Digging around ChangingAging’s end-of-year website analytics I was not surprised to find that the most popular blog post for the second year running is my January 2013 post What Are the Best Books on Aging.
There is obviously a ravenous appetite for insights and information about aging leading Google searchers to this post. Looking back, that post’s Top 50 books list urgently needs to be updated with new books (tip: check out great reader recommendations in the comments section). It also needs to be organized and focused into something more useful to readers. So, in the time-honored tradition of year-end lists and gift ideas, I’m asking ChangingAging’s bloggers and audience to submit their personal Top 5 Books on Aging reading lists.
And I’m adding a twist — please list the books specifically in the order you would suggest they be read by a person who is exploring the unchartered realms of elderhood for the first time. I got this idea from ChangingAging blogger David “Lucky” Goff, who has written several books I consider to be on the cutting edge of thought about elderhood and the psychology of aging. Where you begin your journey can have a huge impact on where you end up. It also ties into a fundamental Eden Alternative principle — you must open hearts in order to open minds.
Obviously, there are dozens of amazing books related to aging so we will have some fun putting together various other Top Five lists, such best spiritual-focused, best health-focused, best fiction related to aging, etc.
My Top Five list begins with one of the most fun books on aging I’ve read and ends with one of the most visionary:
- Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life, by Daniel Klein
- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande
- Life Gets Better: The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older, by Wendy Lustbader
- Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life, by Dr. Bill Thomas
- Embracing Life: Toward a Psychology of Interdependence, by David “Lucky” Goff
“Travels with Epicurus” gets my nod for best book to open someone’s heart to the epic journey that is life. This is a book anyone can pick up, thoroughly enjoy, and when finished they will be hungry for more.
Next I would recommend “Being Mortal” as one of the most accessible and credible books to get readers thinking differently about aging and death. Death is the elephant in the room when it comes to talking about aging and the best approach is to tackle mortality head on, with compassion, as Atul does.
Once your heart comes to terms with your mortality, your head will be open to the truth that “Life Gets Better”. Wendy’s book weaves the factual, evidence-based reality that life does in fact get better as you age, with a no bullshit approach that does not sugar coat the physical declines and challenges of growing old.
Now that you’ve been schooled on new perspectives of life, death and elderhood, you’re ready for Dr. Bill’s opus on the second half of life — “Second Wind.” Second Wind is the “Guns, Germs and Steel” of aging literature, mixing history, sociology, gerontology and fiction in order to chart a sustainable future for human aging in the 21st Century.
My final selection, “Embracing Life”, is for the advanced reader open to a book that offers a radical new approach to understanding the spiritual, social, psychological and evolutionary underpinnings of human development and aging. It is more theoretical than Age-ing to Sage-ing, for instance, but in my opinion more readable. The author, Lucky Goff, tells me that his follow-up book, Age of Actualization: A Handbook for Growing Elder Culture, is more relevant to ChangingAging’s audience, but I haven’t read it yet.
What books are on your Top Five list? Share in the comments below, or if you’re interested in writing a guest blog post explaining your selection in detail I would love to publish it.