Book Reviews

Brief reviews by Gary Carlson

Here are several books on conscious aging, on health and on death and dying that we have found particularly helpful and enlightening.

Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman, and Ronald S. Miller, From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older (Warner Books, 1995)—Written in the mid-1990’s, this is the first book that really introduces the concepts of conscious aging, or Spiritual Eldering, as Reb Zalman calls it.  This is a book that we draw great inspiration and wisdom from; the “bible” of conscious aging.

Friedan, Betty, The Fountain of Age (Simon and Schuster, 1993)—Written when she was in her 60’s and early 70’s, Betty Friedan cuts to the heart of things, with a clear, wise, prophetic and positive story of the truth of growing older in our culture.

Rowe, John and Robert Kahn, Successful Aging: The MacArthur Foundation Study (Pantheon Books, 1998)—An excellent book focused on recent research on the aging process, covering physical and mental health and the importance of community and being active in creating optimum health, joy and longevity.

Ram Dass, Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying (Riverhead Books, 2000)—Ram Dass wrote this book after suffering an almost-fatal stroke.  A wise and inspiring book from a person who has “been there” and is still here.

Byock, Ira, Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life (Riverhead, 1997)—A sensitively-written book that tells many stories of death and dying, both positive and negative, from the perspective of a hospice physician.  If you have lost a loved one or are worried about losing someone, you will gain understanding and perhaps some equanimity from reading this.  Keep tissues handy.

Leider, Richard and David Shapiro, Claiming Your Place at the Fire: Living the Second Half of Your Life on Purpose (Berrett-Koehler, 2004)—A small book with a big message on conscious aging and growing whole, not old.  The authors describe the four flames of vital aging: Identity, Community, Passion and Meaning.  See also Something to Live For.

Remen, Rachel Naomi, My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging (Riverhead Books, 2000)—A heartwarming book of short stories about living and dying from an amazing woman physician.  You will laugh and cry, but you will be glad you read this book that contains so much wisdom.  Also try Kitchen Table Wisdom.

Thomas, William, What are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World (VanderWyk and Burnham, 2004)—Bill Thomas, MD, has written one of the best recent books on elders and their important place in society.  A self-professed “nursing home abolitionist,” Dr. Thomas writes of new possibilities for integrating older persons back into living communities rather than leaving them to die in concrete warehouses.