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On Being 40(ish)

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  621 ratings  ·  117 reviews
“Like a pep talk from your big sister, favorite cousin and wise best friend. These 15 smart, funny women expertly capture what it's like to get older... A must read for anyone 40ish or beyond.” —Joanna Goddard, Cup of Jo

Fifteen powerful women and writers you know and love—from the pages of the New Yorker, New York Times, Vogue, Glamour, and The Atlantic—offer captivating,
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Simon Schuster
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Carol (Bookaria)
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a poignant collection of essays by women about their life experiences and outlook after turning forty.

I don't usually read these types of collections but the description caught my attention, and I'm happy I picked it up. The title includes personal stories from different writers, they explore many themes, from aging, careers, relationships, to the shift in priorities each lived decade.

I related to many of the stories, but my absolutely favorite was THE PEOPLE WHO GOT ME HERE by Julie Kla
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was invited by the publisher to read On Being 40(ish), and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Fifteen women contributed to these essays on the topic of turning forty. The big 4-0 has always been viewed as a turning point, a milestone, in the same way turning eighteen or twenty-one is; however, there are, arguably, more differences for women at this milestone, according to this thoughtful book.

The essays are equal parts honest and emotional and always personal.

Regardless of their age, I feel l
(3.5) Even though I’m only 35, I appreciated this set of women-penned essays (plus one poem, and one comic) on being in one’s forties. Common themes include coming out of the fog of early parenthood and finally having time for oneself again; facing mortality for the first time, either through a personal physical setback or the death of a parent or friend; and pushing past inertia to make a major life change.

Many of the writers say something along the lines of, “I thought I’d have it all figured
May 21, 2019 added it
Still thinking about how to quantify my rating for this one. I was intrigued by the premise for obvious reasons – turning 40 is on my own mind and is a frequent (while by no means incredibly fraught) subject of conversations with my friends. But I also was somewhat concerned that it would be a self-indulgent read. Two pages into the editor’s introduction I leaned hard into the second feeling as privilege bells clanged loud and abrasively clear. She describes sitting in front of her friend’s glas ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Proud to be a contributor to this amazing anthology with such a powerhouse collective of women!
Laura Tremaine
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this little book of essays. I got this as a gift for my 40th, and truthfully this isn’t something I ever would have picked up for myself. But every single essay was well written and made me think about this stage of life. Highly recommended, especially as a gift.
Feb 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
As a 43 year old lady myself, I've read lots of these essay collections of vaguely feminist ladies writing about LADY STUFF in my time, and this one did not particularly knock my socks off. These things tend to include authors with a pretty limited range of identity and experience -- living in the Northeast or West Coast, maybe Iowa (Writer's project hangover/teaching job). I've over it.

The Megan Daum one was good tho, b/c Megan Daum is usually good. I also laughed meanly b/c Sloane Crosley got
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it
“the modern [wo]man, at least the kind who is reading a book of essays about turning forty, is faced with a conundrum at forty: How can you be this dissatisfied when you have so much? How can you be this satisfied when you have so little? Ask yourself this [...] and decide that it is okay to not have an answer. It is also okay to forget the question”

The book was good, in that easy way that makes you smile, nod; recognize patterns, lessons learned; most of which are not attributable to a single d
Cara Meredith
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Food for thought, says the newly minted forty year old. While there were a couple of (super whiny) essays I couldn’t stand, there were also a few that moved me to tears.
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Like other essay collections, On Being 40(ish) contains some essays better than others. This collection of essays had me crying at times, out loud laughing at times, and nodding my head in solidarity at times. As I near the big 4-0 (gasp) this collection of essays solidified what I already know- I’m happier at almost 40 than ever, my don’t give an f has been triggered, my body reminds me constantly that I’m no spring chicken, and that my 40’s are going to rock. This book is like sitting around w ...more
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-read
Turning 40 hasn’t been easy for my physically or emotionally, so I found this book of essays at exactly the right time. Each of them resonated with me in different ways and some brought me to tears. I loved reading these women’s reflections and different viewpoints on what life is all about.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it
These well-written and mostly encouraging essays were hit-or-miss for me in terms of identifying with the authors since I am neither married nor a mother--traits that were at the heart of many pieces in this book. Overall, though, these women have confirmed something I already suspected. Forty is not the end-all, be-all of existence. I turned forty earlier this month. And I’m okay with that. I’m not going to stick to “29...and holding,” nor will I go about moaning that my life is over. I like wh ...more
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some of the essays were better than others and most of the topics were covered in predictable ways, but the writers were good and I related with most of the essays so it was a worthwhile read.
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
Loved reading essays by writing friends. And I love that women in their 40s are being given a voice, here and in the greater world. Let’s all listen to these women’s experiences. Maybe I’ll take some courage from these and make some of my own personal writing public again.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-tbr
As other reviews have said, this is a mixed bag, but I enjoyed a handful of these essays on being forty-something (or close to it, or just past) very much.

Catherine Newman's "Soul Mates: A Timeline in Clothing" was both unique (a decades-long friendship told through fashion) and moving. Sloane Crosley's "What We Talk about When We Talk about Our Face" was very entertaining (" many beauty products, my toxicology report would read as if Ken Starr wrote it."). Ditto with Jill Kargman's "I Beca
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved reading the varied life-snapshots, and I loved the design of the book: it's tactile and playful qualities. Thirteen U.S. writers, one poet, and one illustrator (all women) reflect on the defining characteristics and experiences of each of their lives in their fifth decade: its surprises, challenges, benefits, and losses. Inserted between essays are facing pages with answers to fill-in-the-blank assertions, like "The single most important lesson I've learned in my life so far is..." and " ...more
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is short and digestible, one I found easy to come back to and read an essay at a time. Some of the essays landed and some didn’t, which is probably to be expected, especially considering I’m not a mother and many of these women are. It felt like many of the writers are in rather privileged positions, and there wasn’t a lot of intersectionality that I could discern—though to be fair, I didn’t investigate the backgrounds of all the contributing writers.

The essay I appreciated most is the
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pub date: Feb 5, 2019
Many of these essays in this collection from wome about their 40s have similar themes: things change and life is short. The one that made the biggest impression was "I Don't Have Time for This", where Sophfronia Scott relates that she doesn't have time to be miserable about the state of politics, or any other negative energy; she's got her focus on the joy and wonder of the present. You can be aware of the bad, but don't let it dictate your day. For a 47 year old who reads t
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is like a mosaic of thoughts, feelings, personal histories, joys, frustration, bits and pieces of life which put together create a beautiful picture of feminine wisdom. Because that is what being 40ish is all about: figuring all this shit out, keeping what is worth and letting go of all the useless crap which seemed to be important and 20.
Turning 40 this year I must say I can totally relate with most of the essays, reading this book gave me a sense of peace and self-confidence.
Emily Weathers
The “Introduction” by Lindsey Mead and essays: “Soul Mates: A Timeline in Clothing” by Catherine Newman and “Why I Didn’t Answer Your Email” by KJ Dell’Antonia alone make this a worthwhile read. The collection of personal stories from fifteen authors tackle a milestone birthday and the importance of family and friendship through life-changing events ranging from aging parents to illness and loss. Think of Nora Ephron meets Gen X.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I just recently turned 40, so I purposely chose to read this book the week of my 40th birthday. A collection of female authors write about what it was like to turn 40 or reflecting on life in your 40's. While some of the names I recognized, many of them I did not. There were several that I liked - Soul Mates, There's a Metaphor Here, and Youth Dew were my favorites. But, the rest were just OK. Not much other than the three I mentioned really jumped out or were all that interesting. Overall, it w ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 I loved this collection of essays!
Lee Woodruff
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Full disclosure. I contributed an essay to this collection and it’s an honor to be included with this illustrious group of 15 writers pondering aging, life, what matters and what’s next. In these writers’ hands, forty is both a milestone and just another year. As you’ll see from this wonderful, witty, poignant and wise collective take on what used to be considered “over the hill,” it’s just another decade of notching the belt with all the crazy things that we call “life.” From Sloane Crosley, Ve ...more
May 02, 2019 marked it as to-read
I initially assumed this was about turning 40, not being in your forties. But the first two essays have been very good and I'll still keep reading. The only author's name I initially recognize is Sloane Crosley. (I stopped right before her essay).
Sonia Reppe
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
My favorites:

Meghan Daum's "Same Life Higher Rent" She's come full circle from her early twenties. She pokes fun at her “oldness” (ie. cultural/music differences, barre class) and also pokes fun at her younger self. Perfect.

Sloan, Crosley. "What We Talk About when we talk about our Face" Great title. She makes up a fun concept: "Internal Age Vision" (the spectrum measuring how old one feels, youngest to oldest. She feels 32 with spikes up to 68) Lol: “Hold up, under-eye bags, I need to assess m
Starr Waddell
When the introduction starts with Martha's Vineyard and a Patagonia fleece jacket, I know this is not one for me.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"This book is full of reflections from individual women that also reveal and revel in the universal. From women of myriad backgrounds, a chorus rings true: the forties are a decade of reckoning and awareness, of gratitude and loss, and they are limned with emotions as divergent and powerful as the individual voices that speak to them. These women, in their forties and beyond, are in the prime of their lives. These are not reflections on the dying of the light, but rather a full-throated celebrat ...more
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was a child, I remember the adults celebrating turning 40 with black balloons, a "you're over the hill" cake, and on occasion tombstones in your front yard. It was as if to say, 40 = your life is over. My sister cried the day she turned 40. Big, blubbering tears. And for the life of me I couldn't figure out why. She's only a year older than I am. So when my turn came, to be honest, I didn't feel any different. I didn't cry. I felt the same as when I turned 25 or 32. Over the year I did st ...more
Grace Tolman
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
I picked this up from my local library because the title and premise of the book intrigued me. It also happens that I'm turning 40 this year so I was really curious about what the ladies in the book had to say.
What I liked:
I liked that there are varying voices in the book. Each essay was written by a lady that are in their 40s, except for one that is, I believe 38. I also liked that these women come from all walks of life. There were some that are mothers, wives, divorcees, never been married,
Sep 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
This was my big year. I stupidly put out into the universe that in my 40th year, I wanted to pursue minimalism and do things that scared me. I had a pile of stuff for Goodwill and was taking scuba diving lessons when a tornado ripped the walls and ceiling off my top-floor apartment, with me and my fur-babies in it, destroying pretty much everything I possessed and resulting in a lot of, "you should be dead" type comments from a lot of people. Let this be a lesson to you all; be VERY specific whe ...more
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“I savor these moments. They sit tart and bright and sweet on my tongue like the taste of hibiscus tea with honey. From these moments I can cultivate gratitude and from gratitude I distill grace.” 1 likes
“But if they've helped form you into who you are, then they never really leave you; they're always with you in whatever you do, and maybe that's the point.” 0 likes
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