A Roundup of New Books + An Album

By Annie Tobey | October 14th, 2019

Coming-of-age redux


Growing up, I received a new book each birthday, highlighting six years of childhood: Now That You Are 5 through Now That You Are 10. Later, I would devour coming-of-age books like Little Women, The Yearling, Go Tell It on the Mountain and The Outsiders. When I was pregnant, I read books on pregnancy, then books on raising kids.

Midlife offers a sparsity of age-targeted literature, though I recall watching Four Seasons, The Big Chill and Thirtysomething.

As I’ve snuck past that certain age, however, I find myself searching for books about navigating these years. Apparently, I’m not alone. Many exist, including four published just this year.

Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog, by Dave Barry

Dog lovers already understand the life lessons we can learn from our dogs, like loyalty, forgiveness and enthusiasm. Humorist Dave Barry takes this recognition one step further and applies lessons from his aging dog to his own aging process.

The book is divided into seven lessons: on friendship, love, fun, anger, looks (your own and others), possessions and honesty. Lessons from Lucy combines an enjoyable blend of Barry’s trademark humor and light counsel. Two old dogs just might teach you some new tricks.

This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, by Ashton Applewhite

Not intended primarily as a book on aging gracefully, This Chair Rocks addresses ageism as a cultural issue important to people of all ages. At the same time, Applewhite’s celebration of aging empowers anyone experiencing gray hairs, wrinkles or other manifestations of the years to look at their aging in a more positive light.

While learning to better embrace the advancing years, readers will also find themselves more aware of the subtle signs of ageism within and around us – and possibly become more active in combatting the problem, too.

Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life, by Darcey Steinke

As a young mom reading books about raising kids, I noticed that authors with older children wore rose-colored glasses (which is why I wrote For Any Young Mother Who Lives in a Shoe when I was in the thick of young motherhood!). Steinke penned her book while in the midst of menopause-caused hot flashes, insomnia and depression. No rose-colored glasses here!

But the author takes the missive beyond personal manifestations into reactions to “the change” in society and in literature. No surprise, most of our culture’s views of menopause are negative, shaming and devaluing post-menopausal women.

Steinke’s narration skips around, like a dog catching sight of a squirrel – or like a menopausal woman when that inner heat seeps suddenly through the scalp and into the body. Besides the angst of vivid descriptions of a hot flash and the exploration of society’s demeaning beliefs, Flash Count Diary also explores a multitude of positive lessons, often with a feminist slant, and ends with hope and victory.

Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents as We Age, by Mary Pipher

In 1994, psychologist Mary Pipher published Reviving Ophelia, examining the challenges faced by girls coming of age in our “girl-poisoning,” “media-saturated culture preoccupied with unrealistic ideals of beauty.” Now Pipher has turned her attention to the far side of a woman’s life and challenges such as ageism, misogyny, invisibility and loss.

While embracing the realities of aging, she emphasizes the inner strength that helps women navigate these new obstacles. She uses this strength as a foundation for developing skills and resilience to face common issues of aging: “the worn body,” caregiving, loneliness, self-understanding, gratitude, family and many more.

Pipher’s introduction touts the book for women transitioning from middle age to old age. While it speaks best to those already past the transition, its blend of practical guidance and inspiration can serve as a guidebook for many.

Ride Me Back Home, by Willie Nelson

Philosophize through music with Willie Nelson’s newest release, Ride Me Back Home. Though the album doesn’t focus on aging, several songs play off of memories, regrets and nostalgia, whispering to those who know the passing of years.

The title track pays tribute to a retired steed, a natural given Nelson’s 60-plus rescue horses. Metaphorically, the poignant melody and lyrics are imbued with longing for the strength of earlier days, reflecting someone who longs to return home.

The catchy rhythm in “Come on Time” has you bouncing and swaying, while being grateful you can still bounce and sway. Nelson, now 86 years old, asks, “Time … why did you leave these lines on my face? … Looks like you’re winning the race.” Rather than despair, the song gives off an air of amused resignation.

Similarly, the upbeat “One More Song to Write” communicates an acceptance of mortality that leads to embracing the time that remains. “I’ve got … one more hill to climb, and it’s somewhere in my mind. I’ll know it when it’s right.”

Ride Me Back Home is a blend of new, covers and a revival of earlier songs. Perhaps the same could be said for each of us.

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