An upbeat, empathetic, and practical guide to becoming “an old person in training.”

THIS CHAIR ROCKS

A MANIFESTO AGAINST AGEISM

A satisfying exploration of how growing older offers significant, rich new experiences.

Applewhite (Cutting Loose: Why Women Who End Their Marriages Do So Well, 1997, etc.), cited by Forbes as one of Forty Women to Watch Over 40, in 2017, argues convincingly that ageism—like racism and sexism—is a form of demeaning prejudice, inaccurately generalizing the experiences of older adults and promoting the idea that old age is repulsive and lonely. Drawing on abundant studies and interviews, she exhorts readers “to wake up to the ageism in and around us, embrace a more nuanced and accurate view of growing older, cheer up, and push back.” Stereotypes of old age—geezer, biddy, codger, etc.—convey negativity. “Those stereotypes,” she writes, “are ours to reject or subvert on the way to more compelling and accurate aspirational identities.” But rejecting such stereotypes should not lead to strategies such as dying hair, applying creams and potions, and taking pills that promise “to erase the trace of time.” Applewhite debunks many prevalent assumptions about aging, including failing memory, weakened physical ability, and overall lack of attractiveness and competence. She notes that forgetfulness “is not Alzheimer’s, or dementia, or even necessarily a sign of cognitive impairment”; rates of dementia are falling, she has discovered, even as the population is aging. Moreover, especially “in the emotional realm, older brains are more resilient,” better able to deal with negative emotions and change. Everyone ages at a different rate, she writes: “There is no line in the sand, no crossover between young and old after which it’s all downhill.” Viewing 60 or 70—or even 40—as the beginning of the end necessarily has an impact on self-image and outlook. Among the author’s suggestions for creating “an all-age-friendly world” are creating increased opportunities for older people to contribute “socially, civically, and economically” to the community; improving research into the biology of aging and the social implications of longevity; and expanding the training of geriatric medical practitioners as well as resources for older learners and workers.

An upbeat, empathetic, and practical guide to becoming “an old person in training.”

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31148-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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