100 Years: Wisdom From Famous Writers on Every Year of Your Life is a book that has short quotations about every year of life from birth through age 100.
I flipped through it a few times before reading it in full. I checked out the selections for my current age. Furthermore, I checked certain ages that seemed to be important milestones in my life. I even glanced at friends’ ages. However, this morning I finally sat down and read it from cover to cover. When I did, I discovered that doing so offers more than the sum of its parts.
There Is Wisdom in Every Age
Joshua Prager carefully curated the selections in this book. Each passage must directly state the age of the author. Furthermore, it must describe what it’s like to be that age. No author is featured more than once.
In the introduction, he describes how some ages were, of course, easy to find many sayings about. In contrast, other ages were much more difficult. It makes sense. After all, plenty of people write about milestone years but how many people write specifically about being 37 or 52?
A Collection of Wisdom
Prager also describes how the overall collection reveals the passages of life we all go through, despite individual differences in experience. Having sat and read through all of the quotations, I saw that clearly.
Two passages that sit side-by-side in age may be very different from one another. Gender, the era of the author’s life, and individual experience all affect the experience. However, taken as a whole, there are clear trends and similarities to what most of us experience in any given age range.
We see the ups and downs of childhood and adolescence and twenties and thirties and into eighties and nineties … and we struggle with the same human issues. We struggle with those issues in new ways at seventy compared to forty or twenty, and we have a different understanding of them, and there is a commonality among the shifts between the perspectives of different ages.
Individual Experience vs. The Family
One thing I thought was interesting was that the selections are all very individual reflections on the experience of being a specific age. There are not a lot of significant reference to loved ones.
It’s interesting because I think certain ages tend to be equated with family. For example, in younger years our parents may impact us a lot. In middle age, we may feel concern about our own children. Being in my late thirties and without children myself, I see so much writing from the parental point of view. I can’t always relate.
Therefore, it struck me that the book reflected individual inner experience rather than an outer concern that may or may not be universal. Either approach would have been suitable. This one struck me as an intentional choice. It is one that offers broad appeal because the parent could still relate to the thoughts and experiences of the individual’s inner world.
Design in This Book of Wisdom
The book is a beautiful book. It’s got a coffee table book feeling to the design even though it is the size and shape of a hardback novel. There are different colored pages throughout the book.
It’s not that each section is a certain color (blue, for example, can be seen throughout, and each decade has different colors within it). However, there is a trend across all of the pages towards certain colors for certain phases of life. Lighter in some areas, brighter in others, black reserved for the very eldest years that are closest to death.
There is a lot of white space on each page, a different font/ design for the beginning of each decade (as compared to the years that do not mark decades), and a slight shifting of word placement towards the end of the book. This all leaves an emotional impression about aging that, as I said before, offers more than the sum of the parts.
We all have feelings about aging, feelings that change and shift as we do age. This book reflects that very human experience in ways both direct and subtle.