Speaking volumes

Every January the bookshop shelves are piled high with health and fitness books, all promising to shed those pounds, tone your body and change your life. But how can you bypass the hype and find the ones that really work? Here, Tania Alexander picks the top 10 inspirational books for body and mind...

Time for a clear-out
'The Declutter Workbook', by Mary Lambert, CICO Books, £10.99

If your home is getting overrun by junk but you don't have the energy to clear it, this new book by decluttering expert Mary Lambert could be invaluable. It contains 101 steps to transform your life by decluttering every area of your home and garden. There are even steps for clearing out unwanted emotions. The book is an easy read with lots of short, timed projects. Then you've just got to find somewhere to keep all these new books.

Life-saving advice
'First Aid Manual', Dorling Kindersley, £11.99

This is a reassuring book to keep alongside that first-aid kit on the kitchen shelf. The authorised manual of St John Ambulance, St Andrew's Ambulance Association and the British Red Cross, it provides essential information to help you cope whatever the emergency. Everything is clearly explained with information on basic techniques and equipment as well as life-saving procedures so you'll always know what to do.

Spa trek
'Great Spa Escapes', by Jo Foley, Dakini, £19.95, www.dakinibooks.com

If you are feeling jaded and uninspired this month, leaf through this beautifully photographed book. It covers a selection of the best and most glamorous spas around the world and also has a glossary of treatments. You can even wallow in the bath and enjoy reading this, as it has a rubberized cover.

Meditate on this
'Yoga Mind & Body', Dorling Kindersley, DK Living, £9.99

There are many - perhaps too many - yoga books on the market. This one, from the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, was first published in the UK in 1996 and is still one of the best for beginners with everything explained clearly and precisely. It covers the 12 basic asanas (yogic postures) with easy-to-follow annotated photographs to check you are doing them correctly. It also explains the physical, mental and pranic (vital energy) benefits of each pose. There are also sections on yogic breathing, relaxation, vegetarian diet, positive thinking and meditation.

Do a runner
'The Art of Running: With the Alexander Technique', by Malcolm Balk and Andrew Shields, Ashgrove, £9.99, www.theartofrunning.com

Running is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy, yet for many people the art of doing it painlessly still eludes them. This book can completely change your attitude and turn the whole activity into an enjoyable, rather than punishing, experience. Based on the principles of the Alexander Technique, which encourage good use of the body and greater awareness of the way it functions, it makes interesting reading for any frustrated runner.

Food for thought
'The Optimum Nutrition Bible', by Patrick Holford, Piatkus, £12.99

Diet books come and go and many are very faddy. This one was first published in 1997 but is still invaluable. It explains what a well-balanced diet really means, has sections on boosting your immune system, skin health, energy, intelligence and memory. It also includes questionnaires to discover exactly which nutrients to supplement, as well as a step-by-step plan to create your own personal supplement programme.

This sporting life
'Sports Injuries and Illnesses', by Bob O'Connor, Richard Budgett, Christine Wells and Jerry Lewis, Crowood Press, £14.99, www.crowood.com

Unfortunately, injury often goes part and parcel with exercise, particularly when you start taking it to a higher level. This book shows you how to treat and prevent common sports injuries. Although comprehensive, everything is well-explained with plenty of anatomical diagrams to help you understand what is going on in the body. There are also sections on over-training, the female athlete and nutrition.

Highly motivating
'Fitness For Life Manual', by Matt Roberts, Dorling Kindersley, £15.99

There is no denying that Roberts, personal trainer to the stars, knows his stuff when it comes to fitness. This book features 20 programmes for men and women, including a three-week detox, women's upper-body tone-up, men's general fitness, a park programme and training for a marathon. It's written in a motivating way with case histories of five individuals who each followed one of the programmes. The book includes over 90 flexibility, aerobic and resistance exercises for the gym, home and outdoors.

The big issues
'What About the Big Stuff?', by Richard Carlson, Hodder Mobius, £10

While some self-help books can be very heavy-going, this one is an interesting read and ideal for anyone who is going through a major crisis. It covers issues such as dealing with death, divorce, ageing, illness and even financial difficulties. What About the Big Stuff? is written in short digestible chapters, all of which provide nuggets of thought-provoking information that may help you to see things in a different light.

Life lessons
'Be Your Own Life Coach', by Fiona Harrold, Hodder Mobius, £6.99

If you have started the year feeling life is not what you would like it to be, this book may help turn things around. Leading life coach Fiona Harrold has lots of simple but powerful tips and exercises to motivate and inspire you. There are some interesting case histories and it's written in an easily accessible style. *

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