The Year's Best Books for the Road Ahead
Our picks for 2013's top guides to life after 50
Dec. 8, 2013 4:32 p.m. ET
There's no better season than the present to read books that bring good tidings, tested strategies and sound advice about how to live healthier, happier lives in the year—and years—ahead.
Here are our recommendations for the year's best books for staying fit in all ways as you explore the territory ahead.
"Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?" is comedian Billy Crystal's autobiographical musings on aging, decade by decade, and the perfect antidote for milestone birthday blues. Having trouble deciphering text and Facebook abbreviations? Invent your own, says Mr. Crystal, starting with GNIB ("Good news, it's benign"), OMG ("Oh, my gout") and WAI ("Where am I?"). He also has a full chapter on "The Five Stages of Forgetting Things"—a blank page.
Be prepared for some coarse language and a few rants too many, as well as a bit too much about his starring roles in films you may have missed. But his theme is on target: Whatever decade of life you're in, humor is the best strategy for keeping your own foibles—and everyone else's—in perspective.
Rewind to the Future
In her informative and witty "Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging," journalist Lauren Kessler sets out to find "the best research and the worst scams" in the wannabe-fountain-of-youth marketplace.
"What exactly is possible in this brave new (scientific, medical and commercial) world full of tantalizing research, bold promises, controversial therapies, and perhaps a bit too much wishful thinking?" she asks.
She consults with plastic surgeons, seeks out medical tests that may (or may not) shed light on how her cells are aging, grows grumpy on a calorie-restriction diet, and investigates unsubstantiated claims of a multiplicity of vitamins and herbal supplements. Her conclusion: Ultimately, nothing beats "the sweaty truth" of exercise.
And don't forget to exercise your mind. "Our brain's health may be the most powerful indicator of how long you will live," begins "Your Best Brain Ever: A Complete Guide and Workout" by Michael S. Sweeney with Cynthia R. Green. It's a research-filled yet highly approachable guide to the scientific why and the practical how of keeping your brain in top shape whatever your age. The authors' "fitness regimen" for maintaining neural health through the decades can be summarized as: use your brain matter, or risk losing it. But they also provide numerous practical strategies for maintaining neuroplasticity—essentially, the ability to keep on learning and adapting—primarily through continued social, intellectual and physical engagement, but also via numerous "brain booster" exercises.
A Glass Half-Full
In "Up: How Positive Outlook Can Transform Our Health and Aging," physician and medical researcher Hilary Tindle promotes pragmatic optimism as a powerful tool for improving not just how we look at life, but how we age through life. No, it isn't about being a Pollyanna. It's about being "up"—cultivating an outlook and attitude that favors possibilities. Beyond the behavioral impact, Dr. Tindle presents an impressive array of research to show how the psychology of outlook affects the biochemistry of aging, down to the cellular level. Finally, she provides a practical seven-step plan for helping the glass look less empty, more full. Think of it not as a workout, she suggests, but as working "up."
A Guide For Guys…
At more than 500 pages, "A Man's Guide to Healthy Aging: Stay Smart, Strong and Active" by Edward H. Thompson Jr. and Lenard W. Kaye covers almost everything you need to know, but might be afraid to ask, about keeping fit mentally, physically, socially, intellectually and sexually through the decades. The authors directly address the necessity of a book focused solely on men: Because many men equate seeking medical help with weakness, they are about 50% less likely to seek out health services than women are.
Chapters give equal weight to mind and body, openly discuss issues of intimacy and aging, explore the stresses and costs of masculine stereotypes and present the latest medical and psychological advice for navigating a healthy course.
And One For Gals
"French Women Don't Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging With Style and Attitude" is best-selling author Mireille Guiliano's latest follow-up to the series that began with "French Women Don't Get Fat." Her style is chic, her attitude is self-declared French. (And there are recipes!) Some of the advice is familiar (stay active, seek out new interests, most of all be comfortable in your own skin, even if it has a few more wrinkles). But her grooming and fashion tips on keeping hair, makeup and wardrobe both agelessly attractive and age-appropriate are choice and delivered with charm.
"This book isn't about actual face-lifts—or about not having them," she writes. "It is about face-lifts in the sense of aging with attitude and the decisions one makes through the decades." Sit down with the book as if with a girlfriend over coffee or a glass of (French) wine.