“How To Be Old”—a book for curious grown-ups

Author Rachel McAlpine holding up a copy of her book "How To Be Old".
How To Be Old: not an instruction manual

Six reasons to give How To Be Old to grown-ups, especially yourself

  1. On a topic of acute personal interest to most grown-ups, even if they don’t admit it.
  2. Realistic, optimistic, playful and wise: a rare combination for books about ageing.
  3. By a poet (me) successful in the literary world but strangely easy to read.
  4. Great poems to read aloud over a beer or a coffee.
  5. So popular that people buy multiple copies for gifts. (The record so far: 14 copies.)
  6. Get the book postage-free just when postal costs are rising.

Why it’s good to order gifts right now: shipping problems

In this pandemic, shipping is unpredictable. We are warned to order gifts early, like yesterday, because of supply problems. But I’m still sending my best-selling book of poems How To Be Old postage-free from Aotearoa New Zealand to any international destination including the US, UK and Australia.

Who knows how long this will be possible? Not me. I’ve got 10 copies for sale right now, and hope I can get more shortly.

Zoom calls with the author with readings and chat

I love to hear from people who have read How To Be Old. I learn a lot from your insights and experiences—and I hear about fun ways you’ve been using the book. So shortly I’ll be setting up a few Zoom events where I can chat to you, read poems to you, get your own stories about your future old age, and answer your questions.

… her light touch and engaging voice fill her poems with irresistible humanity and plenty of humour, even when she tackles the accoutrements that come with being old.

Chris Tse, Landfall, No. 240, December 2020

To join the conversation, just order one or more copies of How To Be Old.

Order it online now and get How To Be Old before the holiday season

By the way, if you live in Aotearoa, you can get How To Be Old through your local bookshop for the same price.

A few poems to whet your appetite

Fortune Cookies

Your trouble, my friend
is too much fun
and there should be
a lot more of it.
If anyone tells your secret
let it be you and let it be true.
Nobody knows your neck squeaks.
Nobody knows your heart
is a bowl of poems.
Everything you do is very very good
and very very good is good enough.
The past supports us
like a trampoline.
The future? Face it.
Unlace it. Embrace it.

What is your job

What is your job
when you no longer have a job?
What is your work
when you don’t go to work any more?

When you retire
you gain such a lot — like freedom
and time and multiple choice.
You left with relief
so why this incongruity of grief?

Work gave you friends, a schedule, a label
a space and a fable
a reason to get out of bed
a dress code and your daily bread

and at your very core
a sense of who you are
and what you’re for.

Before the Fall

After the bath
with ragged towels
our Dad
would dry us
very carefully:
six little wriggly girls
each with foamy pigtails
two rainy legs
the invisible back we couldn’t reach
a small wet heart
and toes, ten each.

He dried us all
the way he gave the parish
Morning Prayer:
as if it was important
as if God was fair
as if it was really simple
if you would just be still
and bare.

Happiness at lunch

Five friends met for lunch
when one was briefly back in town.

The meal was good
but that was not the source of joy.
The talk was good
but that was not the source of joy.

All of us anticipated joy
we scheduled joy
we planned it and arranged it
we decided, we committed 
and we chose it.
We knew there would be joy
and so there was.

We all have sorrow in our lives.
Sorrow is not diluted or denied by joy.
Sorrow settles in a corner 
on a sofa, watching
mellowing, taking a break.

Five friends chatter and embrace 
and take their place
and fill this space with joy.

Get your copy now and quiz the author on Zoom

Order How To Be Old

12 thoughts on ““How To Be Old”—a book for curious grown-ups

  1. candidkay says:

    “Nobody knows your heart is a bowl of poems.” Ooh, I love that line! And love that you tell us they work with beer or coffee:). Gives us some leeway! Good for you, Rachel, for getting this out there in the world!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s great, thank you. Yes, the world of publishing is topsy turvy with Covid so a US or UK edition is most unlikely

  2. I love sorrow sitting on a corner sofa not invading joy. That is perfect.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It does, don’t you think? Sometimes we feel that we almost need permission to be happy…

  3. Alan Ralph says:

    I just order a copy, will share it with my sister and my mum (82 this year). 🙂

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Tremendous! That’s a great idea,Alan. I’ll post it today. Thanks,and hope to see you on Zoom soon.

  4. Alan Ralph says:

    Eep, that means I have to reinstall Zoom. *hisses* Just kidding, but much like Skype it’s one of those apps I only use when I have to.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Very wise!

  5. Margaret says:

    Sorry to hear that a US edition is “most unlikely.” I was prepared to ask my public library system to purchase!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I guess they don’t import books when postage is generally so expensive. But thank you for the thought.

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