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Book Review: 30 Lessons for Living by Karl Pillemer

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 lessons span several areas:
  1. Lessons for a Happy Marriage
  2. Lessons for a Successful and Fulfilling Career
  3. Lessons for a Lifetime of Parenting
  4. Lessons for Aging Fearlessly and Well
  5. Lessons for Living a Life without Regrets
  6. Lessons for Living like an Expert
These topics may sound like an outline for a typical self-help book, but 30 Lessons for Living is far from that. While some of the advice is very familiar, it's the way it's presented that's different. Hearing a 79 year old woman talk, in her own words, of her regret for not having spent enough time with her kids is much more meaningful than reading a standard self-help book that says you should spend more time with your kids. The lessons resonate in a much stronger way.

While some of the lessons were pretty obvious, some were much more interesting and meaningful. For example, one of the lessons is to travel more ~ at a young age while you still can. As one expert said:
If you have to make a decision whether you want to remodel your kitchen or take a trip--well, I say, choose the trip! And travel when you're young because your health allows you to do things that you can't do when you get older. Material things, you can wait on those. (page 183)
One of the points that was especially poignant for me is the reality that we actually spend more time as parents of adult children than we do as parents of young children. And the relationship we build with our young children obviously has a huge impact on what sort of relationship we will have with them as adults. I never really thought about this before and it will definitely be in my thoughts as I raise my children.

I highly recommend 30 Lessons for Living if you're looking for a book that will have a positive impact on the way you live your life, without being too preachy. It would make a great book club selection for those groups that read nonfiction. And I it appeals to a wide range of ages. Younger readers will get more out of it, since they have more time to put the advice into practice. But I will say that my mother, who is in her mid-60s, enjoyed it as well. And since she's almost old enough to be an expert herself, she was able to corroborate many of the lessons included in the book.

My Rating: 5/5

Read a guest post by Karl A. Pillemer

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This review was written based on a copy of 30 Lessons for Living that I received from the author in exchange for an honest review.


  1. This sounds really cool. Learning from the lives of other people and the discoveries/mistakes they've made is profound.


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