We’d all like to feel our best, but most of us have to compromise. We can aim to age gracefully, but we can’t stave off decline entirely. We can take steps to stay trim, but for most of us, acquiring a movie star’s or pro athlete’s physique is only going to come from tremendous effort and deprivation.

This season’s health titles touch on myriad topics—aging, weight loss, addiction, problematic carbs—in a spirit of pragmatism and understanding. They include books on the science of getting older, guides to weight loss and fitness that prize realistic goals over outlandish ones, and a memoir that explores, with sometimes discomfiting nuance, the subject of substance dependence.

Such measured takes on health issues offer readers not quick fixes, but, rather, sustainable approaches to feeling more comfortable in their minds and bodies.

Daniel Lefferts is a writer in New York City.

Below, more on the subject of health and fitness books.

The New Old

A 2016 Census Bureau report puts numbers to something that many people have intuited already: the United States is getting older.

Healthy Enough

The diet and fitness shelves are lined with promises. A reader perusing them could be excused for thinking that he or she can lose a toddler’s worth of weight in 30 days or have a tortoiseshell-hard abdomen in a matter of weeks. But these claims don’t always line up with reality.

Creativity in Recovery

Leslie Jamison's new book, 'The Recovering' (Little, Brown, Apr. 2018), documents her years-long struggle with alcohol addiction and meditates on how others, especially fellow writers, have navigated dependence.


For people on low-FODMAP diets, it’s probably hard enough to steer clear of ill-tolerated foods—fruits, milk, broccoli, avocados—without trying to pronounce “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.”

Austerity Measures

In 'The Economists’ Diet' (Touchstone, Jan. 2018), Rob Barnett and Christopher Payne present a guide to weight loss that reimagines food as “supply” and hunger as “scarcity,” gustatory restraint as “austerity” and careful eating as “budgeting.”