Goldens for Oldies

What with all the graduations and weddings taking place this summer, many of us are feeling a little long in the tooth.  We used to go to our friends’ weddings and graduations — now we go to our friends’ children’s weddings and graduations. (Weren’t those kids just in diapers?) And to add insult to injury, our own alumni associations send out reunion announcements with ridiculously high numbers on them, as if it could possibly be true that 25 years or more have passed since college.

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Champ graduated the same year I did.

Aging is an insidious process, and the physical changes that come with it are undeniable. Huffington Post published an article recently claiming that, in addition to the myriad physical changes, our personalities change as we age, too. I’m sure that’s true. Certainly our tastes do — in food, people, and entertainment.

This change in tastes pertains to books, as well. As my friend Kelly said to me back in May, “The main thing I look for now in my summer reading is a plot I can nap with.”

That’s exactly my standard, as well. If I fall asleep on page 83, am I going to have to re-read twenty pages to remember what was going on? If so, I’m not interested. Summertime is not the season for convoluted plots with multiple characters and overlapping narrative arcs. That’s what February is for.

So, with our collective napping needs in mind, I’ve put together a list of Summer Reading for the Rapidly Aging, or as we like to call it here at What’s Left Undone, Goldens for Oldies

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Bob is resting his eyes between chapters 2 and 3.
  1. At Dawn We Rose .. But at 5 pm We SleptA follow-up to At Dawn We Slept, this novel follows Pearl Harbor Vets on a typical day in Peaceful Palms Retirement Village. Multiple first-person accounts allow the reader to experience the terror of an unwelcome interruption, in the form of a visit from Jehovah’s Witnesses, to their highly regimented schedule of wake at 0430, nap at 0900, lunch at 1000, nap at 1400, supper at 1600, bedtime at 1700. “Few books have made me appreciate the benefits of gated communities, and fiber regularity, quite as much as this one.” — General Buck McQuaid (US Army, Ret.)

download-12. Love in the Time of Cataracts. The cholera epidemic is over, but a lifetime of relentless sunshine has left the inhabitants of this Colombian village with a pandemic of occular opacity in this sequel to Love in the Time of Cholera. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s look at life through the lens of wrap-around blackout glasses, which he receives from his opthamologist following a diagnosis of bilateral cataractous lenses, will thrill you from its innocent beginnings to its titillating end. Sample chapter: “Mami Chula: Are My Pupils Dilated, Or Has My Neighbor’s Wife Never Looked So Good?” 

download-43. Travails for Mister Whiskers. John Steinbeck has ditched his standard poodle for this follow-up to Travels with Charley. While the first trip took Steinbeck and his dog across America, this novel traces the author’s journey from the pharmacy waiting area to the checkout counter at Walgreen’s, where the author realizes he’s forgotten to buy treats for his aged Persian. The novel chronicles Steinbeck’s tortuous return to the rear of the store, including an encounter with a former neighbor in the greeting card aisle, and a narrowly missed interaction with an ex-lover next to the endcap of home tooth whitening kits. “I could relate to Steinbeck’s frustration, having made this trip many times myself. I reckon they could stand to move the pharmacy closer to the front, if you ask me.” – Gladys Sampson of Milledgeville, GA.

download-54. The Things They Forgot to Bring. Tim O’Brien’s sequel to The Things They Carriedthis book explores a VietNam veteran’s quest to pack for a visit to his daughter’s house in Akron, Ohio. Already on edge at the prospect of spending a weekend in the company of his ne’er-do-well son in law, disaster strikes for the protagonist when he settles into his seat near the lavatory and realizes that he has mistakenly packed Viagra instead of Lipitor. *Audiobook narrated by Ted Nugent accompanied by a free sample of Viagra. Limit one per customer.

the_things_they_carried5. Lunch is Elsewhere. This is Milan Kundera’s follow up to Life is Elsewhere, which told the story of Jaromil, a Czech poet in World War II. Kundera’s riveting sequel follows Jaromil, now in his late 70s, in his epic struggle to recall where he placed his pastrami sandwich before going to the bathroom. “I laughed, I cried, I ordered in a Reuben from the deli downstairs.” — Bob James, US News & World Report

download-26. Is That a G*ddamn Mockingbird? This little-known forerunner to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird asks a question that demands an answer: What in the name of all that is holy is making that god-awful racket outside the bedroom window when I’m trying to sleep at 8:00 pm? As the protagonist deliberates over her course of action, the reader is forced to examine his own stance on both gun control and noise pollution. From the book jacket: “Beloved of both ornithologists and the NRA, if you’ve ever wished to pop a cap in the feathers of one of God’s squawking creatures, you’ll love this novel by first-time author Harper Lee!  

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7. The Grandfather. Long retired from controlling the narcotics trade and gambling operations of the Five Families, Mario Puzo’s beloved Godfather, Vito Corleone, now oversees the dispensation of lint-covered licorice candies from the pockets of his wool cardigan, which he wears year-round. “Redolent of the marinara and torta della nonna of our youth, Puzo’s The Grandfather is a feast for the soul.” – Marina della Piace, Italian-American Book Review. 

godather8. Alice’s Adventures in Walmart. Aged 83 years young, and still wearing her delightful hairband, Lewis Carroll’s Alice nervously ventures into her local Walmart, ‘just to pick up a shower chair.’ Two days later, Alice regains consciousness, badly dehydrated, in the Car Care section, having become hopelessly lost somewhere between Housewares and Lawn & Garden. Summarily ignored by everyone who works in the store, Alice turns for help to a fellow shopper: a large man with sleeve tattoos wearing a pink wig, rainbow unitard, and spiked heels. Alice soon wishes to be back in Wonderland where everything made sense. *Publisher’s Note: This book is currently not available in Walmart.

download-89. A Floater in My Eye. Holden Caulfield is now 78, and has been kicked out of his third nursing facility. As he makes his way home to Sarasota, he purchases a cell phone and attempts to place numerous enraged calls to his ophthalmologist, a huge phony who can’t figure out why Holden experiences odd floating orbs when he’s watching Family Feud with his sister, Phoebe. “A mixture of angst, anger, and rage against artifice, Holden Caulfield is still going strong at 78. You’ll root for him as he wrestles with technology and attempts to find a doctor who’ll accept Medicare Part B.” — AARP Newsletter.

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10. Am I Dying? In this sequel to As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner again employs multiple narrators to relate the saga of Addie Bundren who, as it turns out, wasn’t actually dying in the first novel, but rather experiencing chronic intestinal distress brought on by gluten intolerance. As Addie treks from specialist to specialist, her unrelenting hypochondria and insistence on micro-managing her own funeral preparations compel her family to seek help in the form of an appearance on The Dr. Phil Show. “I put Addie and her family in the Dr. Phil House, and monitored them with thirty-seven cameras for twelve days. You won’t believe what happens when Addie’s daughter says there’s nothing but ‘normal’ pasta in the cupboard.” – Dr. Phil McGraw

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I think you’ll agree that all of these books contain just the right level of excitement to provide you with the perfect reading/napping combination to finish out your summer.

Happy Reading, Everyone!

HuffPost article on Aging.

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