Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
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Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  9,712 ratings  ·  1,837 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...more
Hardcover, 182 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Random House (first published 2012)
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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...more
Skostal
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...more
Karen
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...more
Deborah
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...more
Connie
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...more
Margaret
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...more
Felicia
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.
Ingrid
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...more
☮Karen
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
Lisa
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
Christine
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...more
Larry Bassett
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
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...more
Kay Wright
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...more
Trish
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...more
Su
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.
Jill
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...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
Crystal
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
Carol
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...more
Barbara Burd
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
Lucy Robinson
I heard Anna Quindlen promote this on Fresh Air, and her interview was so cool and interesting. Too bad this book wasn't interesting at all! Instead of a memoir about her life as a woman at the New York Times, it was basically just... thoughts about life? And not thoughts about life that were relevant or heartwarming to anyone else. Just... thought by a rich white woman in her early 60s. So sick of "men are like THIS and women are like THIS" type of crap. I didn't even finish this.
Jenni Ogden
Anna Quindlen is one of my favourite authors, and her novel "One True Thing" gave me cause for more tears than any other novel I can remember reading! This was, in some measure, because that story. in many ways, parallelled my own, and in her memoir, where she looks back at her very full life from the age of 60, I found many more reminders of my own life. And this in spite of our very different cultures; she in the US of America and me in New Zealand. That is her great talent; to write in a way...more
Squirrel Circus
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...more
Mary
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
Judy
This reflection on aging could be enjoyed by any reader, but it will be relished by women over 50. Anna Quindlen is 60 and these essays reflect her life experiences and her conclusions about life based on those experiences. One of her conclusions is that, in general, people are happier and more content as they age. She quotes a Gallup poll that revealed that after age 50, happiness was an upward trajectory into the 80s because stress, anger, and sadness all decline. Quindlen writes that she woul...more
Mimi Jones
In this collection of essays Anna Quindlen reprises key themes from throughout her career: motherhood; the joys of friendship among women; feminism; the inevitability of loss (first experienced by her as a young woman called home from college to care for her dying mother, fictionalized in her novel ONE TRUE THING); the centrality of work to a happy life. Now an empty-nester and in her sixth decade of life she discusses such things as how to navigate changing relations with one's adult children;...more
Debbie Petersen
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...more
Aimee
I have always enjoyed reading Anna Quindlen's books and this one is now my favorite book by her. In a series of essays Quindlen talks about what it means to be a woman today and deal with growing older. Many topics are covered including girlfriends, marriage, being a mother, faith, and dealing with loss. Each topic is discussed with incite and humor and I found myself agreeing with her ideas so many times throughout the book.

My favorite essay was titled Stuff and in it Quindlen talks about all o...more
Jackie
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
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Anna Quindlen is an American journalist and opinion columnist whose New York Times column, Public and Private, won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992.

She began her journalism career in 1974 as a reporter with The New York Post. Between 1977 and 1994 she held several posts at the New York Times. She left journalism in 1995 to become a full-time novelist. She currently writes a bi-weekly colu...more
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Black and Blue One True Thing Every Last One Still Life with Bread Crumbs Blessings

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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.” 82 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.” 14 likes
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