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Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  13,333 Ratings  ·  2,199 Reviews
In this irresistible memoir, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.

As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindle
Hardcover, 182 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Random House
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Aug 26, 2012 Skostal rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-group
I was a big fan of Quindlen's in the 1980s. Her NYT columns were among the first to chronicle, in real time, what is was like for working mothers struggling to balance it all, especially in male-dominated fields. She struck innumerable chords, and made our individual struggles, whether we had children yet or not, seem, if not noble, than at least normal. She was like a great travel writer, telling me about country I would someday visit.
Fast-forward 30 years, however, and Quindlen's work, while s
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
At age 60, Anna Quindlen has already had plenty of candles and birthday cake, but she wants more. A lot more. Her own mother died in her early 40s, when Anna was just nineteen. That early loss has made her grateful for every additional year she gets that her mother was denied.

Anna's gratitude is the common ingredient that ties together these ruminations of an aging feminist baby boomer. She seems amazed, even somewhat astonished, at how fortunate she has been. She has reached an age where she c
Sep 25, 2016 Margitte rated it liked it
First I was who I was. Then I didn’t know who I was. Then I invented someone and became her. Then I began to like what I’d invented. And finally I was what I was again.
Reading the memoir of a 60+ woman who lived an average high middle income, comfortable, American life, without more significance than becoming a well-known author, but with no big role to play in politics or world history, is like sitting with an old friend digging around in treasures in the attics of our minds.
The year I was b
What is it like to be a Mother, a woman, a working woman, a feminist, a baby boomer...or someone who's aging, who is at the end of their life with little options? What is faith, motherhood, marriage, work, being a woman, friendship, love, life, or God forbid, death? What in our life are absolutely not necessary or important?

I used to read Anna Quindlen's column religiously, not because we have a similar life as other readers claimed (her kids are older, her career is more successful, she's happ
Jan 07, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-reads, 2014
I listened to the audio of this book and was brought into the world of Anna Quindlen, told in her own voice. I have not read her nonfiction before, but have devoured her fiction work. This was a wonderful look at the woman behind the stories I have loved.

Women who were growing up in the 60's and 70's will relate so well to this book. I am not sure the younger generation will but they could learn quite a lot if they were so inclined. She talks of changes in the role of women, balancing careers
Jul 21, 2012 Deborah rated it liked it
I like Anna Quindlen a lot. I think she's a very good writer who writes about important subject.
However, it turns out that she is a better read for articles. An entire book is too much to read all at once.
The difficulty lies in getting to know her too well. She is actually younger than I, and espouses a heightened consciousness about working women. But the privilege is very hard to take in large doses, and her feminism is just too tinged with lack of discernment about class and race issues. I'm
Mar 04, 2012 Margaret rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Yeah, I'm so excited. I won an Anna Quindlen book in a First Reads giveaway. I can't believe it. I'll be watching the mail for it and let you know how great it is. She is a wonderful writer. I used an essay by her as an example of good writing when I taught Freshman comp back in the late 80's.

My book arrived and I read the first three short pieces and now am going to get busy and read more.

Reading this book was delayed by bronchitis, but I have finished it and can recommend it to women in the 5
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
You will love this book from the very first paragraph. It is about every woman's concerns from Day One of their worrying years. You will laugh and say to yourself...."oh my, how true." Or...."wow...that happened to me."

Each chapter had a topic that was very poignant and one that will make you reflect as you read through the incidents and facts. The chapter titled Generations and the chapter titled To Be Continued definitely brought tears to my eyes. Another chapter titled Older will make you lau
Aug 04, 2013 Christine rated it did not like it
Shelves: hate-the-author
Someone on here once criticized Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" as being too self-centered. This person wrote that another title for her book could have been "ME ME ME ME ME ME ME." I, on the other hand, am a big fan of Elizabeth Gilbert and a HUGE fan of "Eat, Pray, Love," and I vehemently disagree with that review.

THIS book is the memoir that could have been titled "ME ME ME ME ME ME ME." This writer is so self-absorbed, it's ridiculous. Each passage is basically a mini "all about ME" an
Aug 06, 2012 Felicia rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Although the book is a "memoir" it seems much more a compilation of musings and essays about life and aging. Quindlen addresses many issues that I have often contemplated. Her life perspective is interesting, she puts a positive spin on aging. One can't think too much about the book because what's next? Many of the passages in the book are worthy of discussion.
Aug 24, 2012 Ingrid rated it it was amazing
It's a rare day when I give a book five stars. In this case, I picked up a personal, poignant reflection on womanhood at just the right moment in my life. Anna Quindlen, who writes reliably excellent books, shares her thoughts on materialism, kids, girlfriends, work, body image, religion, growing old and so much more.

I very much appreciate Quindlen's down-to-earth style. Her experiences are highly relatable, told with stories that both made me laugh and rang sometimes all too true.

A couple of m
Kay Wright
Jul 21, 2013 Kay Wright rated it did not like it
We used to have so much in common, Anna. But one of us went astray and clearly it was me. I didn't marry Gerry, have three perfect kids, a perfect job, two perfect homes and fame. Anna, I loved your stories of crying in the bathroom at the Times and Quin and Chris licking their orange fingers and saying "I like these"' after their first run-in with Cheetos.

The subtitle of this memoir is Read it and weep ladies for I have created the perfect life. In spite of being the first woman who ever had to
May 03, 2015 ☮Karen rated it really liked it
I've read all of Quindlen's novels, but have avoided every one of her non-fiction books because that's usually what I do with non-fiction, avoid it. I listened to this so I could have the author herself speak to me, and it was very enjoyable if you don't mind the New York accent, and I don't. She mainly writes about motherhood, so this memoir is no different. But if that was all she wrote about, she wouldn't be my favorite author of the.moment. She discusses how times have changed from when she ...more
Aug 16, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: wackynonfiction
Although I only read half of this book - because after the first half it got reallllllly boring to me - I'll still give it 3 starts. I *do* like Anna Quindlen. Perhaps if I were 10-15 years older, I would have read and treasured this compliation of "life lessons" from the spunky and witty authoress. But her middle-age monologue about life as an upper-middle class or lower-upper class woman just wore on me a bit too much. Yes, I would love a summer house in New England and write for three months, ...more
Sep 28, 2014 Trish rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, skimmed
This was outside my usual reading range. I was looking at it because I'd come across some enthusiastic reviews and I thought it might be a nice gift for a sibling. I can see why Quindlen is a popular writer: she articulates those things about her life (our lives) that are peculiar and noteworthy and sometimes stressful and talks about them with us. It must be a great relief for some folks to discover that here is someone who thinks exactly like them.

However, I may be a bit of an outlier. I have
Barbara Burd
Apr 13, 2012 Barbara Burd rated it liked it
I really enjoy Anna Quindlen's style and her writing is unsurpassed. This book was enjoyable, but as a working slightly past middle aged woman, I found it difficult to relate to her in many areas. She has lived a privileged lifestyle thaT she assumes is common to everyone. The first essays in this book address the accumulation and comfort she has found in the "stuff" that makes up her life and while in the end she suggests that possessions aren't important, she fondly talks about her homes and a ...more
Jul 21, 2012 Su rated it really liked it
I will begin this review by stating that if you are approaching sixty, or have already passed that golden age, this is a must read book. Well, must read if you are a woman. I suppose this will sound sexist, but we all know men don't think and feel the same as we do. I have always loved this author and she does me proud once again. You will cry and laugh, but mostly you will connect with most everything she says. And in its own way her writing can bring you solace and peace.
Larry Bassett
Aug 22, 2014 Larry Bassett rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
OK, so this is the question: What is a guy doing reading a book that a gal wrote for other gals? Well, one reason is that this is a book about what it is like to be a woman. I want to know about that. When there is an M box and an F box, the answer is easy. Unless you think about it. I mean, gender is probably a continuum, right? Lots of shades of differences and variations for all of us. Many of think of life as (pardon the phrase) black or white. A or B. M or F. But there is a feminine part of ...more
Apr 06, 2012 Jill rated it really liked it
As a Boomer, reading Anne Quindlen’s book reminds me of curling up on the living room couch with a close friend who really “gets” me and listening to her wry observations on life.

And oh wow, DOES Quindlen ever get it! Her essays are insightful, perceptive, poignant and wise as she addresses so much of our shared Boomer experiences: marriage and kids, the importance of girlfriends, expectations and let-downs, aging and premonitions of mortality. The insights into a unique generation of women who
Debbie Petersen
Sep 09, 2012 Debbie Petersen rated it it was ok
I want to preface this review with the statement that I love Anna Quindlen's fiction and I am a fan of hers on Goodreads. One True Thing stands as one of my all time favorites, and I gave it 5 stars, which I only bestow upon a select few. With that being said...onto this review.

There were parts of the book that were 4 or 5 star worthy. Unfortunately this was marred by the author seeming to forget that she is speaking from a place in life that most women her age have never experienced, and most l
Nov 10, 2014 Lormac rated it liked it
I generally enjoy Anna Quindlen's essays, and I can't say I didn't like this one, but over the course of my reading relationship with Anna, I have started to feel a chasm open up between us. Part of it is a feeling that her essays have become (dare I say it?) a little self-congratulatory (Christ, there is even a Q&A with MERYL STREEP (!!) at the end of this book which is a real pat-ourselves-on-the-backs), and the other part is a feeling that Anna does not exactly inhabit the world of real w ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Anna Quindlan is one of those writers you know you can count on. This collection of essays is described as a memoir, but is really a series of essays on what it means for a woman to turn 60 with grace. Every woman reading this, especially those of a certain age, will nod in recognition at the shared experiences physical and emotional especially when the life has been well spent. There is nothing outstanding about her, if you take her at face value. She was an extremely bright young woman who gra ...more
This is about being a woman, past, present and to some extent future. It's what she learned in her life and what she made peace with over the years. Read this book with a pencil or some book darts on hand, because it is full of wonderful quotes. It's realistic yet uplifting, and it makes you wish you were sitting at her kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a chance to ask questions and draw out more stories from this brilliant woman. Given the current political climate, I especially loved hear ...more
Squirrel Circus
Aug 02, 2012 Squirrel Circus rated it it was amazing
You should know, up front, that I am a big fan of Anna Quindlen's writing style. I broke one of my cardinal rules by reading a New York Times review, before finishing this memoir; accidentally, that it is. I was looking for online cover pics and could't resist.

The reviewer, Judith Newman, also likes Anna Quindlen, but takes SOME issue with her latest....."therein lies the problem for those of us who have loved Quindlen but at this point are a bit exasperated: her verities, while deeply soothing
Cora ☕ Tea Party Princess
This book was well out of my comfort zone.

I always feel awkward when it comes to reviewing memoirs, because who am I to judge someone's past when they've offered it up so? It's even more difficult with this one because I feel I'm too young to properly understand it, although she does go back to her earlier days. There are some beautiful moments, and things that I do fully understand, but I feel like it's directed at a certain, slightly older, audience and so alienates younger readers.

Written in
Jun 16, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
If you asked people of my generation to name the one thing that had most changed their life, I imagine most people would respond "technology". This book reminded me of what I forget so often: how much the women's movement affected each and every one of us. Whether you are a daughter, a son, a husband, father, wife, or mother, your daily expectations are different from what they would have been absent the women's movement. Without email, we would still have mail. Without the very laptop I am typi ...more
May 20, 2013 Crystal rated it really liked it
Shelves: personal-essay
This was my introduction to Anna Quindlen and I enjoyed the book. Among my favorite reads are personal essay collections and what I term as creative nonfiction. While she didn't seem to be as erudite as Barbara Kingsolver or some other great essayist like Scott Russell Sanders, she is entertaining and thoughtful. Whether I like it or not, I am moving into the period of my life where I am a "woman of a certain age" and while I'm not as old as Quindlen, I felt reassured after reading her thoughts ...more
Quindlen, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and novelist presents a candid and whimsical personal account that explores what matters to middle-aged women and how they regard life stages.

Quindlen infuses her recollections as a baby-boomer facing late middle age (currently 60) with relentless optimism-and humor. Whether she's discussing marriage, raising children, or lessons learned as a beneficiary of the societal transformations brought about by the upheavals of the '60s and '70s, particularl
I respect Anna Quindlen and can relate to many of her feelings and ideas about contemporary issues such as the women's movement and the lessening role of religion in modern lives, and universal and classic issues such as parenting and the changing roles of women. I used to follow her column in the New York Times, and later Newsweek. I've never felt compelled to read any of her novels. Reading this memoir, about aging although she's not that old, helps me see why she's never been one of my favori ...more
Jul 11, 2012 K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listening to this book was like sitting with my favorite aunt and shmoozing over a cup of coffee. Lots of insights into one woman's experience of marriage, parenting, the generation gap, changes over the past several decades, getting older, relationships with parents, etc., etc. As with my aunt, nothing incredibly earth-shattering but definitely interesting, well-articulated, and provocative at times. And perfect for audio -- shortish pieces that I could easily tune in and tune out of, always en ...more
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Evergreen Park Re...: The wisdom acquired by living 1 2 Mar 16, 2016 06:39PM  
Reader's Choice B...: Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake 1 10 Feb 25, 2013 06:06PM  
Live Video Chat with Anna Quindlen 46 101 Oct 13, 2012 08:26AM  
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Anna Quindlen is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. She is the author of eight novels: OBJECT LESSONS, ONE TRUE THING, BLACK AND BLUE, BLESSINGS, RISE AND SHINE, EVERY LAST ONE, STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS, and MILLER'S VALLEY. Her memoir LOTS OF CANDLES, PLENTY OF CAKE, published in 2012, was a number one New York Times bests ...more
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“The thing about old friends is not that they love you, but that they know you. They remember that disastrous New Year's Eve when you mixed White Russians and champagne, and how you wore that red maternity dress until everyone was sick of seeing the blaze of it in the office, and the uncomfortable couch in your first apartment and the smoky stove in your beach rental. They look at you and don't really think you look older because they've grown old along with you, and, like the faded paint in a beloved room, they're used to the look. And then one of them is gone, and you've lost a chunk of yourself. The stories of the terrorist attacks of 2001, the tsunami, the Japanese earthquake always used numbers, the deaths of thousands a measure of how great the disaster. Catastrophe is numerical. Loss is singular, one beloved at a time.” 109 likes
“One of the greatest glories of growing older is the willingness to ask why and, getting no good answer, deciding to follow my own inclinations and desires. Asking why is the way to wisdom. Why are we supposed to want possessions we don't need and work that seems beside the point and tight shoes and a fake tan? Why are we supposed to think new is better than old, youth and vigor better than long life and experience? Why are we supposed to turn our backs on those who have preceded us and to snipe at those who come after? When we were small children we asked 'Why?' constantly. Asking the question now is more a matter of testing the limits of what sometimes seems a narrow world. One of the useful things about age is realizing conventional wisdom is often simply inertia with a candy coating conformity.” 19 likes
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