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12 Must-read books to transform your health & life!

"Investing in our health is the best investment we can make"

In July'22, I turned 43 years. My wife was asking me about the gift I wanted for my birthday. I thought long and hard but could not think of anything I wanted. Perhaps at 43, I stopped getting hedonic pleasure from worldly things.

I asked myself if I was happier in my 40s than in my 30s. The answer was yes. Why was the answer yes? One of the primary reasons was health! I was healthier and fitter in my 40s than in my 30s. I wanted to keep it that way. So I decided that the best gift I can give myself on my 43rd birthday was to by running 10 km or lift more than my body weight in squats. So, I did lift 75 Kg!

So, how could I stay fit at 40 and be in better shape than in my 30s? The answer definitely was discipline. But more than discipline, it was also knowledge on fitness, diet, sleep, exercises, and mental well-being. I acquired this knowledge from a few of the most wonderful books, I could read in the last few years.

I want to share a brief about these books so that all my friends and readers can get similar (or better) benefits.

Note: Please click on the Amazon links to get your copy of the book.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

I was a fit overweight person till March 2021. By fit, I mean that I could run half marathons in around 2h20m, but I had a beer belly and >30% fat in my body. I used to work out regularly and was in good physical shape. But that did not show on my body. Nobody believed me when I told them that I could run 21 km.

All that changed after I read this book.

This is a very powerful, insightful, and practical book on intermittent fasting. The book provides clinically proven and documented proof of why fasting is better for our overall health. We humans (and also animals) are used to fasting. When we were hunter-gatherers, we used to fast till we got something to eat. And then we used to feast. Fasting provides much-needed rest to our body's metabolism. The book introduces readers to the effects of fasting on blood glucose, HGS hormones, Autophagy and Ketosis. The book also provides various fasting techniques like OMAD (One-Meal-A-Day), 20-4, 18-6, 12-12, alternate-day fasting, and more.

This is a must-read book. If you are able to implement concepts of fasting in your life, then it will do wonders for your health. Please remember that fasting is not a diet, it's a way of life.

So finally after completing this book, I started intermittent fasting. The results were imminent. Within 3 months, I lost over 10 kgs and overall I lost around 16 Kgs. Finally, I started looking as if I too could run half marathons.

One cautionary note: Please check with your physician if you are suffering from diabetes, hypertension, or any other ailment. Also, as mentioned earlier, fasting has to be built into your lifestyle for a long-lasting effect.

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This is a fantastic book on how to live a long and healthy life. The book talks about the lifestyle diseases which are plaguing our world right now. And how these diseases can be prevented and also are reversed through certain types of foods and by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The book makes the following key points that are worth remembering:

  1. The rise in lifestyle diseases (diabetes, hypertension, heart problems, obesity, Alzheimer's, dementia) is on account of the exponential increase in consumption of processed foods (flours, oils, sugars, meat) and reduction in consumption of fibers, fruits, vegetables, and whole foods.

  2. Modern medical professionals are not taught about diet and its effects. They rather focus on symptoms and solving these symptoms through medicines.

  3. Most lifestyle diseases can be prevented and reserved by eating a plant-based whole-food diet, sleeping, and exercising.

  4. There are certain must-eat superfoods that we should keep in our diet. The author recommends a daily dozen list.

The best part about the book is the detailed research by the author on each aspect highlighted. Non-Vegetarians will not like this book. However, everyone should have ~70-80% plant-based whole foods in their diets for a long and healthy life.

P.S.: After reading this book and watching a few documentaries on Netflix, I have completely turned into a vegetarian. It has been 6 months and it has done wonders for my health. A separate blog on that later.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

It is plain genius in the way the titles of both books 2 and 3 were decided. How not to diet is in continuation of the previous book. The book takes the readers through all the possible diets available in the market and their efficacy, effectiveness, and long-term sustainability.

The main takeaways from the book are as follows:

  1. Most diets fail. over 99% of the people who lose weight due to diets gain it back within 3 years. People also gain more weight than they lost. It has happened to me as well.

  2. Weight loss is a multibillion-dollar industry. Most diets are unscientific, anecdotal, and very difficult to sustain.

  3. Diets can work only if they are converted into a lifestyle. Most diets cannot be converted into a lifestyle as they are harmful in the long run for the body. And most importantly our bodies will reject it.

  4. Eating lots of fiber, reducing sugars/processed foods, exercising regularly, and sleeping at least 7-8 hours a day is the best long-term strategy.

  5. Not all calories are the same - they differ by consumption time (morning vs night), by type of food (processed vs whole foods), by age, by physical & mental condition, and such. So calorie deficit diets don't work much.

  6. Eat low-calorie density foods e.g. vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole foods.

  7. Sleep is very crucial. Don't ignore it.

  8. Don't miss out on the water. At least 8-10 glasses per day.

In short, the book talks about following simple rules which we can sustain for the rest of our lives.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

Circadian comes from circa, meaning “around” (or approximately”), and diēm, meaning “day.” The book is about how our bodies are designed to follow a certain rhythm based on the sunrise and sunset pattern.

All our bodily functions like metabolism, cognition, and physiological processes follow a circadian rhythm. Even every organ in the body has a clock and works according to that clock. Disturbing this rhythm can wreak havoc on our system in the long run.

The author highlights the following pointers to living a healthy life.

  1. Follow a set routine in life e.g. sleeping, eating, exercising, working, etc. Try not to disturb this routine. If you fall off the track, try to come back to the routine.

  2. Importance of light - light is very important in the mornings and afternoons. However, after sunset, try to avoid blue lights. So that your body gets a signal to wind down.

  3. Sleep at least 7-8 hours at night. Don't drink alcohol before sleep. Do not eat heavy food for at least 3 hours before sleeping. Make your bedroom like a cave - cold, dark, and noise free.

  4. Exercise regularly and mostly in the mornings.

Living longer does not mean living healthier. Also, looking fit does not mean having a healthy body.

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This book is a complete handbook on sleep. It covers almost all the topics related to sleep. Sleep requirements, benefits, harmful effects (due to less sleep), the effect of alcohol/caffeine on sleep, sleep-related diseases, and even how society is ignorant of the need for sleep. Concepts like why adolescents should not wake up early and why the elderly should sleep early are really unique. The author brings his 25+ years of experience to this book.

Even though the book deals with a scientific topic like sleep, the author does not make it complex. The writing style is easy to read and understand. At times, the book tries too hard to explain a simple concept. The author is really passionate about sleep. He argues that sleep was a very important element in the evolution of Humans and is more important than fire/wheel.

I have seen people boasting about their ability to sleep less. They stress the fact that they sleep only for 3/5 hours and still are efficient, hardworking, and fit. I always had my doubts, but after reading this book, I am convinced that a persistent lack of sleep will lead to major problems. I advise these individuals to definitely read this book and sleep for at least 7-8 hours.

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10% Human is an extremely intriguing and insightful book. As the title depicts, only 10% of the genes in our body are our own. The rest 90% is due to external microbes which are living throughout our body. Especially our gut. From an evolutionary perspective, our body did not create genes required for all bodily functions. Hence it created a symbiotic relationship with the external microbes. We provide nutrition and a home to these microbes, while they provide us by helping us perform important activities like digestion and metabolism.

Our grandma used to tell us that all diseases begin in the gut. This book provides scientific evidence of the same. Diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, autoimmune diseases, allergies, diabetes, and autism are linked to our gut - or imbalance in the flora and fauna of our gut microbes.

The book provides a detailed explanation of the relationship between diseases the microbial imbalance in our system. Though the book is scientific in nature, the writing style is easy to understand and follows a storytelling method.

How to maintain a healthy gut microbiome?

  • Eat a lot of vegetables and fruits. As the microbes thrive on a rich plant-based diet.

  • Avoid antibiotics - as antibiotics act as a carpet bomb - killing good and bad microbes.

  • Avoid meat - most meat has a lot of antibiotics in them. See the above point.

  • Prebiotic and probiotic drinks don't work to improve your gut microbe population.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

Have you ever wondered:

  • Why is your weight loss plateaued?

  • The exercise or the diet not working anymore?

  • After losing weight, you have not just gained all the lost weight, you have gained some more!

  • What foods are good, bad, and ugly - carbs, fats, proteins?

This book tries to answer the above questions and much more. Bariatric surgeon Dr. Andrew Jenkinson writes this insightful book based on the experience (and frustration) of his patients, scientific studies, and common sense.

The main premise of this book is that our body gets a famine signal through certain foods or triggers, which results in the storage of fat in the body. Fat cells are extremely important organs of our body. They are the life savers in an event of a famine. a lot of animals (mostly mammals) go through a period of feast and famine every year. Certain foods are a sign of signaling the body that the feast is over and the famine is about to start - so store fat!

Some of the important triggers which signal our body for a famine (and hence fat storage) are:

  • Environmental factors - lifestyle, activity, type of foods

  • Sugars in the food

  • Dehydration and the effect of salt on dehydration

  • Antibiotics consumption

  • Calorie restriction - mostly through diets

  • Processed foods, and vegetable oils - the biggest killers

  • The role of stress (Cortisol) on obesity

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Imagine when a zebra - while grazing, spots a lion in African Savannas. The first reaction is fright, then the decision to fly. In the last desperate attempt, it will try to fight. The zebra experiences an instance of extreme stress. This stress signals certain body parts to work at full steam - like pumping blood through the heart, sending blood/energy to legs (to run), emptying the bladder and bowel (so that weight is reduced and helps in running faster), increasing blood flow to the brain (for faster decision making), etc.

At the same time, the body will also drop certain long-term projects on hold - like digestion, reproduction, liver and kidney functions, etc. So the body prioritizes short-term (flight/fight) processes over long-term growth processes.

Now imagine, that the zebra is under constant stress - without any lion situation. The above prioritization still happens. And that is dangerous!

We, humans, are zebras that are under constant stress. We are either thinking about the future or the past. We create imaginary stress on our body, which is harmful in the short and long run over our physical and mental well-being.

In this fascinating book, the author defines what stress is, the biology of stress, the effect of stress on our body, and how we overcome stress. This is a MUST-read book for all who are constantly worried about something or the other in their lives.

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Proteinaholic is a very powerful book by bariatric surgeon, Garth Davis. The author has seen numerous patients opting for bariatric surgery over the years. The author himself suffered due to weight issues in his younger years. The book puts across the following important pointers for the readers.

  1. Excessive marketing of protein as a micronutrient in recent years has led to the widespread consumption of protein in the population. This protein is mainly animal protein - meat and eggs and protein supplements.

  2. Humans do not need proteins in the quantities which are prescribed. E.g. there are numerous studies that emphasize that on average we need 1 gram of protein per kg of body weight i.e. if you weigh 75kgs, you need 75gms of protein. Most of these studies are funded by protein companies!

  3. As per highly reliable and long-term studies, protein requirement is much lower than what is marketed i.e. around 25-30 grams per day. Kids, pregnant women, and athletes may have higher requirements.

  4. Animal proteins are not safe due to high levels of antibiotics, sodium, and other harmful chemicals and microorganisms available in their bodies - due to the industrialization of meat. Please watch this documentary (Dominion) for more details.

The author tries to dissect a lot of famous studies on protein intake requirements, diets, and the supplement industry to prove his argument.

Personal Experience: I try to exercise (lift weights) almost 4 days a week. On 2 of these days (not alternate), I try to exercise my legs. Anyone working out on legs would know how painful the next 3-4 days would be. I used to take protein powder (25 grams) every day and chicken/eggs on all days. So that I can eat around 75 to 100 gms of protein every day. The average recovery time was 2-3 days. After I turned vegan, my recovery time improved to 1 day! So for me, moving to a plant-based diet and not focusing on a lot of protein - worked. I get all my protein from plants, legumes, daals, chhole, etc.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

Jay Shetty is a renowned speaker, author, and influencer. At the age of 18, he became a Buddhist monk. He lived monk life for a couple of years. He returned to normal life as he felt that the strict way of monk life is not his purpose in life. His purpose in life was to help bring monk-like balance to normal people's lives. This book discusses the following key topics.

  • Live life as per your own values. Values are guiding principles. Everyone has their own values which are defined by their environment and personal experiences. Values change over a period of time. In order to be content, one should not try to imitate the values of others.

  • The concept of attachment vs detachment. The attachment is expecting something to happen as per your expectations. While detachment is something happening in the best possible way. Attachment leads to unhappiness.

  • Pursue higher values like compassion, gratitude, service, and truthfulness which give purpose and meaning to our lives. Avoid lower values like greed, lust, anger, envy, and ego.

  • Use sound, smell, and sight to live a harmonious and peaceful life.

  • Spot, Stop and Swap: Spot negative feelings and understand when, where, and why they arise. Stop these feelings by identifying and fixing the root cause. Swap these negative feelings with something positive or productive. E.g. while driving to the office, you are having bad thoughts about how your manager will behave toward you may be totally non-productive. Identify the reason why and try to fix that. Also, in place of thinking about the future experience, try listening to books or music or just concentrating on the road. Suddenly the drive will become productive.

  • Fear is the result of an obsession with attachment and control. Attachment does not mean you don't own anything. It means that nothing owns you.

  • A practical monk-like routine that we can follow.

The book has similar easy-to-understand concepts which can actually help us be at least 10% happier than we are right now.

Another very good book on mindfulness and how to use this in our lives is: 10% HAPPIER: HOW I TAMED THE VOICE IN MY HEAD, REDUCED STRESS WITHOUT LOSING MY EDGE, AND FOUND SELF by Dan Harris

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

Peak is a powerful book based on a lot of research on how to improve athletic performance. The book is relevant for common people as well who want to be fit and healthy.

The book talks about a holistic approach to overall fitness, which includes: health, nutrition, training, recovery, and mindset.

The book talks about the following important points:

  1. Importance of sleep, digestion, gut microbes, and blood glucose

  2. Importance of nutrition on the overall performance

  3. Different types of fuels are required for various sports

  4. Focus on mindfulness, meditation, and stress management

According to me, this book is an overall culmination of all the major health-related books I have read in the last few years. As mentioned earlier, even though the book is written specifically for athletes, the concepts can be applied to all of us.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Audiobook)

Imagine that you have a servant at your home. The role of the servant is to feed you when you are hungry. Now imagine that you have 2 refrigerators in your home. One refrigerator is in the kitchen (for easy access to food) and the other is in the deep freezer (for food storage for long-term use).

The servant does not have access to the deep freezer and can access only the fridge in the kitchen. So whenever you are hungry, the servant will go and fetch food from the kitchen fridge only. If there is excess food in the kitchen fridge, the food gets stored in the deep freezer.

Whenever there is a shortage of food in the kitchen fridge, the servant will order more food (and not access the deep freezer). This way you will hardly get a chance to use the food in the deep freezer. Hence the deep freezer will keep on adding more and more food.

Something similar happens in our bodies as well.

  • The kitchen fridge is where glucose is stored in our cells and liver.

  • The deep freezer is for fat storage.

  • The servant is insulin.

Insulin if not regulated properly in our bodies can lead to type and type 2 diabetes. Insulin is also responsible for not using fat when we need and hence it becomes extremely difficult to lose or maintain weight.

The solution is intermittent fasting. Fasting reduces insulin in our bodies for an extended period of time. That in turn helps us burn fat as an energy source.

This is by far the best book on nutrition. The book talks about the following:

  1. Impact of insulin on our body

  2. foods and their effect on body insulin

  3. why fasting is useful for the long term

  4. types of fasting and their effects on the body

  5. exercise and its impact on the weight loss

  6. the famous calorie deficit myth. Calories in - calories out = weight gain or weight loss

This is a MUST-read book for everyone - even though you are not struggling with weight loss.

The books I have read have really helped me becoming more healthier than before.

Please DO NOT go by the popular social media fads like - keto diets, protein shakes, no-carb diets, etc. Please read the above books and form your own opinion. All the books are well-researched and written by experts.

I am sure after reading these books and applying their techniques, you will also be fitter, healthier, and happier in life.

Happy Reading!

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