cover image The Art of Aging: A Doctor's Prescription for Well-Being

The Art of Aging: A Doctor's Prescription for Well-Being

Sherwin B. Nuland, . . Random, $24.95 (302pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6477-9

The septuagenarian surgeon whose brutally honest demythologization of death in How We Die garnered a National Book Award offers a mushier, platitude-filled treatise on aging, calling it a "gift" that establishes boundaries in our lives, making everything within those boundaries all the more precious. Brief, frank descriptions of droopy penises, declining hormone levels and loss of hearing and bone density are accompanied by reminders that stroke is not a normal consequence of aging and that our bodies are like cars and taking good care of parts extends their usefulness. A gushing tribute to pioneering cardiac surgeon Michael DeBakey, now aged 98, teaches the importance of knowing one's limitations and learning to function within them, while now-80-year-old actress Patricia Neal recalls how sheer stubbornness and a browbeating husband enabled her recovery from a debilitating stroke at 39. Nuland learned life lessons from two fans, a cancer survivor who understands that it's her response to adversity, and not the adversity itself, that shapes her future, and a formerly depressed octogenarian who now doesn't allow herself the "luxury" of despair. Although some of Nuland's devotees will be comforted by his hopeful if familiar advice, others seeking more of the bracing, defiant insights that made him famous will be disappointed. (Mar. 6)