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Happiness Is a Choice You Make
Cover of Happiness Is a Choice You Make
Happiness Is a Choice You Make
Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old
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A New York Times Best Seller!

An extraordinary look at what it means to grow old and a heartening guide to well-being, Happiness Is a Choice You Make weaves together the stories and wisdom of six New Yorkers who number among the "oldest old"— those eighty-five and up.

In 2015, when the award-winning journalist John Leland set out on behalf of The New York Times to meet members of America's fastest-growing age group, he anticipated learning of challenges, of loneliness, and of the deterioration of body, mind, and quality of life. But the elders he met took him in an entirely different direction. Despite disparate backgrounds and circumstances, they each lived with a surprising lightness and contentment. The reality Leland encountered upended contemporary notions of aging, revealing the late stages of life as unexpectedly rich and the elderly as incomparably wise.

Happiness Is a Choice You Make is an enduring collection of lessons that emphasizes, above all, the extraordinary influence we wield over the quality of our lives. With humility, heart, and wit, Leland has crafted a sophisticated and necessary reflection on how to "live better"—informed by those who have mastered the art.

A New York Times Best Seller!

An extraordinary look at what it means to grow old and a heartening guide to well-being, Happiness Is a Choice You Make weaves together the stories and wisdom of six New Yorkers who number among the "oldest old"— those eighty-five and up.

In 2015, when the award-winning journalist John Leland set out on behalf of The New York Times to meet members of America's fastest-growing age group, he anticipated learning of challenges, of loneliness, and of the deterioration of body, mind, and quality of life. But the elders he met took him in an entirely different direction. Despite disparate backgrounds and circumstances, they each lived with a surprising lightness and contentment. The reality Leland encountered upended contemporary notions of aging, revealing the late stages of life as unexpectedly rich and the elderly as incomparably wise.

Happiness Is a Choice You Make is an enduring collection of lessons that emphasizes, above all, the extraordinary influence we wield over the quality of our lives. With humility, heart, and wit, Leland has crafted a sophisticated and necessary reflection on how to "live better"—informed by those who have mastered the art.

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About the Author-
  • John Leland is a reporter at The New York Times, where he wrote a yearlong series that became the basis for Happiness Is a Choice You Make, and the author of two previous books, Hip: The History and Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of "On the Road" (They're Not What You Think). Before joining the Times, he was a senior editor at Newsweek, editor in chief of Details, a reporter at Newsday, and a writer and editor at Spin magazine.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 25, 2017
    New York Times reporter Leland (Hip: The History) delves into the ramifications of an arresting statistic—that more people are living past age 85 than at any other time—by following six individuals from this quickly growing age group. The octogenarians profiled, three men and three women, include a still-active avant-garde filmmaker, a retired civil servant, and a pioneering career woman. Leland skillfully weaves the wisdom gleaned from their experiences into a fascinating chronicle of the joys and difficulties of living into one’s 80s and beyond. The underlying theme conveyed by this varied group is to “spend your dwindling time and energy on the things that you can still do,” not on mourning those now out of reach. It is an uplifting message, one that researchers call “selective optimization with compensation.” By not shying away from the downside of old age—issues discussed here include illness, depression, and isolation, as well as memory and cognitive loss—Leland lends credence to his heartening story of how six seniors have nonetheless made the best of it. He also movingly shows, through his own example, how interacting with those much older than oneself can lead to seeing life in a new light. Leland’s unique, highly readable narrative posits that old age should not be viewed as a dreadful time, but rather as a life stage to embrace and celebrate

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2017
    New York Times reporter Leland (Why Kerouac Matters, 2007, etc.) chronicles the year he spent communing with the "oldest old," gleaning as much of value about his own life as about those he followed.Drawn from a remarkable newspaper series, this book, though sometimes repetitive and studded with occasional obvious insights, harbors far more than advice and received wisdom. The author offers an adaptive framework for a way of thinking about aging that can be transformational, and not in the conventional self-help sense. From the engrossing opening chapter to the close, Leland gives us a felicitous though practical perspective that mines a year in the life of six people ages 88 to 92, who "came from different backgrounds and social strata." Many readers will find it encouraging to know that the future need not be all decline and diminishment. The author does not gloss over the physical and emotional difficulties of advancing years, some of which may seem insurmountable. But guided by the evolving outlooks of his subjects, Leland discovers strategies for compensating, for enrichment and usefulness at any age, including his own. Divorced at 55, living alone for the first time, and responsible for an 86-year-old mother whose only wish is to die, Leland finds his own path to acceptance and joy. If the title of the book sounds banal, it is no less valid for its (deceptive) simplicity. It is, in fact, absolutely true, as the six culturally diverse "seniors" demonstrate in their own fascinating ways. Few books about aging show such clarity and purpose or so deftly blend cleareyed examinations of social issues with a realistic but hopeful cast of mind.In this edifying and often quite moving book, Leland presents the "lessons" taught by his subjects even as they themselves are learning them, and he does so with an empathy and thoroughness that deserve our gratitude.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project "John Leland's practical, powerful insights into the rich experiences of the 'oldest old' can guide all of us to lead happier lives--no matter what our age."
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    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Happiness Is a Choice You Make
Happiness Is a Choice You Make
Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old
John Leland
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