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A New York Times Bestseller
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2020
Named a Best Book of 2020 by NPR
“A fascinating scientific, cultural, spiritual and evolutionary history of the way humans breathe—and how we’ve all been doing it wrong for a long, long time.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic and Eat Pray Love
No matter what you eat, how much you exercise, how skinny or young or wise you are, none of it matters if you’re not breathing properly.
There is nothing more essential to our health and well-being than breathing: take air in, let it out, repeat twenty-five thousand times a day. Yet, as a species, humans have lost the ability to breathe correctly, with grave consequences.
Journalist James Nestor travels the world to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. The answers aren’t found in pulmonology labs, as we might expect, but in the muddy digs of ancient burial sites, secret Soviet facilities, New Jersey choir schools, and the smoggy streets of São Paulo. Nestor tracks down men and women exploring the hidden science behind ancient breathing practices like Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya, and Tummo and teams up with pulmonary tinkerers to scientifically test long-held beliefs about how we breathe.
Modern research is showing us that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jump-start athletic performance; rejuvenate internal organs; halt snoring, asthma, and autoimmune disease; and even straighten scoliotic spines. None of this should be possible, and yet it is.
Drawing on thousands of years of medical texts and recent cutting-edge studies in pulmonology, psychology, biochemistry, and human physiology, Breath turns the conventional wisdom of what we thought we knew about our most basic biological function on its head. You will never breathe the same again.
James Nestor is an author and journalist who has written for Scientific American, Outside, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and more. His latest book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, was an instant New York Times and London Sunday Times bestseller and will be translated into more than 35 languages. Breath was awarded the Best General Nonfiction Book of 2020 by the American Society of Journalists and Authors and was a Finalist for Best Science Book of 2021 by the Royal Society. Nestor’s first book, Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves, was a Finalist for the 2014 PEN/ESPN Award For Literary Sports Writing and an Amazon Best Science Book of 2014. Nestor has presented his work at Stanford Medical School, the United Nations, and on radio and television shows including Fresh Air with Terry Gross, ABC’s Nightline, CBS Morning News, and dozens of NPR programs. He lives and breathes in San Francisco.