My Christmas list is very short this year: a few books and that’s about it. In The Age-Well Project we wrote about the extraordinary power of reading to keep the brain youthful. But reading books does so much more than firing our neurons. Books provide escape, relaxation, new perspectives and outlooks. They fire the imagination, impart useful information and develop our empathy and compassion. No wonder studies show that readers have longer and less diseased lives. Whatever you do over your Christmas holidays, keep some time aside for reading. We’d suggest avoiding newspapers – for all the obvious reasons – and curling up with a good book instead.
For anyone looking for inspiration, these are the ‘wellness’ books I’ve particularly enjoyed this year – all of which have helped me find better ways to age. We’ve not linked the titles to Amazon because we’d love you to support your local bookshop – the high street is very important to ageing well, providing social interaction and exercise.
Chasing the Sun – by Linda Geddes, 2019
Geddes, a science journalist, spent years investigating the health benefits of sunlight, experimenting on herself and her family in her quest to uncover the mysteries of light in all its hues. The result is a fascinating book which encouraged me to re-think the lighting in our house (amongst other things!)
In Praise of Walking – by Shane O’Mara, 2019
Dr O’Mara, an Irish neuroscientist, examines the growing body of evidence for taking a walk, not simply for physical exercise but as a means of keeping our brains healthy. The ability to walk on two legs (to be bipedal), he argues, enabled us to become the human race we are today. After reading this you’ll be itching to get your walking boots on.
Blue Mind – by Wallace J. Nicholls, 2014
The full title of this book is … ‘Blue Mind: The Surprising Science that Shows How Being In, On or Under Water Can Make you Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What you Do.’ Written by a marine biologist it makes a convincing case for the therapeutic benefits of water. Packed with science, it also includes a fair bit of Zennish California thinking. After reading this, I was inspired to create a wildlife pond in my garden.
Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing – by Dr Qing Li, 2018
A beautifully presented book on the Japanese practice of walking in woodlands and the science that supports it. Good for both our physical and mental health, investigations into forest bathing were pioneered by the Japanese Government – and Dr Qing Li led many of the studies. This isn’t a dense book, but it’s compelling and uplifting.
Extra Time: 10 Lessons for an Ageing World – by Camilla Cavendish, 2019
Cavendish’s book came out on the same day as ours and I met her shortly afterwards at a longevity conference. It’s a wide-ranging examination of how society needs to change to suit a growing ageing population, but it also includes a mind boggling chapter on what some biohackers are doing to extend their own lives (a couple of whom I met at the aforementioned conference). Weird…but intriguing.
Lifespan: Why we Age and Why we Don’t Have to – by David Sinclair, 2019
This one’s for any longevity geek out there. Sinclair – a biologist and Harvard Professor – believes ageing is a disease in need of a cure. The argument in this (rather long-winded) book is that if we learn how to reactivate our sirtuins we can age better (feeling cold, over-exerted, hungry and very hot all feature). We’ve written about fasting, cold bathing and vigorous exercise on this blog and in our own book but Sinclair delves deeply into the science. You’ve been warned…
The Living Kitchen: Healing Recipes to Support your Body during Cancer Treatment and Recovery – by Tamara Green and Sarah Grossman, 2019
Written by two Canadian nutritionists who specialise in cancer care, this cookery book is full of simple and delicious recipes but it also has a detailed chapter on nutritional information for those who’ve received a cancer diagnosis, are in treatment or in remission, including suggested meals for what to eat before, during and after treatment.
Educated – by Tara Westover, 2018
Not a book about ageing, but an uplifting memoir reminding us all to take ownership of our own stories and our own lives. We’re big believers in education (of any sort) and Westover’s book is a poignant tribute to the empowering and liberating nature of learning, knowledge and education.
From the Oven to the Table – by Diana Henry, 2019
Undoubtedly our Age-Well cookbook of the year. Susan’s husband rarely cooks but now he does – thanks to this book! Every recipe works…
A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom One Step at a Time – by Antonia Malchik, 2019
This books explores the links between walking and cognition: lots of interesting insights on the vestibular system that controls our sense of balance and our spatial orientation. It’s also a plea for more walking routes and less traffic. Hear hear! Malchik is American and this book made me incredibly grateful to live in a place where I can walk freely and safely (mostly).
Picasso’s Brain – by Christine Temple 2016
A neuroscientist’s investigation into creativity, this is a fascinating mix of neuropsychology and art history, linking the scientific to the personal and investigating the factors that makes us artistic and creative. Sadly, Temple died (aged 56) before her book was published.
There are still a few remaining tickets for our next Guardian Masterclass on How to Age Well, in London on 7th January. We think – if we say so ourselves – that this would make a splendid gift! Find out more at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-age-well-project-preparing-for-a-longer-healthier-and-happier-life-tickets-63973775284
Any books you’d recommend on how to age well? Please do share…
This is my last post of 2019 so Happy Christmas from me!