Saturday, April 17, 2021

Ten Books: An Essential Library on Aging

Over the past decade, I have read over 150 books about aging. The topics have ranged from physical to metaphysical with just about everything in between. 

For my full list of books read, see this page. 

I realize that scrolling through this list is a bit like drinking from a fire hydrant. Consequently, I decided to compile a list of the books that I judge as essential reading for anyone who is aging or anyone supporting another person who is aging. 

A Book that Fights Ageism

Applewhite, Ashton. This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. Celdon Books, 2016.

Applebaum looks at various ways intuitions discriminate overtly or covertly based on their age and how that plays out negatively in the media, the workplace, and even how people make self-deprecating remarks about their own aging.

A Book that Provides a Comprehensive Overview of Aging

Aronson, Louise. Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimaging Life. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019. 

Aronson is an expert on the aging body as a geriatrician; however, she writes a memoir while also sharing a lot of gerontology research about the social, emotional, economic, and spiritual dimensions of life. 

A Book that Celebrates the Carefree Sophistication of Mature Fashion

Cohen, Ari Seth. Advanced Style. PowerHouse Books, 2012.

Cohen shares photographs of mature fashionistas who grace the avenues of Manhattan with their distinct and sophisticated fashion. These women (and a few men) demonstrate styles from understated and aristocratic through eclectic and outrageous. 

A Book about End-of-Life Care

Gawande, Atul. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Metropolitan Books, 2014. 

Gawande critiques the models of healthcare that put physicians in charge of end-of-life care. Patients need to make more decisions. He helps prepare readers for some of the scenarios they might face by sharing research, workplace and family anecdotes.

A Book that Analyzes Films about Aging

Garrett, Mario. Coming of Age in Films. Cambridge Scholars, 2019. 

Garrett has viewed and reviewed dozens of films, organizing them into various themes, such as romance, dementia, and dying. I'm cheating a bit by embedding a list within a list. (Don't tell the genie from the blog bottle.)  

A Book about Spirituality in Late Life

Moore, Thomas. Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey toward Meaning and Joy. St. Martin's Press, 2017. 

Moore uses a blend of psychology, sociology, spirituality and personal experience to share how he addressed the challenges of aging in order to transform aging into a positive experience. 

A Novel from the Perspective of an Older Man

Mosley, Walter. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.  Riverhead Books, 2010. 

Mosley describes the life Black, nonagenarian from Los Angeles who lives alone with increased challenges to mind, body, and soul. With growing memory issues, Mosley is wrestling with his past to find a way to leave a meaningful legacy behind. 

A Collection of Folktales about Grandmothers / Crones

Muten, Burleigh. Grandmothers' Stories: Wise Woman Tales from Many Cultures. Barefoot Books, 1999. 

With illustrations from Siân Bailey, Burleigh shares twelve tales with older women as protagonists. These tales come from countries as diverse as Japan and Senegal.  

A Novel from the Perspective of an Older Woman

Strout, Elizabeth. Olive Kitteridge. Random House, 2008. 

This novel, which reads like a collection of intertwined short stories, introduces the reader to a brusque New England woman. Each chapter peals back the layers to reveal a more complex person whose decades of experience have hardened her. Despite being emotionally crippled in significant ways, Olive has a big heart.

A Book about the Wonders of the Aging Brain

Strauch, Barbara. The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind. Viking Adult, 2010.  

Strauch presents not just the limitations but the strengths of the aging brain.  Even though we loose the ability to memorize quickly, we gain the ability to make connections and synthesize information. 

I have not listed a book about physical aging. 

True, I teach a university course on the biology of aging.  Here is a link to the textbook that I use: Physical Change and Aging

Nevertheless, I left that book (and others on physical aging) off this list. 


I am not a licensed medical doctor. Second, the human body is complex, so any book would be insufficient.  Third, each person's journey is specific, so no people with the same diagnosis experience the same issues. In other words, no two Type 2 diabetics are the same, no two people with osteoarthritis are the same, no two people with high blood pressure are the same. 

Related Links

Films about Aging

Books about Aging

Elder Tales: Folktales featuring Older Adults


  1. Wow! Excellent collection, Karen! I was aware of several of them, but this is an amazingly comprehensive list.
    And interestingly, I was just thinking I needed to start doing some ‘ageing’ research. Timely and informative! Thank you!

    1. Thanks for stopping by the blog, Diane. I hope that you find one that is a good fit for your interests.

  2. What a splendid collection. I’m ordering some of them. I endorse your advise to read more books. Someday, we may need large-print editions, but we should keep reading!

    1. Oh, large-print editions are a good idea. I get tired eyes, and sometimes I listen to audiobooks, even though I prefer reading print. By the end of the day, my eyes just can't read anymore. (The pandemic has made that worse since I teach online. SO MUCH TIME ON SCREENS!) Thanks, Elaine, for stopping by the blog.

  3. Thanks, Karen. This is a wonderful list that I will share with others who are helping aging parents. It turns out that we all seem to be on this road to the Great Beyond...!