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8 New Books Every Healthy Woman Should Read
From celebrating Aunt Flo, to chronicling the adventures of everyday marathoners, these boldly provocative reads will keep you turning pages and discovering wisdom to apply to your own health and fitness journey.
Google “women’s health” and you will get no fewer than 7.6 billion (yes, billion) hits. There is an excess of info out there on how to optimize your wellbeing. But with so much to choose from, it’s hard to know what to read and what to skip. We’ve done the dirty work for you, combing the shelves of this year’s women’s health books to find the ones you need to dig into right now.
The book: Becoming Boston Strong: One Woman’s Race to Run and Conquer the World’s Greatest Marathon by Amy Noelle Roe
The 411: It took reporter Amy Noelle Roe 11 marathons to qualify for Boston—and in her second Boston race, the infamous bombs blasted just after she crossed the finish line. With this as a backdrop, Roe tells the story of becoming a runner at 31 (prompted by losing a job and looking for purpose), her first half-marathon (“I don’t want to run with these people; I want to run away from them”) and suffering an injury before finally fulfilling her Boston Marathon dream.
Why you’ll love it: Roe recounts the evolution of her fairly ordinary running career with the flair of a gifted storyteller, weaving in her personal life, transporting details and self-deprecating anecdotes.
The book: Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink by Nita Sweeney
The 411: Anyone who has faced depression or struggled with motivation will see themselves in Nita Sweeney, a self-proclaimed couch potato who starts her unlikely journey to becoming a marathoner by slipping on sneakers, leashing up her doggo and jogging with him just 60 seconds at a time. Humble and refreshingly honest, Sweeney documents her incremental accomplishments and setbacks while weaving in a personal narrative of loss, insecurity and breakthrough.
Why you’ll love it: Like sitting across from an old friend over coffee, Sweeney’s memoir is the gentle nudge we all need now and again to get off our ass and start moving.
The book: Period. by Emma Barnett
The 411: Journalist Emma Barnett seeks to smash taboos surrounding That Time of the Month with a compelling compilation of stories—some sweet (Barnett’s mom excitedly served her congratulatory hot chocolate the day her first period arrived) others mortifying (one woman stole a man’s sheets from his bed after bloodying them during sex, only to have the NYPD find the stained bedding during a random bag search at the subway station). Harder-hitting topics include infertility and workplace inequality, all approached directly and sincerely.
Why you’ll love it: Arguing with wit, candor and irreverence that periods should be celebrated and openly discussed, the book is an entertaining, revealing and freeing take on Aunt Flo.
The 411: Icelandic athlete Katrin Davidsdottir begins her story of twice earning the title of Fittest Woman on Earth in an unlikely place: Failing to even reach the podium on her third attempt to win the CrossFit Games. “Failure has been the key ingredient to my success in sports and in life,” she says. The book details Davidsdottir’s upbringing and family relationships, but it really shines when she recounts her bids to win the championship, revealing the mental and physical stamina required to train for CrossFit at the highest level.
Why you’ll love it: The memoir offers a fascinating look into the mind of an elite athlete, describing the hard work, passion and resilience it takes to compete among the best.
The book: The Vagina Bible by Jen Gunter, M.D.
The 411: Did you know the clitoris is the only structure in the human body designed solely for pleasure? How about that female arousal often comes before desire? Drawing on nearly 30 years of experience as an obstetrician-gynecologist, Dr. Jen Gunter aims to separate myth from medicine in her second book. Tackling topics from jade eggs to thong underwear, Gunter triumphantly arms readers with empowering knowledge in her clear, unblinking “vagenda.”
Why you’ll love it: Part owner’s manual and part textbook, this book covers intimate topics with a dry sense of humor. You’ll crack a smile when, five sentences in, Gunter quips, “The penis and scrotum have nothing on the vulva.”
The book: Healthy as F*ck: The Habits You Need to Get Lean, Stay Healthy, and Kick Ass at Life by Oonagh Duncan
The 411: Dieting is bullsh*t and unsustainable, according to popular fitness expert and trainer Oonagh Duncan, who makes the case (in explicit language) for what really works: Finding your why, making small lifestyle changes and fundamentally rethinking your habits. She outlines her “7 Habits of Highly Healthy Motherf*ckers,” including no. 1: Fill half of every plate with vegetables, no. 2: Go the f*ck to sleep and no. 7: Exercise consistently.
Why you’ll love it: Duncan wants you to get your sh*t together and start giving some f*cks about your health and wellness—and her no-excuses approach is motivating. The book isn’t breaking any news, but its fresh, funny format makes real change feel attainable.
The book: This Is Your Brain on Birth Control: The Surprising Science of Women, Hormones, and the Law of Unintended Consequences by Sarah E. Hill, Ph.D.
The 411: Ready to fall down a rabbit hole of weird science? Clever, balanced and razor-sharp, evolutionary social psychologist and professor Sarah E. Hill presents copious research findings that may just turn your understanding of the pill, sexual attraction and the function of hormones on its head. While showing how birth control has opened up historic levels of achievement for women, Hill also details the unexpected effects it can have on women’s decisions and emotions.
Why you’ll love it: Advocating for more informed choices, Hill starts an important conversation about modern women’s brains, bodies and behavior—both on and off the pill.
The 411: In her eye-opening debut book, Gabrielle Jackson explores 10 chronic pain conditions that overwhelmingly affect women and are often misdiagnosed, minimized or ignored. Along the way, she provides a basic anatomy lesson (fewer than a third of women are able to correctly identify the six parts of the female reproductive system) and offers an in-depth look at the history of hysteria (once an actual diagnosis that still pervades modern thinking). Her convincing message: The medical community must improve its knowledge of women’s bodies if it is to truly provide the services we need.
Why you’ll love it: A primer about the history of women’s pain, Jackson’s book will anger and frustrate you, while providing reassurance that women’s chronic pain is real and there is hope.
Don’t just read about it, get out there and live it. Pack your favorite book along with your workout gear in this classic backpack that’s just at home in the gym as it is on the street.