There are a lot of life extension and longevity books published every year.

A. Lot.

And most of them?

Utter crap.

Pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo about “spiritual healing” and “natural remedies” and “ancient secrets” peddled by scammy TV doctors abounds on the shelves of bookstores the world-over.

Their smiling faces with too-white teeth and dead eyes shout too-good-to-be-true promises from garish book covers.

“Did YOU know that high doses of [melatonin/vitamin D/magnesium/vitamin C/insert the author’s favorite supplement of choice] acts as a miracle anti-aging drug and can also cure baldness and work as birth control?!”

(Ok, that last one I could believe).

best longevity books

The hard reality is 99% of these longevity books are premised on shaky science at best, and are outright promoting mistruths to sell dangerous health advice to vulnerable readers at worst.

So how can someone interested in the reality of life extension—the practical, sober, and evidenced-backed picture of what’s truly possible—separate the gold from the snake oil?

Well, you could painstakingly comb through all the hundreds of top-rated life extension books on Amazon, examining the claims, scientific credentials, and research-based data presented by the authors to find the ones that seem the most credible.

Or you could just let us do all that work for you.

Because that’s what we did, and we also went ahead and compiled our findings of the best anti-aging books into the list below for your convenience.

The best longevity books

I’ve broken up the life extension books below into two lists: one for books that are foundational for understanding the science and reasoning behind the life extension movement generally, and one for books that are especially relevant to longevity progress this year.

Both lists have their own selection criteria, and both are ordered alphabetically by the author’s last name.

Essential anti-aging books for any year

The foundational longevity books on this list were selected by the following criteria:

  • Pedigree of author(s): PhD or medical degree required
  • Average Goodreads ratings of at least 3.6
  • At least 500 Goodreads ratings
  • Must cite at least 1 peer-reviewed study within the Amazon preview length
  • Have a topical focus on actionable anti-aging therapies or interventions that have been supported by peer-reviewed studies, not just “aging gracefully”
  • Does not promote outdated or possibly dangerous science (i.e. the use of antioxidant supplements)

1.The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel

The Telomere Effect longevity book cover

Price: $11.99
Number of Goodreads Ratings: 3,187
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.74
Longevity topic covered: Telomere science, personal longevity recommendations
Publication date: 2017

Written by one of the people who literally discovered telomerase (and won a Nobel Prize for it) this book is an essential one for a good understanding of the science and biology behind aging.

The authors use a conversational writing style that makes the science approachable even for non-scientists (and the book’s status as a New York Times bestseller can attest to their success with this).

While much of the suggestions for increasing longevity in the book are uncontroversial (exercise, healthy eating, lowering stress), the science behind telomeres and telomerase presented in the book is increasingly important for life extensionists to understand given the various proposed telomerase therapies already being tested for slowing and reversing aging.

2. Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime by Aubrey de Grey, PhD with Michael Rae

ending aging best longevity book cover

Price: $9.99
Number of Goodreads Ratings: 611
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.14
Longevity topic covered: General longevity science and research, personal longevity recommendations
Publication date: 2007

Despite having been published way back in 2007, this seminal text is still an important read for anyone interested in the science of longevity. Aubrey de Grey is justly famous as one of the most visible advocates for anti-aging research and interventions world-wide.

For years he was a lonely voice calling for more funding, more research, and more serious discussion of radical human life extension, and his scientific, evidence-based reasoning has helped, probably more than anyone else, to drag longevity research from fringe crackpot theory to respectable science. 

As the founder of the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Research Foundation, de Grey has not only advocated for more life extension research, he’s put his own theories into practice by running and funding numerous studies into aging and rejuvenation interventions and therapies.

His book is a detailed walk-through of the seven types of damage caused by aging, as well as his ideas for how this damage can be mitigated and cleaned up to treat and reverse aging. Though at times technical, and also in places over-optimistic, de Grey’s engineering approach (we don’t have to fully understand aging in order to fix the damage cause by it) is one that has been adopted by large swathes of the longevity industry and a solid grounding in it will help anyone interested in human life extension better understand the advances and breakthroughs happening today.

3. Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To by David A. Sinclair, PhD

lifespan top life extension book cover

Price: $14.99
Number of Goodreads Ratings: 4,754
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.21
Longevity topic covered: General longevity science and research, personal longevity recommendations
Publication date: 2019

This 2019 bestseller has some of the most up-to-date science from the field of human longevity research, which shouldn’t be surprising given it was actually written by one of the foremost scientists doing that research. In several interviews Sinclair has mentioned the discoveries covered in his book were occurring as the text was being written, so you can be sure this is as cutting-edge a life extension book as you’ll find anywhere.

Named one of Time‘s 100 most influential people in the world, Sinclair runs his own research lab at Harvard Medical School where he studies the biological processes of aging and, more importantly, possible interventions to reverse them. He came to prominence initially for his research into the molecule resveratrol (found in red wine) but has since extended his remit to everything from stem cells to fasting.

His book covers his working theory of aging based on discoveries in his lab. He also discusses why aging is such a terrible disease and rebuts common arguments against ending aging (“But overpopulation!”). Sinclair also breaks down his own life-extension regimen (yes, he takes resveratrol).

The best longevity books for 2020

I selected the below best-selling anti-aging books, which are especially relevant for readers in 2020, by the following criteria:

  • Average Goodreads ratings of at least 3.6
  • At least 20 Goodreads ratings
  • Must cite at least 1 peer-reviewed study within the Amazon preview length
  • Have a topical focus on actionable anti-aging therapies or interventions that have been supported by peer-reviewed studies, not just “aging gracefully”
  • Published within the last five years and does not promote outdated and possibly dangerous science
  • Especially relevant to current life-extension developments

4. Borrowed Time: The Science of How and Why We Age by Sue Armstrong

borrowed time anti aging book cover

Price: $9.99
Number of Goodreads Ratings: 139
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.91
Longevity topic covered: General longevity science and research, theories of aging
Publication date: 2019

This recent book is a “pop-sci” survey of the current research into and theories about aging by BBC science journalist Sue Armstrong. While other such explorations by journalists—meant as introductions to the space for a non-technical public—exist (including 2010’s Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality, 2016’s Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (or Die Trying), and even 2020’s Immortality, Inc.: Renegade Science, Silicon Valley Billions, and the Quest to Live Forever), Armstrong’s book is either more recent and/or more highly-rated by reviewers than other similar treatments.

She covers the main theories that scientists believe explain aging, from shortening telomeres, to cell senescence, to disposable soma and more. In addition to discussing the theories, Armstrong also interviews the scientists themselves and tells the stories of several important advances in the field including, for example, the discovery of the Yamanaka factors for inducing stem cells.

This book is ideal for the true beginner to the space, or someone looking for a non-technical introduction to our current theories of aging.

5. Age Later: Health Span, Life Span, and the New Science of Longevity by Nir Barzilai, M.D.

age later aging research book cover

Price: $14.99
Number of Goodreads Ratings: 38
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.87
Longevity topic covered: General longevity science and research, theories of aging, diet, personal longevity recommendations
Publication date: 2020

Dr. Barzilai, who founded the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is another giant in the life extension research space (he’s running the TAME trial to see if metformin has anti-aging effects on humans), and his new book covers all his aging research findings and possible applications.

Beginning with his research on “SuperAgers” (centenarians who manage to stay healthy well into their 10th decade), and touching on theories of why we age, Barzilai then dives into the current state of longevity research funding and societal (and government) recognition. The book finishes with a lengthy treatment of how best to apply the lessons from his research including sections on diet, supplements, exercise, and on medicines like metformin.

6. The Switch: Ignite Your Metabolism with Intermittent Fasting, Protein Cycling, and Keto by James W. Clement, George M. Church (Foreword)

the switch best longevity diet book cover

Price: $12.99
Number of Goodreads Ratings: 156
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.97
Longevity topic covered: Diet, personal longevity recommendations
Publication date: 2019

While this book may look like every other junk-science “diet” book on the market, there’s a good reason I’ve included it in this list (well, several in fact). Author James W. Clement is a longevity research scientist who ran the Supercentenarian Research Study along with Professor George Church (of the Human Genome Project) and has his own lab in Florida where he collaborates on experiments with scientists from labs at Harvard, UCLA, Yale, and others.

Which is all to say Clement is a respected voice in the longevity space, not a scammy TV doctor, and his research into autophagy and mTOR activation forms the basis for this book. With recommendations from other life extension giants like David Sinclair (whose book, Lifespan, is also on this list), Steve Horvath, and a forward by George Church, Clement’s book is certainly being praised by the right people.

In addition to detailing the science behind his beliefs on the role of autophagy and mTOR activation (the eponymous “switch”), Clement gives detailed recommendations for everything from diet and specific foods (macadamia nuts seem to be high on the “eat this” list), to intermittent fasting and protein cycling. For anyone wanting a good overview of current longevity science related to diet, with actionable recommendations, Clement’s autophagy book should be high on your list.

7. Juvenescence: Investing in the Age of Longevity by Jim Mellon and Al Chalabi 

juvenescence longevity book cover

Price: $9.99
Number of Goodreads Ratings: 30
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.8
Longevity topic covered: Longevity market and businesses, personal longevity recommendations
Publication date: 2017

This one is a little older (published in 2017), and different than the other longevity books on this list, but I’ve included it since it’s still the best book-form overview of the many companies and individuals involved in the longevity industry right now.

Jim Mellon’s name may be familiar to you if you’ve been following the life extension space for a while, and it’s because the British billionaire has himself co-founded a longevity-focused biotech company named, aptly, Juvenescence, and invested in others like AgeX Therapeutics. He’s also donated to Aubrey de Grey’s SENS Research Foundation, the Institute of Healthy Ageing at UCL, and the Methuselah Foundation.

In addition to the requisite introduction to current (in 2017) anti-aging findings and strategies, and recommendations around diet, exercise, and preventive screenings, the bulk of this book is an overview of over 60 different biotech and life sciences companies active in the human life extension space. From BioViva to Calico to Elysium, and scores more beside, Mellon and co-author Al Chalabi, through actual interviews with founders and on-site visits, paint a picture of the longevity industry as a whole.

While this book can be read for its investment and/or its life extension recommendations, it’s probably better used today for longevity enthusiasts as a primer and overview of the longevity market and the many (many) different approaches currently being tested to extend human life.

8. Cracking the Aging Code: The New Science of Growing Old – And What It Means for Staying Young by Josh Mitteldorf PhD and Dorion Sagan

cracking the aging code anti aging book cover

Price: $9.99
Number of Goodreads Ratings: 135
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.81
Longevity topic covered: General longevity science and research, theories of aging
Publication date: 2016

This 2016 aging book by theoretical-biologist Josh Mitteldorf and co-author Dorion Sagan (son of Carl Sagan) has new relevance for life extension after the pre-publication, in May 2020, of a paper whose results seem to vindicate at least a portion of Mitteldorf’s theory of aging.

The paper, “Reversing age: dual species measurement of epigenetic age with a single clock” is the result of a study run by Steve Horvath (of Horvath’s Clock fame) and others that used injections of a young blood plasma fraction in rats to reduce the measured epigenetic age of rats by 54%.

Mitteldorf may already be familiar to you—if you’ve been following the longevity space for any period of time—for his writing on his top life-extension blog called “Aging Matters” and his talks at several longevity conferences. In his book, as on the blog, he makes the case for his theory that aging is not, primarily, a result of accumulated damage, inflammation, or any of the other commonly proposed mechanisms of age-related decay, but rather something that is programmed into our cells through a genetic “clock” and transmitted throughout the body by molecular signalling mechanisms in the blood.

He argues, using evolutionary theory, that the body retains the “knowledge” of how to be young, even as its aging clock coordinates the slow shut down of cells and eventual death. The rat blood plasma study mentioned above is thus an interesting possible indication that this theory is correct, as a young blood plasma fraction seems able to “reset” the aging clock and activate youthful genes and pathways that appear to reverse the measured epigenetic age of rats.

Honorable mentions for top life extension books

With all the hundreds and thousands of top longevity books out there, in culling this list down to a manageable size it was inevitable I’d have to leave out some good, even foundational texts. Those that I think are worth mention but that were, for various reasons, not included (not written within the last five years, superseded by newer science, or duplicative of books already in the list) I’ve added here so you can check them out:

And just for fun: A bonus life extension novel and free download

  • The Golden Age by John C. Wright: In a post-singularity future where life extension technology has made every human effectively immortal, the theft of a portion of his memories sends Phaethon on a quest throughout the transformed solar system.

Any other great longevity books for 2020?

Which of your favorites did we miss? What do you recommend and why? 

Shout out your favorites in the comments so that we can consider them for inclusion in our annual update of this piece. 

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