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30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  759 ratings  ·  125 reviews
"Heartfelt and ever-endearing - equal parts information and inspiration. This is a book to keep by your bedside and return to often." --Amy Dickinson, nationally syndicated advice columnist "Ask Amy"
After a chance encounter with a remarkable ninety-year-old woman, renowned gerontologist Karl Pillemer decided to find out what older people know about life that the rest of u
Published November 1st 2011 by Plume Books
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I was hoping this book would tell us the secrets of the good life. It does, but it's not fun to read. It's a bit boring. The lessons given are excellent, though. Following are the notes I took from the first hundred pages of the book, before I quit.

On marriage:
1. Marry someone a lot like you; who has the same core values about:
a) Money
b) Education
c) Has same background
d) Likes/doesn’t like reading the same amount
e) Political views
f) Living/not living ostentatiously
g) Owing something to th
Karen O'leary
Wow! I think this book came along at a great time for me -- I was feeling like I was stuck in a little bit of a rut and I walked away from this with lot of great ideas for living life well --a super easy read and filled with anecdotes, each chapter focuses on different areas that make up our exsistence --marriage, kids, work, travel etc. - I especially liked the wisdom of the experts (the interviewed elders) on the topic of worrying --that there is absolutely no point in worry --plan things but ...more
A great book with insightful tips on life.

I am generally not one for these types of books because they tend to be filled with BS. I was surprised to find this to be a comforting read, like a cup of tea on a cold day. I really enjoyed the POV of the author and the message.

Do I recommend that you read this book? Yes, actually. Pick it up and see some of the things it has to say. This book celebrates living a life that leads to building long lasting relationships and being happy. More than that, I
Yong-Gu Bae
A must read. If 10 stars were available, I would give them. There are a lot of stories and valuable lessons to learn. I am glad that I read this book and learned from the experts. I would like to take action accordingly.
When I first saw 30 Lessons for Living by Karl Pillemer--as intriguing as the title was--it also seemed a bit cliche and pat. What did this book have to offer that was unique? As the author himself says in the first chapter, there are more than 30,000 self-help books in print today and people rush out to buy them hoping for a quick fix. Why read, or even better, buy another one?

30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans is exactly that. Advice that has come from hundr
Author is a gerontologist who queried, then interviewed hundreds of Americans aged 65+ to get advice for what is most important for a life well-lived. It is segmented by category: Marriage, Career, Parenting, Aging, Avoiding Regret, and Happiness. Each category has themes and is given life by stories from the inverviewees, who have "seen it all." The author reminds us that nobody reaches that age without hurdles to overcome, sadness, tragedy - this generation was born during the depression and r ...more
Fantastic. Okay so there were some sections I was into more than the others (the relationship one and the happiness one for example), but all in all this was a insightful and wonderful read. It made me think, ponder and realize that I really just want the best life I can make for myself thank to the words of wisdom of America's oldest citizens. Great book. Just ordered a copy off Amazon for my personal library,
As a person in my mid-30s and approaching 40 fast, there is so much about my youth that I wish I had the wisdom to do things differently. If only I knew... And that is just looking back, looking forward there is so much unknown and uncertainties.

We, as a human race, have so much life experiences, but we are not very good at documenting and sharing our life lessons and collective wisdom. This is a rare book that looks into this. It aggregates life advises from a large number of old people and pre
Those among us of the "Greatest Generation" who survived WWII, the Depression, and some the Holocaust, are quickly leaving us. This author, a gerontologist, wanted to gather as much wisdom from those who survived and flourished, before all are gone. This might sound like a somewhat depressing collection, but for me it was anything but. After interviewing hundreds of people, mostly in their late 80's, up to in their 100's, Mr. Pillemer summarizes their stories, and advice, into 5 or 6 major categ ...more
Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer conducted interviews with really elderly people (older than me!) asking them what advice they'd give younger people about marriage, children, careers, aging,
living without regrets, how to stop worrying, etc. There's a nice balance between his commentary
and the quotations he uses from the elderly themselves, and much of the advice--particularly about the qualities needed to make a marriage last a long time and about how to be happy--ring true. In this quick re
I thought the lessons were really good and stuck with me. As a result of this book, I want to travel more with the kids. I also want the kids to read this someday...

***** marriage

- Marry homogeneously (money, religion, politics, values)
- Marry someone who you would choose as a friend
- Don't keep score, ask, what can I do for them everyday
- Be able to commucate well. Able to resolve conflicts. Talk about anything.
- See it as a lifetime commitment
- Don't go to bed angry

********* work
- choose a car
i was debating between 4 and 5 stars b/c the quotes from the "wisest" really made it a 5-star, not the interpretation of the remarks by the author. it's one of those books where if you feel you need some guidance or mentorship back to reality and what REALLY matters while we are blessed to be living on this earth, then this is a great resource. it made me miss my grandparents so much, i wished i had spent more time just asking them these types of questions. i wonder what their responses would ha ...more
Spencer Torrico

3 1/2 stars for me

As many people have done, and as you-the person reading reviews to see if this book is worth getting-are doing, I too wondered if this book was going to be worth the read. I took a shot and went for it and this book made me glad I did as well as made me wish I didn't.

By far the best parts are the quotes from the elders giving their two cents on topics such as marriage, raising kids, being happy, living with no regrets, etc. it's great to hear the advice the people who have liv
I agree with a previous reviewer that this book can be boring to read at certain sections. I often found myself skimming through paragraphs that were too wordy and repetitive. However, there are many great insights on marriage (e.g., you're more likely to have a successful marriage if you start with a great friendship), parenting (e.g., spend as much time with your children as you can before it's too late), careers (e.g., take a pay cut if it means doing something you love), and general happines ...more
William Lee
After my father facetiously suggested reading this would be a sufficient birthday present for him, I took a stab at this and came away gratified by his suggestion. For my age, certain parts were definitely more relatable (career, happiness) than others (parenting), and Pillemer's fillers were a tad redundant in some parts. But this book precisely captured the subtle youth and vigor that emanated from all the seniors I have conversed with in the past whenever I asked them to share with me their m ...more
Lots of sage advice from folks who have lived their lives. I like books like this that give pause for reflection and introspection.
Helpful book. My favorite passages:

page 67: The bank was hiring, so I got a job there for supposedly two years and I never got back to college, and that is a regret in many ways. I was in the credit department, and I supervised the collection of loans. I came to see it as being like caregiving. Because I found that the people who were not paying, 90 percent of the time it was because of catastrophic things. For most of the people, I took it as caregiving, because you couldn't demand they get six
The exact book I was looking for

A couple of years ago I came to a juncture in my life where I wanted to interview some of my parents' older friends to find out what life's 'big lessons' are, as seen from an older and wiser persons' point of view. I never got around to doing this but was overjoyed when I came across 30 Lessons for Living, since Mr Pillemer has essentially done all the hard work for me.

I think this is a book that everyone who feels a bit lost or unsure should read. I'm a male in m
Cary Griffith
If you examine my other book rating you'll find I am probably quilty of grade inflation. A writer myself, I know hwo difficult a book project can be, especially one of the type undertaken by Mr. Pillemer, a gerontologist who, with a team of others, interviewed more than 1,000 elder Americans. The book is well researched and competently written, though I'm a little dubious about how the author chose the 1,000 Amercians from whom to glean his wisdom. I particuarly appreciated the way Mr. Killemer ...more
This book was better than I expected it to be. The lessons are not earth-shattering, but they are mostly concrete and easy to implement in your life if you want to do so. The idea of gathering lessons from old people (whom the author annoyingly refers to as "experts," i.e. experts on living) is an interesting way to address the oft-covered subject of how to live one's life. While most self-help concepts are myopic in scope - lose weight NOW, get out of debt NOW, find a spouse NOW, etc., this boo ...more
I loved this book. I love that it acknowledges the importance of learning from a resource in American society that is, in my opinion, undervalued & under-appreciated: senior citizens. The author interviewed over 1000 older Americans on topics of interest to most people, such as marriage, parenting, careers, etc. I love that the author analyzed and categorized a large volume of qualitative research data and summarized it in a way that is meaningful, easy-to-read, and helpful. In addition, the ...more
What is the key to living a fulfilling life? What choices can you make now to ensure you have no regrets later in life? Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., has interviewed more than 1,000 Americans over the age of 65 (who he calls the "experts") to get the answers to these questions. He presents his findings in 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.

He doesn't tell the life stories of the participants, but rather the lessons they offered when looking back on their lives. The le
I enjoyed this book and the advice it offered from older people. I don't really have relationships with elderly folks, aside from my grandparents, who I do not get to see very often anymore. So, their perspective was interesting. I've heard most of the advice before, but there were a few new ones to think about.

I was particularly struck by the advice, "Act now like you will need your body for 100 years." Obviously, it is important to take care of your health, but I never thought about it this wa
Carol Owens
I liked this book! It was organized nicely, and I enjoyed the lessons from the elders. Some highlights were to marry someone who has similar values to you, live in the moment and appreciate everyday things, don't give up on finding a job that makes you happy, raise your kids knowing you'll have a longer adult relationship with them than parent-child relationship, don't worry so much about dying (the elders don't), time is short so do what you want to do NOW instead of waiting!
Jing Yang
Apr 05, 2013 Jing Yang marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition

Sweet study from Cornell. Quote from Gazette" “vibrant, engaged, healthy, exciting, and active older people.”
The paradox intrigued him, as did the countless surveys conducted over the past 10 years revealing that the elderly tend to be significantly happier than people decades younger. That knowledge, combined with what he called a “disturbing sense that we lost an age-old and time-honored activity of not just asking older people for stories, but asking fo
Lee Hoover
I love to sit with my 92 year old grandma and listen to her tell stories and share advice about growing up, so when I saw this book I thought I'd love it. I didn't.

I assumed it would be a collection of stories and advice shared by our elders, but Pillemer made it more like a research book, which I suppose it is, but gosh…boring.

The "advice" is fantastic (albiet predictable), but Pillemer just gets in the way too much. I didn't feel like it was advice from elders. It was advice from Pillemer, b
Fantastic book. I know some people weren't incredibly fond of it because it comes across as more of a scholarly or research type book, rather than just a book full of interviews, but I actually liked that. I think it would be a great read for anyone, no matter your age. I read this on loan from my local library, but am actually considering buying a hard copy (which is saying something, because I don't really buy books).
Karen Christino
Pillemer has distilled the most consistent advice from over 1,000 elders 65+ (some in their early 100s), who he refers to as "the experts" on living. And indeed they are. Their lessons transcend religion, politics and everything else, making for a truly authentic and substantive book. Surprising, uplifting and poignant, and the author is the perfect curator for these wise souls.
Ellis Morning
Good, quick read. A lot of this stuff, I'm starting to learn in my 30s. It would've been nice if someone could've handed me this book in my 20s! But I'm not sure I would've taken it to heart then. This was clearly a labor of love by the author. Reading the "experts'" testimony is very enlightening.
Julie Baylor
This book reinforces what we all know deep down to be true, but are too busy or preoccupied to practice in our own lives. The experiences of older individuals are valuable lessons readily available to most of us, and yet we don't take the time to glean. I think one of my favorite sound bites is to "think small" - to find happiness in the little daily activities and experiences we can engage with every day of our lives.
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Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., is one of America's foremost gerontologists and family sociologists. He is a professor of human development at Cornell University. He founded the Marriage Advice Project, which surveyed hundreds of older Americans on their advice on love and marriage. He is the author of a number of books, including "30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans," and ...more
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