From the revered author of the bestselling The Hidden Life of Dogs, a witty, engaging, life-affirming account of the joy, strength, and wisdom that comes with age.
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has spent a lifetime observing the natural world, chronicling the customs of pre-contact hunter-gatherers and the secret lives of deer and dogs. In this book, the capstone of her long career, Thomas, now eighty-eight, turns her keen eye to her own life. The result is an account of growing old that is at once funny and charming and intimate and profound, both a memoir and a life-affirming map all of us may follow to embrace our later years with grace and dignity.
A charmingly intimate account and a broad look at the social and historical traditions related to aging, Growing Old explores a wide range of issues connected with growing older, from stereotypes of the elderly as burdensome to the methods of burial humans have used throughout history to how to deal with a concerned neighbor who assumes you’re buying cat food to eat for dinner.
Written with the wit of Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck and the lyrical beauty and serene wisdom of When Breath Becomes Air, Growing Old is an expansive and deeply personal paean to the beauty and the brevity of life that offers understanding for everyone, regardless of age.
About the Author
One of the most widely read American anthropologists, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has observed dogs, cats, and elephants during her half-century-long career. In the 1980s Thomas studied elephants alongside Katy Payne—the scientist who discovered elephants' communication via infrasound. In 1993 Thomas wrote The Hidden Life of Dogs, a groundbreaking work of animal psychology that spent nearly a year on the New York Times bestseller list. Her book on cats, Tribe of Tiger, was also an international bestseller. She lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, on her family's former farm, where she observes deer, bobcats, bear, and many other species of wildlife.
"Growing Old is unlike anything you've read before about old age. It's not a chirpy guidebook to successful aging (often written by people in their forties and fifties—who haven't gotten there yet!) but something far deeper and revelatory. By turns hilarious, poignant, fascinating, and disturbing, every page is brutally honest. If you ever plan to grow old or know anyone else who's already there, you'll find insights here you'll see nowhere else."
— Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus
“Written by one of our most distinguished observers of human and animal behavior who has now decided to observe herself, this book is a witty, wise, frank, and ultimately comforting look--from the inside out--at the universal experience of growing old.”
— Dale Peterson, author of Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man and The Ghosts of Gombe
“This is a true gift. Elizabeth has trekked the Arctic Circle and lived with the Bushmen—not your typical human. Yet, she shares how time catches up with us all. Her unexpectedly delightful book made me realize the good decisions my grandparents made, and think about how I should should approach my own future. A unique look at a universal process that we need not fear—and might come to relish.”
— Dr. Mark W. Moffett, anthropologist-explorer and author of The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall
"Octogenarian Thomas tackles old age in this clever and astute memoir…Thomas is an inspiring example of a life well lived, and her sense of humor, honesty, and curiosity will resonate.”
— Publisher’s Weekly, STARRED review
"With wit and humor, Thomas thoughtfully conveys the realities of aging. This fully absorbing memoir will especially resonate with readers over 65 and those who work with geriatric populations, yet all readers should find much wisdom to be gained from this warm offering."
— Library Journal
"Thomas turns her curiosity about all things natural toward a subject that many choose to ignore, willfully or not....With each age-related topic, Thomas writes candidly and with occasional dark humor, sharing both the good and the bad...."
— Kirkus Reviews