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In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age

3.16  ·  Rating Details ·  94 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Now in paperback from New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen, a “lively, well-researched chronicle” (The New York Times Book Review) of the concept of middle age, from the nineteenth century to the present.For the first time ever, the middle-aged make up the biggest, richest, and most influential segment of the country—yet the history of middle age has remained largely unt ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2012)
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Sep 18, 2013 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
The term “middle age” is an invention of our modern world and the definition changes according to the normal expected life span of adults. In generations when 60 year-olds were considered well-aged; middle age, by definition, would have been 30. Slowly the starting point for middle age progressed and the accepted norm ambiguously became when parents became “empty-nesters”. In the 21st century, the defining line becomes even more hazy and middle age seems to begin somewhere around fifty. Dependin ...more
John Behle
I was in the mood for a human interest, social commentary, look-at-ourselves book. This 2012 work by Patricia Cohen fit the bill. I liked it.

I refuse to get into any game of "when is middle age?" The author dances around the question for parts of several chapters. I feel the best answer is that the upper end estimates keep stretching. Thankfully, we are living and loving vastly longer.

I did some of my own research. According to United Nations studies, the world was home to nearly half a million
Jun 23, 2012 Ciara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
i read an excerpt from this book somewhere & found myself sufficiently intrigued to check it out of the library. i like to read about the history of how things we take for granted (like teenagerhood, or middle age) was actually manufactured, usually by companies trying to convince us to buy stuff. the book started off at a nice clip...& then became mired in literary quicksand. i actually fell asleep a few times while reading this book, & i am not a person who falls asleep easily, eve ...more
Sep 30, 2014 Cara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember when I was 15 or 16 getting in an inane argument with some girl over when middle age starts. She insisted 30 was the beginning of middle age, and I thought it was more like 40. Anyway, now that I'm 30, it has come to my attention that I'm getting older (though I'm still not middle aged, Stephanie, even if AARP has been sending me constant recruitment letters for the past few months). In such a youth-obsessed culture as ours, what does it mean to age? This book looks at the historical ...more
Jaye Bea
Feb 28, 2012 Jaye Bea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was written by a dear friend of mine so I was anxious to read it as I followed her through the process. It touches so many bases of our culture and can really generate some deep discussion around how society shapes and defines life stages. The other part of the book that is fascinating is the historical context related to views of different stages of life and how we have arrived at what we generally define as middle age. I really recommend this for any adult who participates in a book ...more
Jenny Brown
I have to agree with other reviewers who found nothing new in this book. It does a good job of documenting how advertisers create anxieties to get middle aged people to buy products but this is not exactly news.

Much of the first part which purports to give a historical overview of the concept of middle age draws too heavily on prescriptive magazine articles and the pronouncements of a few overrated psychiatrists and sociologists. Neither of these give us any true idea of how most people thought
Kathy jenkins
i'm marking this read but don't think i'll actually make it all the way through. Maybe i'm just too stuck in my storytelling preferences. While i found the premise very interesting (being a middle ager myself), I found the book dry, the message overwhelmed by the cited references. There's nothing in the book that makes me want to finish it, which really disappoints me. I'm not sure if i'm disappointed in the work or in myself.
101 reasons not to turn 40. :p actually a decent book. Covers lots of ground.
Aug 14, 2012 Jon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
In the beginning of the book Cohen uses all the literary talent she can muster, trying to describe the feelings she had entering an MRI with poetic fervor, and the like. I don't really care for this style of writing. I just want to hear about the research and the findings. I was disappointing with the amount of clinical science reported about in her book. 95% percent of the sources she cites and missives she gives are from literature or advertising. That being said, the main theme of her book se ...more
Aug 23, 2013 Msladydeborah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age
I really enjoyed the audio version of this book. It is definitely a great non-fictional read.
Patricia Cohen has crafted a book that deals with the creation of middle age and provides a historical reference that is sensible and fact filled.

I really like how she did not back down on any of the issues that exist about aging. She gives examples of how the American society developed ideas about aging that have been manipulated by the corporate sector for the
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Jan 26, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age" is a compelling and eye-opening read about the origin and development of our age-based social divisions (with particular focus on middle-age). A worthwhile read for doctors, advertisers, boomers, and even 20 and 30 somethings (who will be relieved to know that turning 30 is not the tragic end but the mere beginning of a better phase of life). Well-researched and highly readable, here's hoping it will encourage consumers of all ages to not take media me ...more
Mar 15, 2013 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mid-life is the prime of life when people finally find security and comfort with their lives. Yet, due to mid-Life industrial complex (or advertising geniuses), mid-lifers are brainwashed to feel wanting but plenty of ways to fix that with money. Debunks a lot of myths (e.g. Mid-life crises can happen at any age). Good historical background (e.g. concept of midlife didn't exist until 20th century).
Feb 07, 2012 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the first half of this book, which concerns the different historical concepts of what "middle age" is or was (or even before it existed), than the second half of the book, which deals more with modern concepts. This is because I am more attracted to history, though. It's not a reflection on the book or the writing itself.
Oct 01, 2012 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is informative and insightful, chocked full of studies and well documents the evolution of the middle-aged concept. The US Census Bureau defines middle-age falling between 45 and 64 years of age. In Our Prime looks at how that definition came to be and how it affects how we currently live our lives.
Candy Sparks
I could not finish the book. It is so dry and boring. I tried to read it but it just wasn't working. I did however like who marketing has changed the aspects of how we percieve ourselves in each stage of life. Even with that info I was still trying to not sleep through the book.
Feb 29, 2012 Sharon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall the idea is good. I found the beginning a bit slow and then as she talked about the science and research it became more interesting and then my interest waned with the marketing/television bit. I feel that it did not really enlighten me on any level.
Feb 08, 2012 Ashlie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the idea behind this book, but it dragged at times because it seemed that the author needed to give (too) many examples for each idea. I'm glad I read it, because it made me think about the way that our society views middle age and especially the middle-aged body.
Of course "middle age" is a 20th century advertising and media invention. Nothing new in this book for anyone who knows anything about the history of advertising, fashion, movies, or other popular culture. Didn't even bother to finish it.
I’ve read a lot of this before, but enjoyed the history of “middle age” and how the term became part of the vernacular.
May 24, 2012 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting that the concept of middle age is somewhat of a media campaign. Like many non fiction books, I felt like it would have been better, shorter.
Wasen`t really into it. It didn`t teach me anything new. ...more
Feb 06, 2012 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So the book really is about the "invention" part. The author is really railing against the bummer labels that happen to people in middle age. It is a dense, but fun read.
Jan 16, 2017 Cathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting but not startling.
This book is somewhat entertaining, and slightly educational. Not much new in this book, and certainly nothing that you couldn't read about in many other books. Pretty much a big yawn.
Feb 21, 2012 Fiona rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Interesting enough but not riveting... The book proceeded at a professorial plod rather than a Gladwell like gallop.
Still - nice to know I'm in my prime.
Mar 26, 2012 Kathy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reads like a textbook. Some part very slow; other parts humorous..
Feb 25, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this enormously and recommend it to anyone anywhere near middle age.
Vicki rated it it was ok
Jan 28, 2013
Kris rated it liked it
Jun 24, 2012
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Patricia Cline Cohen is Professor of History and Acting Dean of the Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara. From 1991 to 1996 she chaired the Women's Studies Program there. She is the author of A Calculating People: The Spread of Numeracy in Early America (1985) and of numerous articles and reviews, and a coauthor of The American Promise (1997).
More about Patricia Cline Cohen...

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