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Inspirational Summer Reads For Women Over 50

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Looking for something to read this summer while on vacation? Have I got the list for you! Packed with inspirational stories, this list of books especially curated for midlife women by Jennifer of Unfold & Begin is sure to delight. 


Midlife is a time of change.  Empty nests, menopause, and other factors lead you to start examining your life and what you want to do in the next half of life.  In this list of books, you’ll find some encouragement, some inspiration, and perhaps the support you need to make changes.

Great Books For Midlife Women

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The Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes

If you don’t know Shonda Rimes then you don’t watch American television at all.  Shonda owns the Thursday night line-up on ABC.  So, a famous writer, who owns the Thursday night line-up, wins Emmy’s galore must lead a glamorous and adventurous life…right?  Wrong.

Shonda spent a lifetime of hiding behind her writing, saying no to invites to all kinds of events whether glamorous Hollywood events or time spent going to school plays and events for her children.  All were no, because she didn’t have the desire or the time or she was afraid of making a fool of herself.  Not only was her family missing out, but she was missing out.

Then a throw-away phrase from her sister made her rethink what she was doing.  After another invitation came in that Shonda said no to her sister said, “You always say no.”  Shonda was going to deny it but in reevaluating her life, she realized that her sister was right and decided to make a change. 

This is a fascinating study of how saying “yes” can have the most profound impact on your life, open doors and bring you back into connection with those who are closest to you whether family or friends…or both.

Waking Up in Winter by Cheryl Richardson

Written from her actual journal posts, Cheryl Richardson exams her life and what she wants in midlife.  Unlike her other books, which are written in a normal “self-help” fashion, this is a planned collection of diary or journal posts meant to look at her life at that moment in time in order to help her make some changes. 

In her fifth decade, Cheryl starts examining those things that she feels are not working for her anymore.  Things like long speaking trips without her husband, too much time spent away from her cat and from her home.  Things she felt she was compromising on for her career. 

It’s a look at a real woman who experiences the same things we do.  A window into how she brings change into her life in order to live it on her own terms and in a way that make her feel fulfilled not depleted. And also, how she was making space in her life for something new.

At the end of the book, Cheryl includes a section of questions that you can use to examine your life to see if there are any changes you want to make.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

No book on this list will probably cause as much controversy as this one.  You either love it or your hate it.  You either see it as a journey to gain back a sense of who you are, to re-discover yourself and learn how you handle big change like a divorce.  Or you see it as a white woman’s journey of privilege. 

Here’s my experience.  Post-divorce, just finishing up a yoga teacher training, and just not sure what was next with my life and along comes Eat, Pray, Love.  It was the book I needed to read at that time.  A book that gave permission to focus on me instead of others.  A book that said it was ok to take the time to reconnect with myself.

I think how you feel about this book also correlates to where you are in your life.  Going through a crisis or still picking up the pieces?  It’ll probably resonate with you.  Not going through a crisis.  Maybe start with a different book because this one probably won’t be what you’re looking for.  But go into it realizing it’s a memoir, not a self-help book.

Wake Up Women compiled by Ardice Farrow, Karen Mayfield and Heidi Reagan

This is a book of essays by different professional women around the world.  They are Coaches, Doctors, Actors, Authors, Leaders, and others who had a vision and a story to tell.  It has different sections like Awaken Your Relationship, Awaken Your Emotions…Your Health…Your Career…Your Wealth and finally Awaken Your Spirit. 

You can find “The Power of your Presence” by Christina South or “Get A Life!” by Kathleen E. Sims or “Fire Me, Please!” by Lisa Nack and even “Life’s Leading Lady…You” by Elaine Hendrix. 

This is not one of those books that I’ve read cover to cover.  Instead, it’s one that I reach for when I need inspiration or a little push.  I’m usually able to find the essay that I connect to at that moment. I’ve had this book for over 10 years and at least once a year I’ve been able to find the essay that I needed. 

My Life in France by Julia Child

Talk about a study in doing new things.  She already led a fascinating life before stepping foot in France for the first time in 1948.  During the WWII, she worked for the OSS in top-secret research and was assigned to Ceylon (now present-day Sri Lanka) and then China.  She is even responsible for creating a shark repellant.

But it was in France where the Julia Child that we know came into being.  First, she had to learn French, at 37 and then she went to cooking school a year later.  And in 1951, she and two friends starting teaching cooking to American women out of Julia’s kitchen while also working on creating a cookbook.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961 when Julia was 49 years old.  Two years later, in 1961 at 51, Julia’s first cooking show made i’s debut.

Read this book and you’ll find a woman who was in love with food as much as she was in love with her husband.  You’ll feel her Joie de vivre for life and for food.  And be inspired by her willingness to continually try new things.

(And as a bonus, you can curl up one night and watch the movie Julie & Julia which is based on this book and a book by a blogger who cooked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.)

The Art of Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson

Granted, this book might be useful at any age, we’ve all been stretched to the limit at some point.  But midlife women, more than any other group, have spent a lifetime tending to everyone else’s needs ahead of our own.  Spouse, children, friends, and even parents take time and attention away from us.  Midlife women might even be sandwiched between caring for our children and our elderly parents.  And if we don’t learn how to take care of ourselves at this crucial time, we’ll hit a point where there is nothing left to give.

With chapters like End the Legacy of Deprivation, Take Your Hands off the Wheel, and Tune-Up Time Cheryl guides you through a year (yes, a full year) of learning how to take care of yourself.  Each chapter represents a different month with a different focus.  This is not a book to read through and then implement or forget.  This is a book to savour and to learn from each month.

If you’re interested in learning more, Jennifer is blogging about the Art of Extreme Self-Care in 2019 here.  Each month includes a calendar of activities to help us find that soul nurturing environment that this book is guiding us towards.

About the author:

Jennifer Koshak is the fifty-something blogger behind Unfold and Begin.  She writes about creative inspiration, vision boards, and trying new things.  She chose the name Unfold and Begin as a way to remind us all that we need to open up, share ourselves, try new things and embrace life with a bit of creativity and a lot of curiosity.

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