Reading is a great way to sit back, relax, and take a trip without moving from your couch or your favorite chair. As a senior, taking a break and relaxing is important. Reading can lower your stress levels, lower your blood pressure, and it is a proven way of boosting your brain activity. Here are 10 great books that seniors should add to their reading lists.
1. Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister
Overview: What would you do with a second chance at life?
Having survived a life-threatening illness, Kate celebrates by gathering with six close friends. At an intimate outdoor dinner on a warm September evening, the women challenge Kate to start her new lease on life by going white-water rafting down the Grand Canyon with her daughter. But Kate is reluctant to take the risk.
That is, until her friend Marion proposes a pact: if Kate will face the rapids, each woman will do one thing in the next year that scares her. Kate agrees, with one provision—she didn’t get to choose her challenge, so she gets to choose theirs. Whether it’s learning to let go of the past or getting a tattoo, each woman’s story interweaves with the others, forming a seamless portrait of the power of female friendships. From the author of The School of Essential Ingredients comes a beautifully crafted novel about daring to experience true joy, starting one small step at a time.
2. Remembering Smell: A Memoir of Losing—and Discovering—the Primal Sense by Bonnie Blodgett
Overview: In November 2005, Bonnie Blodgett was whacked with a nasty cold. After a quick shot of a popular nasal spray up each nostril, the back of her nose was on fire. With that, Blodgett—a professional garden writer devoted to the sensual pleasures of garden and kitchen—was launched on a journey through the senses, the psyche, and the sciences. Her olfactory nerve was destroyed, perhaps forever. She had lost her sense of smell.
Phantosmia—a constant stench of “every disgusting thing you can think of tossed into a blender and pureed”—is the first disorienting stage. It’s the brain’s attempt, as Blodgett vividly conveys, to compensate for loss by conjuring up a tortured facsimile. As the hallucinations fade and anosmia (no smell at all) moves in to take their place, Blodgett is beset by questions: Why are smell and mood hand-in-hand? How are smell disorders linked to other diseases? What is taste without flavor? Blodgett’s provocative conversations with renowned geneticists, smell dysfunction experts, neurobiologists, chefs, and others ultimately lead to a life-altering understanding of smell, and to the most transformative lesson of all: the olfactory nerve, in ways unlike any other in the human body, has the extraordinary power to heal.
3. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Overview: Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever.
At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.
4. Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age by Jo Ann Jenkins
Overview: We’ve all seen the ads on TV and in magazines—“50 is the new 30!” or “60 is the new 40!” A nice sentiment to be sure, but CEO of AARP Jo Ann Jenkins disagrees. 50 is 50, and she, for one, likes the look of it.
In Disrupt Aging, Jenkins focuses on three core areas—health, wealth, and self—to show us how to embrace opportunities and change the way we look at getting older. Here, she chronicles her own journey and that of others who are making their mark as disruptors to show readers how we can be active, healthy, and happy as we get older. Through this powerful and engaging narrative, she touches on all the important issues facing people 50+ today, from caregiving and mindful living to building age-friendly communities and making our money last.
This is a book for all the makers and doers who have a desire to continue exploring possibilities, to celebrate discovery over decline, and to seek out opportunities to live the best life there is.
5. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel by Rachel Joyce
Overview: Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning a letter arrives, addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl, from a woman he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. But before Harold mails off a quick reply, a chance encounter convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. In his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold Fry embarks on an urgent quest. Determined to walk six hundred miles to the hospice, Harold believes that as long as he walks, Queenie will live. A novel of charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise—and utterly irresistible—storyteller.
6. Endgame: Poetry of Retirement by Grady Means
Overview: Endgame is a book of poetry about the physical, mental, and spiritual transition that is retirement.
7. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter
Overview: How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can’t even begin to answer those questions until you hear the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa.
Dewey’s story starts in the worst possible way. Only a few weeks old, on the coldest night of the year, he was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library. He was found the next morning by library director Vicki Myron, a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm, a breast cancer scare, and an alcoholic husband. Dewey won her heart, and the hearts of the staff, by pulling himself up and hobbling on frostbitten feet to nudge each of them in a gesture of thanks and love. For the next nineteen years, he never stopped charming the people of Spencer with his enthusiasm, warmth, humility (for a cat), and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.
As his fame grew from town to town, then state to state, and finally, amazingly, worldwide, Dewey became more than just a friend; he became a source of pride for an extraordinary Heartland farming town pulling its way slowly back from the greatest crisis in its long history.
8. Riotous Retirement by Brian Roberts and Ron Smallwood
Overview: Want to know what life is really like in a retirement village or community? This book is a collection of fifteen short, funny stories each illustrating some aspect of human interaction at the imaginary Burnside Retirement Village. If you thought a Retirement Village or a Retirement Community is where people go to rest, socialise and appreciate peace and quiet, you would be dead WRONG! It’s where over-50-year-olds go who are bored, who enjoy a good fight, hate authority, argue like heck, question every rule and regulation, love to interfere in the lives of others and, of course, it is where those who write comedy involving such people live! Those who like the quiet life exist only in the background of this book. It is the alternative group who fill these pages. They are the people who make life interesting, who say what they truly believe, and don’t give a hoot about what anyone thinks.
9. All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West
Overview: Echoing the themes in A Room of One’s Own by her great friend Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West remaps the destiny of the gentle, gracious eighty-eight-year-old Lady Slane in this classic modern novel. Having surrendered seven decades of her life to the exemplary, if often hollow fulfillment of her marriage, to the expectations of her statesman husband and the demands of her children, Lady Slane finally, in her widowhood, defies her family. She dismisses the wishes and plans of her six pompous sons and daughters for her future, and instead retires to a tiny house in Hampstead, where she chooses to live independently and free from her past. There she alters, and not without some success, the course of her personal history. There, too, she recollects the dreams of her youth and at last, with one last “strange and lovely thing,” acts upon the passion she forfeited seventy years earlier to the narrow conventions of a proper Victorian marriage.
10. You're Only Old Once!: A Book for Obsolete Children by Dr. Seuss
Overview: With his unmistakable rhymes and signature illustration style, Dr. Seuss creates a classic picture-book ode to aging in You're Only Old Once! On a visit to “the Golden Years Clinic on Century Square for Spleen Readjustment and Muffler Repair,” readers will laugh with familiar horror at the poking and prodding and testing and ogling that go hand in hand with the dreaded appellation of “senior citizen.” Though Dr. Seuss is known for his peerless work in books for children, this comical look at what it’s like to get older is ideal for Seuss fans of advanced years. In his own words, this is “a book for obsolete children.“