The best books about seniors

10 authors have picked their favorite books about seniors and why they recommend each book.

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Still Here

By Ram Dass,

Book cover of Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying

An icon of the 60's spiritual revolution, Ram Dass, 30 plus years later, reveals the wisdom of his elder years following his stroke as he faced radical self-birthing. With sharp insight, humor, and humility he shares his fears of living and dying and the spiritual beliefs that sustain him. His chapter on “Learning to Die” is exceptionally poignant as he addresses three major questions: How do I deal with the process of dying, what happens at the moment of death and what will happen after death? As an elder woman myself, I treasure this as a truly comforting beacon for elders and for anyone who knows and loves them.

Still Here

By Ram Dass,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Still Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

More than thirty years ago, an entire generation sought a new way of life, looking for fulfillment and meaning in a way no one had before. Leaving his teaching job at Harvard, Ram Dass embodied the role of spiritual seeker, showing others how to find peace within themselves in one of the greatest spiritual classics of the twentieth century, the two-million-copy bestseller Be Here Now. As many of that generation enter the autumn of their years, the big questions of peace and of purpose have returned demanding answers. And once again, Ram Dass blazes a new trail, inviting all to…

Who am I?

I have been a spiritual seeker my entire life, drawn to the mysteries of life, the nature of the soul, the afterlife, intuitive knowing, higher consciousness, and psycho-spiritual transformation. Besides the numerous personal teachers who have enriched my path, personal/ spiritual growth books have been a powerful guide and inspiration. In my coaching practice “Touch The Soul”, I continually draw on my own 70 plus years of acquired elder wisdom as well as the wisdom of so many who have come before me, writers and wayshowers of expansive spirituality.I am grateful to share a few books which may enlighten and deepen your own spiritual journey.


I wrote...

The Elder Widow's Walk: A Personal Inner Journey and Guide for Bereaved Widows 65 and Beyond

By Lucille Ann Meltz,

Book cover of The Elder Widow's Walk: A Personal Inner Journey and Guide for Bereaved Widows 65 and Beyond

What is my book about?

When my husband and life partner of 49 years died, I became an isolated, invisible widow living on a remote peninsula in unimaginable solitude. I grieved deeply while trying to re-create my life at age 70. I faced the unique losses, fears, and endless daily struggles of an elder widow, none ever addressed in any grief and loss literature. My enduring pathway to survival and soul renewal led me to delve deeply into decades of my own life experience, inner wisdom, and belief in the eternal nature of love. What emerged is this guidebook, my personal inner journey balanced with useful emotional and spiritual healing practices for the bereaved elder widow and for those who wish to support her on her new life pathway.

Angle of Repose

By Wallace Stegner,

Book cover of Angle of Repose

I was in my mid-twenties when I fell under the sway of the old-school master of western writing, Wallace Stegner. His Angle of Repose is a triumph, mixing elements of failed love and mine engineering to tell a tale in which the raw material of the West is carved into its modern shape. The story captures the struggles of marriage and tribulations of making a home out on the frontier of American civilization. Concrete is invented, no less.

Angle of Repose

By Wallace Stegner,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Angle of Repose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The novel tells the story of Lyman Ward, a retired professor of history and author of books about the Western frontier, who returns to his ancestral home in the Sierra Nevada. Wheelchair-bound with a crippling bone disease, Ward embarks nonetheless on a search to rediscover his grandmother, no long dead, who made her own journey to Grass Valley nearly a hundred years earlier.

Who am I?

Ever since I was a kid tagging along with my contractor Dad to the construction site, I’ve been in love with the physical act of creating and building. All novels are stories of making and unmaking: selves, relationships, futures, worlds. I’m especially intrigued by the subset of writings that foreground this process, novels that build things, novels in which something is convincingly, authoritatively, made, and we’re jacked into, however briefly, the experience or process of work. That’s the gift of these maker novels: they offer glimpses of the human mind figuring out its world in a practical, hands-on sort of way.


I wrote...

Watershed

By Mark Barr,

Book cover of Watershed

What is my book about?

Amidst construction of a federal dam in rural Tennessee, Nathan, an engineer hiding from his past, meets Claire, a small-town housewife struggling to find her footing in the newly-electrified, job-hungry, post-Depression South. As Nathan wrestles with the burdens of a secret guilt and tangled love, Claire struggles to balance motherhood and a newfound freedom that awakens ambitions and a sexuality she hadn’t known she possessed. The arrival of electricity in the rural community, where prostitution and dog-fighting are commonplace, thrusts together modern and backcountry values. Watershed delivers a gripping story of characters whose ambitions and yearnings threaten to overflow the banks of their time and place. 

A Life Complete

By Sallirae Henderson,

Book cover of A Life Complete: Emotional and Spiritual Growth for Midlife and Beyond

As Sallirae ministered to the elderly in an upscale continuing care community, she wondered how some residents aged into a graceful presence that attracted people to them, while others drove people away with their grumpy discontentedness. Some remained curious and engaged in life, but others shrank in interest and spirit. She studied her subjects and their histories closely and rewarded readers with practical tips to adopt in middle age to prevent us from poisoning our later years with grief and regret. What exactly can we do now to live our old age in joy and contentment? Sallirae died in 2007 at age 66, too young to reap the wise and graceful old age she bequeathed to the rest of us. I hold her memory in gratitude as I myself grow old. 

A Life Complete

By Sallirae Henderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Life Complete as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A minister and counselor takes on middle age and aging in this insightful book, guiding readers through this bittersweet but necessary life passage while exploring the choices that we face. Reprint. 10,000 first printing.

Who am I?

I first started tending patients at age 15, as a candy striper at St. Joseph Hospital. That was a long time ago, and since then I’ve learned much at patients’ bedsides, in Congress, statehouses and courtrooms. Through sequential careers in nursing, medicine, law, and advocacy, I learned that end-of-life experiences have the most to teach us about being truly present to our lives, about learning to love well and growing in wisdom. Personal autonomy, individual empowerment, and guided planning are all key to moving past our fear of death. In the end, as Seneca observed, “The art of living well and dying well are one.”


I wrote...

Book cover of Finish Strong: Putting Your Priorities First at Life's End

What is my book about?

It’s hard to talk about death in America. But even though the topic has been taboo, life’s end is an eventual reality for us all. So why not shape it to your values? Written with candor and clarity by a nurse, physician assistant, and attorney who became a leading advocate for end-of-life options, this book will guide you through: finding a partner-doctor to honor your values and beliefs; identifying and documenting what matters most; having meaningful conversations with doctors and family about expectations and wishes; staying off the “overtreatment conveyor belt”; understanding “slow medicine”; navigating home hospice; using recommended free resources and tools to take charge.

Finish Strong is for those of us who want an end-of-life experience to match the life we’ve enjoyed.

Aging and the Indian Diaspora

By Sarah E. Lamb (editor),

Book cover of Aging and the Indian Diaspora: Cosmopolitan Families in India and Abroad

This ethnographic work delves into the lives of elders in Calcutta, India, including those who age in place with family nearby, those whose children have migrated abroad, and those who follow their family members to the US. I particularly love the way the author roots the work in traditional South Asian concepts of age and family relationships while dealing simultaneously with social changes such as India’s urbanization and economic liberalization, the out-migration of skilled tech workers, and the introduction of old folks’ homes in urban areas. The sensitive portrayal of life histories made me both laugh and cry. 

Aging and the Indian Diaspora

By Sarah E. Lamb (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Aging and the Indian Diaspora as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The proliferation of old age homes and increasing numbers of elderly living alone are startling new phenomena in India. These trends are related to extensive overseas migration and the transnational dispersal of families. In this moving and insightful account, Sarah Lamb shows that older persons are innovative agents in the processes of social-cultural change. Lamb's study probes debates and cultural assumptions in both India and the United States regarding how best to age; the proper social-moral relationship among individuals, genders, families, the market, and the state; and ways of finding meaning in the human life course.


Who am I?

My mom was an anthropologist, and when I was two, she took me to Sri Lanka, the island off the tip of India. After years of insisting that I wanted nothing to do with any social science, let alone anthropology, I ended up in graduate school studying… anthropology. Long story. Having taken up the family mantel, I returned to the village where I lived as a child and asked what had changed in the intervening years. Since then, my Sri Lankan interlocutors have suggested book topics that include labor migration, the use and abuse of alcohol, the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the challenges of aging. 


I wrote...

Linked Lives: Elder Care, Migration, and Kinship in Sri Lanka

By Michele Ruth Gamburd,

Book cover of Linked Lives: Elder Care, Migration, and Kinship in Sri Lanka

What is my book about?

When loved ones spend years away from home, what happens to the family members left behind? In this book, I draw readers into intimate family life in a coastal village in Sri Lanka. I began researching this village 30 years ago, studying what happened when mothers left the country to work as housemaids in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Over the years, the village has changed, my friends have aged, and their children have migrated. I try to capture their triumphs and sorrows and the challenges that their trans-local families face in caring for children and elders.  

Dynamic Aging

By Katy Bowman, Joan Virginia Allen, Lora Woods, Shelah M. Wilgus, Joyce Faber

Book cover of Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole Body Mobility

Retirement is the time to give attention to your health. The more you move, the healthier you will be and the longer you will live. This is a practical book designed to show you safe, simple exercises you can do at home to improve your alignment, flexibility, and mobility. Your feet are your body’s foundation and you will be surprised at how well they will respond to Katy Bowman’s prescribed regime. 

Dynamic Aging

By Katy Bowman, Joan Virginia Allen, Lora Woods, Shelah M. Wilgus, Joyce Faber

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dynamic Aging as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As seen on the Today Show!

Dynamic Aging isn't that same old "senior fitness," "senior stretching," "senior strength" book you've seen again and again. This book is about using simple exercises to feel better and get back to living vitally no matter your age.

"Don't blame your age if you're feeling creaky. It could just be the way you're using (or not using) your body." Washington Post on Dynamic Aging as a "Book for the Ages"

Movement is a powerful tool and changing how you move can change how you feel, no matter your age. Dynamic Aging is an exercise…


Who am I?

As a life coach and author of two dozen self-help books, I’ve spent the past twenty years helping people prepare for, plan, and go through major life changes, such as the transition to retirement. I’ve interviewed dozens of retirees about the challenges and opportunities they’ve experienced during their retirement. I’ve designed this guide so you can be strategic in choosing your path, overcome challenges, and make adjustments to make the most of this chapter of your life.


I wrote...

Making the Most of Your Retirement: Ways to Foster Health, Happiness & Fulfillment at Any Age

By Liisa Kyle,

Book cover of Making the Most of Your Retirement: Ways to Foster Health, Happiness & Fulfillment at Any Age

What is my book about?

Are you contemplating retirement? Or maybe you have already retired but are dissatisfied and are looking to improve your experience. Whatever your circumstances, you can make the most of your retirement. You can decide what is important to you and how you would like to live this chapter of your life. This self-help guide is packed with activities, examples, and ideas to help you: decide how you really want to spend your retirement; devise a plan to make the most of this period of your life; prepare for and manage the transition to retirement; take stock periodically; make adjustments and address challenges as they arise; boost your health, improve your social life, and consider your legacy.

Nomadland

By Jessica Bruder,

Book cover of Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

This is the best book on the precarity facing American workers today—especially women. Bruder lived it, first in a tent, then in a van, following the itinerant workers of today, many of them older women. She embedded deeply, working in an Amazon warehouse and at the sugar beet harvest in North Dakota, mainstay jobs for these new itinerants. Two of the powerful women Bruder documented ended up appearing in the Oscar-winning film, Nomadland, which was based on the book. 

Nomadland

By Jessica Bruder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nomadland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the beet fields of North Dakota to the campgrounds of California to Amazon's CamperForce programme in Texas, American employers have discovered a new, low-cost labour pool, made up largely of transient older adults. These invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in RVs and modified vans, forming a growing community of nomads.

Nomadland tells a revelatory tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy-one which foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, it celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these…


Who am I?

How I grew up in Ohio informs my work: my raging war-ravaged father dreams of being his own boss; in our basement he grinds steel tools on massive iron machines, a side business after his day job in a factory; as a teen, I begin grinding with him; Dad is hit by a drunk driver and he cannot work for months; I am not old or skilled enough as a machinist to save the business; our mother who drives a school bus feeds our family with charity food. I fear I will grow up to be a blue-collar worker facing all the precarity that comes with this existence.


I wrote...

Fucked at Birth: Recalibrating the American Dream for the 2020s

By Dale Maharidge,

Book cover of Fucked at Birth: Recalibrating the American Dream for the 2020s

What is my book about?

Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Dale Maharidge has spent his career documenting the downward spiral of the working class. Poverty is both reality and destiny for increasing numbers of people in the 2020s and, as Maharidge discovers spray-painted inside an abandoned gas station in the California desert at the height of the pandemic, it is a fate often handed down from birth. Motivated by this haunting graffito—“Fucked at Birth”—Maharidge explores the realities of being poor in America in the coming decade, as economic crisis and social revolution up-end the country. Part raw memoir, part dogged, investigative journalism, Fucked At Birth channels the history of poverty in America to help inform the voices Maharidge encounters as a narrative long-form documentarian. 

This Chair Rocks

By Ashton Applewhite,

Book cover of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism

Ashton Applewhite, an expert on ageism, shows how most of us have internalized negative images of old age and we have also misproven stereotypes of older people go unchallenged. This book opened my eyes to my own ageism and how it limited me and it book will probably open your eyes as well. The book is lively and full of interesting facts as well as solidly researched. I found Applebaum’s vision of a world without ageism to be inspirational.

This Chair Rocks

By Ashton Applewhite,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Chair Rocks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Author, activist, and TED speaker Ashton Applewhite has written a rousing manifesto calling for an end to discrimination and prejudice on the basis of age.

In our youth obsessed culture, we’re bombarded by media images and messages about the despairs and declines of our later years. Beauty and pharmaceutical companies work overtime to convince people to purchase products that will retain their youthful appearance and vitality. Wrinkles are embarrassing. Gray hair should be colored and bald heads covered with implants. Older minds and bodies are too frail to keep up with the pace of the modern working world and olders…


Who am I?

When I turned 80, I was in a bit of a funk until I began interviewing people in their eighties for my book. I was astonished to find how happy the vast majority of them were and what active and exciting their lives were leading. I realized that life after 70 and 80 was not the same today as in the past. As a psychotherapist, a social psychologist, a writer, a mother of four, and a grandmother of 10, I realized I was the perfect person to write about this good news. And for the last 8 years my mission has been to spread the word about aging today.


I wrote...

Eightysomethings: A Practical Guide to Letting Go, Aging Well, and Finding Unexpected Happiness

By Katharine Esty,

Book cover of Eightysomethings: A Practical Guide to Letting Go, Aging Well, and Finding Unexpected Happiness

What is my book about?

This well-researched and thoughtful book is a roadmap for everyone in the over 70 generations for those all those with older parents and grandparents. The book is highly personal and filled with Katharine’s experience-based wisdom. Her interviews with a diverse group of people in their eighties sing with emotional authenticity. They give you a glimpse of what life is really like as you age and how to navigate the challenges you will meet. Chapters in the book focus on topics such as survival skills, love and sex, friendship, grandchildren, caretaking, coping styles, transitions, and letting go. The Conversations Starters in every chapter are helpful for both adult children and older parents to talk about difficult subjects.

30 Lessons for Living

By Karl Pillemer,

Book cover of 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans

I didn’t come across this book until my own had already been published. Pillemer worked hard to interview over a thousand elders about their lives. The stories are touching, and the advice time-tested. 

My favorite section was about raising children. How to allow our little humans to become full individuals while also nurturing them to the greatest extent. The stories weren’t always rosy — some elders shared deep regrets — which I appreciated even more.

30 Lessons for Living

By Karl Pillemer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 30 Lessons for Living as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Heartfelt and ever-endearing—equal parts information and inspiration. This is a book to keep by your bedside and return to often.”—Amy Dickinson, nationally syndicated advice columnist "Ask Amy"

More than one thousand extraordinary Americans share their stories and the wisdom they have gained on living, loving, and finding happiness.

After a chance encounter with an extraordinary ninety-year-old woman, renowned gerontologist Karl Pillemer began to wonder what older people know about life that the rest of us don't.

His quest led him to interview more than one thousand Americans over the age of sixty-five to seek their counsel on all the big…

Who am I?

I am an anthropologist and former owner of a tech company. I saw firsthand how technology was changing society in the early twenty-teens, and knew that we were experiencing a compounding paradigm shift. I have a passion for telling stories and preserving the past for future generations — the stories that our grandchildren will ask about, just as we asked our grandparents about the great wars and depression.


My book is...

Stories of Elders

Imagine growing up with the first radio in your neighborhood or using a crank car to go to school each day, and now using an iPhone for your daily communication. Stories of Elders documents the high-tech revolution through interviews with those that lived its entirety. They share what it was like to see an airplane for the first time, watch a man walk on the moon, and received the first polio vaccines. They developed technologies like our first spy satellites, built the Saturn V, and transitioned their offices from typewriters to word processors to smart tablets. How has technology changed America? The Greatest Generation tells all in this unique book.

The Coroner's Lunch

By Colin Cotterill,

Book cover of The Coroner's Lunch

Colin Cotterill wrote a series of whodunits set in the late 70s newly formed the People's Democratic Republic of Laos, featuring 72-year-old Dr. Siri Paiboun who is appointed coroner by the communist government and sets out to solve crimes that uncover unpleasant truths about the country’s communist utopia. In this first novel, Paiboun investigates the death of a politician’s wife that soon turns into a murder inquiry, but the real joy of this story lies in the challenges the intrepid septuagenarian investigator faces that emerge as a consequence of communist rule. Quirky, gentle, and full of insights of a country rarely depicted in contemporary fiction, The Coroner’s Lunch is a great travel read.

The Coroner's Lunch

By Colin Cotterill,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Coroner's Lunch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Laos in the year 1976, the monarchy has been deposed, and the Communist Pathet Lao have taken over. Most of the educated class has fled, but Dr Siri Paiboun, a Paris-trained doctor remains. And so this 72-year-old physician is appointed state coroner, despite having no training, equipment, experience or even inclination for the job. But the job's not that bad and Siri quickly settles into a routine of studying outdated medical texts, scrounging scarce supplies, and circumnavigating bureaucratic red tape to arrive at justice. The fact that the recently departed are prone to pay Siri the odd, unwanted nocturnal…

Who am I?

I’m a writer and journalist with an eye on South and Southeast Asia. I first visited beautiful, land-locked, and sleepy Laos in 2000, as the country reluctantly reemerged from post-revolutionary isolation. I researched and co-wrote The Most Secret Place on Earth, a feature documentary on how the CIA created a clandestine army to fight Laotian and Vietnamese communists, rigged elections, and eventually destroyed much of the country with carpet bombing. This slice of secret history forms the narrative backbone of my novel. The Man with the Golden Mind is a spy thriller, as well as an ode to one of the most isolated countries in the world.


I wrote...

The Man With The Golden Mind

By Tom Vater,

Book cover of The Man With The Golden Mind

What is my book about?

Detective Maier is hired to investigate the death of an East German culture attaché killed near a fabled CIA airbase in central Laos in 1976. But before the detective can set off, his client, the attaché’s daughter Julia, is kidnapped. Maier follows Julia's trail to the Laotian capital Vientiane, where he learns different parties are searching for a legendary CIA file crammed with Cold War secrets. The real prize, however, is the file's author: someone codenamed Weltmeister, a former US and Vietnamese spy no one has seen for a quarter-century.

Maier needs to dig deep into the past - including his own - in order to make sense of the present. The Man With The Golden Mind is an action-packed thriller of sex, drugs, assassinations, and double-crosses.

Downhill from Here

By Katherine S. Newman,

Book cover of Downhill from Here: Retirement Insecurity in the Age of Inequality

I like this book because it provides a sociological portrait of the retirement crisis. Newman digs deep into the impact on people of losing pensions because of corporate shenanigans. She digs into the threatened cutting of Teamster pension benefits and what happened to municipal employee retirees and near-retirees when Detroit declared bankruptcy. She marshaled her considerable sociological research skills to lay bare the human face of the retirement crisis.

Downhill from Here

By Katherine S. Newman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Downhill from Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sharp examination of the looming financial catastrophe of retirement in America.

As millions of Baby Boomers reach their golden years, the state of retirement in America is little short of a disaster. Nearly half the households with people aged 55 and older have no retirement savings at all. The real estate crash wiped out much of the home equity that millions were counting on to support their retirement. And the typical Social Security check covers less than 40% of pre-retirement wages―a number projected to drop to under 28% within two decades. Old-age poverty, a problem we thought was solved…


Who am I?

I became fascinated with retirement plans and policy when I realized that my 401(k)-like retirement plan with a high rate of savings and investment returns would still come up way short in terms of the retirement income needed for me and my family. That led me to initiate a winning campaign to allow those of us in that plan to switch to our employer’s pension plan. In leading that struggle, I had to learn everything possible, beyond what I already knew, about retirement plans. I have a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin and have studied retirement plans in Latin America and Europe as well as the United States.


I wrote...

The Labor Guide to Retirement Plans: For Union Organizers and Employees

By James W. Russell,

Book cover of The Labor Guide to Retirement Plans: For Union Organizers and Employees

What is my book about?

What do workers need to know as they assess the security of their retirement plans? What should union activists keep in mind as they push for the national and workplace reforms needed to produce greater retirement security? This nuts-and-bolts book provides a much-needed demystification of the retirement system and enables workers to take charge of their own personal futures.

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