cover image On Being 40(ish)

On Being 40(ish)

Edited by Lindsey Mead. Simon & Schuster, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5011-7212-0

Journalist Mead presents charming, relatable, and wise essays from 15 female writers between the ages of 40 and 50 on insights gleaned from reaching their fifth decade. Though the women have different goals, priorities, and accomplishments, certain commonalities emerge, most notably gratitude, confidence, and an ironclad sense of self they could not have imagined for themselves as younger women. Meghan Daum describes coming to grips with her preference for a solitary life devoted to work, while Jill Kargman recalls beginning an acting career at age 39, demonstrating there is always potential for a surprising new act in life. (She also evinces a flair for metaphor, declaring, “We become balsamic reductions as we age—our very best parts distilled and clarified.”) Other essays look back with a hard-won, sometimes wistful sense of perspective, as in Catherine Newman’s poetic piece, which uses decades of fashion choices to narrate the story of losing her twin sister to ovarian cancer. Taken as a group, these personal narratives argue that aging is a process of shedding the inconsequential and acquiring a laser focus on the truly essential. Without a hint of preachiness, this is a practical guide to navigating life for anyone who has passed the milestone of 40. Agent: Brettne Bloom, the Book Group. (Feb.)