Happiness Is a Choice You Make Summary and Reviews

Happiness Is a Choice You Make

Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old

by John Leland

Happiness Is a Choice You Make by John Leland X
Happiness Is a Choice You Make by John Leland
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2018
    256 pages
    Genre: Advice

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Book Summary

Based on the popular New York Times series, life-changing wisdom from an unexpected source: America's oldest old.

In 2015, the award-winning New York Times journalist John Leland set out to meet some of the city's oldest inhabitants for a series on America's fastest-growing age group: those over eighty-five. Leland was at a crossroads in his own life. His marriage had fallen apart, and at fifty-five, he was alone for the first time. He was also caring for his elderly mother, whose main desire was to die. He understood aging, like many of us do, as nothing more than the relentless deterioration of body, mind, and quality of life. He wondered: Is there a threshold at which life is no longer worth living?

But the six elders Leland interviewed took him in a different direction. Beyond illuminating what it's like to be old, physically and materially, they provided a life-changing education in resilience and joy. They had lived long enough to master the art of living, and they shared their wisdom generously. Leland did not anticipate all that he would learn, nor did he anticipate the popularity of the series: Its following grew to nearly half a million online views for the finale, plus print readers.

Happiness Is a Choice You Make, based on the series, is a rare, intimate glimpse into the end of life, and the insight that can enhance the years preceding. What he finds is deeply heartening: Even as our faculties decline, we still wield extraordinary influence over the quality of our lives. Happiness is a choice we make.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. 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." - Kirkus

"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" - Publishers Weekly

""Engaging...This is not a record of the daily routines of this diverse socioeconomic group but rather of answers to questions regarding happiness, life, and death... Leland entertains and intrigues readers as six unique personalities emerge, sharing their reminiscences about love, heartache, aches and pains, and joy. This is a sympathetic and honest look at growing old." - Booklist

"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." - Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project

"In her oft-quoted poem 'The Summer Day,' Mary Oliver asks, 'Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?' In his new book, John Leland offers up one surprising, funny, smart, inspiring answer after another. This book is heart medicine for uncertain times, and assurance that the only resolution that matters is the will to keep going." - Veronica Chambers, author of The Go-Between and coauthor of 32 Yolks

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Author Information

John Leland

John Leland is a reporter at The New York Times, where he wrote a year-long series that became the basis for Happiness Is a Choice You Make, and the author of Hip: The History and Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road. 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.

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