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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,459 ratings  ·  200 reviews
More than one thousand extraordinary Americans share their stories and the wisdom they have gained on living, loving, and finding happiness.

After a chance encounter with an extraordinary ninety-year-old woman, renowned gerontologist Karl Pillemer began to wonder what older people know about life that the rest of us don't.

His quest led him to interview more than one
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 10th 2011 by Hudson Street Press
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 ·  1,459 ratings  ·  200 reviews

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Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
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
Sean Goh
May 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's very heartwarming (and at time emotionally stirring) to read these stories of the elderly, to be so privileged as to gleam a silver of their accumulated wisdom.

-Don't go to bed angry. Most things couples disagree upon aren't worth more than a day's combat.
-If you can't wake up in the morning and want to go to work, you're in the wrong job.
-When dealing with one's children, relax your expectations and assume that failure is inevitable at times. Dealing with problems in a supportive
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting insights about marriage and parenting, but nothing really groundbreaking. The opinions seem to be somewhat biased by the Boomer generation that grew up during the depression or WWII. They seemed somewhat self-centered in their thinking, and I hope that the next generation will have thoughts that involve more about other people rather than themselves. Maybe their regrets would involve not adding to pollution and climate change and not damaging the world for future generations. ...more
Karen O'leary
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Yong-Gu Bae
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Carolyn F.
I enjoyed this book. It's interviews of older Americans about a variety of stuff. Some of it was extremely pertinent to what is going on in my life and I found myself quoting it. My only gripe (not a complaint) is that I wish it were more interviews and less filler by the author. Other than that I loved the book.
Lucia Milec
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nice motivational book. The very important extract from the book, important to me personally, is this note:
Happiness is your daily choice. You can not wait to be happy until something happens. It is your responsibility to be happy right now, here, today.
Alex Fagen
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
Advice presented in the context of stories. A good read. Here are the major themes:
* Lessons for a Happy Marriage (Marry Someone a Lot Like You; Friendship is Important; Don't Keep Score; Talk to Each Other; Commit to Marriage not just your Partner)
* Lessons for a Successful and Fulfilling Career (Seek Intrinsic Rewards, not financial ones; Don't give up looking for a job you love; Make the Most of a Bad Job, Emotional Intelligence Trumps all; Everyone needs autonomy)
* Lessons for Parenting
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My mother gave me this book for my birthday because it said “30” on it and I just turned 30. I didn’t think I’d read it, but decided to try to squeeze it in my “health and well-being” theme this month. I actually really enjoyed this book. All of my grandparent’s have passed away and I never really got to ask them for much “real world” advise (which is extra sad cause at the end of this book it has questions to ask your personal elders to get answers similar to what the book is full of). Reading ...more
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
It is one of the best books I've read this year. While not all 30 lessons are new, over half of them are profound and applicable. #MustRead
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...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,
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lots of sage advice from folks who have lived their lives. I like books like this that give pause for reflection and introspection.
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Approaching 30 years, makes me re-think again what is important to me. This book is a useful resource to look at your life from a perspective of someone approaching end of life.

Key points:
to live each day as if it could be my last, but with a watchful eye on the future in case it wasn’t.

“The most important thing is to be involved in a profession that you absolutely love, and that you look forward to going to work to

Marry Someone a Lot like You

much more likely to have a satisfying marriage for a
Tina Truong
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book and I'm so happy I've read it before I turn 30. I would read it again.

The three lessons I remember the most of all are:

1) Treat your body like you need it for 100 years. I have relatives and friends who do not care enough to stay physically active and healthy, for they would simply shorten their life span but it may be forgotten that chronic illness can happen to anyone for a decade or two or even three decades in our lives. Why bother spending money on health problems when
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Dr.Pillemer says somewhere in the middle that he wanted to avoid common advice from the elderly and dredge out the unique pearls of wisdom. After reading the book (and enjoying it immensely), I flipped back to make a few notes and I realised that a lot of the wisdom was quite straightforward. IMHO, it is a testament to how much we forget the basics and how much it matters in the end that it becomes part of the wisdom that the elderly want to pass on to us. There are two reasons why I really ...more
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-non-fiction
I just kept wondering while reading this book if I had read it before. I know I've read a book like this one. Maybe it is because the 30 lessons for living all make such perfect sense. In general, I already (try to) apply all the lessons that are relevant to my life - which is to say without a partner, children and a spiritual community around me. Those lessons would apply to other kinds of relationships as well, though.

Recommended read, especially for those who feel they lost touch with what's
Marisa Gettas
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Karl Pillemer has interviewed thousands of senior's, and this book is a result of that work. It's advice on living, from those who have lived the most; experts if you wish. I can't think of a single person who would'nt benefit from reading this book. My biggest surprise: Overwhelmingly, seniors don't worry about dying. "Worrying about dying is a young person's game". Also, my favourite piece of advice, "Not one person in thousands said they were happy they worked extra hours ...more
Mary Vermillion
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was lovely fuel for my spirit during Thanksgiving break.

My key take-away was a quote from the Talmud: “We will be held accountable for all the permitted pleasures we failed to enjoy.”

These words remind me of one of my favorite passages from a novel, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Shug tells Celie, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book of advice from elders is useful and in some ways reassuring, for an advance-planner me. Succinct and clear, and based on exactly the sort of formal study I was looking for. Some of what’s included reflects conventional wisdom, but even these sections are helpful to me because the consensus of experience gives weight to the guidance that makes me more likely to recall and act on it, when the time comes.

But why, why is there no quantitative analysis available showing the research
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books i have ever read! It is a roadmap of how to live your life without regrets by tapping a resource that too often goes ignored; people with experience.

Instead of following books written by people who are in the middle of their lives and who are also still trying to figure it out, read this and reap the rewards of the wisdom from over a thousand interviewees who have lived 80, 90, and even over 100 years already.

I want to gift to now to so many people.
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
A practical book that collates the 30 most important lessons from interviewing thousands of people over the age of 65. The book is very introspective, and made me ponder what's truly important. The notion of interviewing the living is unique and adds veracity, but the continual reference to the interviewees as "experts" becomes a tad corny. It's for this reason that I opted against a 5-star rating.
Jaclyn McClain
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone looking to live a more fulfilling life. For those of us who are no longer blessed to have grandparents in our lives, this is the next best thing. I wish I would have come across the advice in this book sooner but am happy to have found it now. The personal accounts given by these wise, older Americans are quite interesting and will touch your heart. It will make you think about where you can make changes to better your own life right now.
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a must read, the youger you are the more must the read. Pillemer surveyed and/or interviewed 1000 Americans over the age of 65 to capture lifes lessons. If you are past the age where you think your parents no nothing and that the world was different when they were young, you are ready for this book. I wish I would have read it when I was 25. Great nightstand book as it is broken up into small sections.

I bought each of my girls a hardcopy.
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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
“If you are entering into a permanent relationship based on the intention of change, you are on the wrong track.” 2 likes
“It’s my responsibility to be as happy as I can, right here, today.” 1 likes
More quotes…