedback" and "how to stop yourself from overworking" into bulleted lists and pro-con charts.
Ladies Get Paid presents research on women's disadvantages in the workplace and strategies for advocating for yourself in a clear, direct way; it's essential for any woman looking to level up or find a new job.
Chatter by Ethan Kross
Crown, Jan. 26
You know that voice in your head? Turns out, it's way more important than you think. The little voice that narrates your thoughts — which University of Michigan psychology professor Ethan Kross, Ph.D., calls "chatter" — is responsible for your happiness, dreams, and yes, anxiety. As a result, this silent narration can become a powerful tool for building confidence, forming new habits, and keeping anxiety at bay.
Kross's work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and he's also participated in Obama-era White House policy discussions (um, NBD). In Chatter, he references his own research on the conscious mind (aka everything inside your awareness) along with studies by psychologists like Andrew Irving, Bernard Rimé, and Aaron Beck. He also uses real life stories about celebrities like Fred Rogers, Malala Yousafzai, LeBron James, a pitcher who totally forgot how to throw a baseball, and a Harvard student living a double life as a spy, among others, to show the research in action.
It's totally healthy to talk to yourself, and Chatter teaches you how to use those conversations to your advantage.