When I was very young, I remember people suggesting that we plan ahead, set goals, be mindful, count our blessings, and so forth. It all sounded very helpful. But those platitudes seemed awfully removed from real life and awfully short on any specifics. While I wanted to be a good person when I grew up, and I was aware that an awful lot of people just decided they were already good and were, like, so done. They didn’t need to try to be kind or patient or even civil to others because they were “already” good. I didn’t want to be like that. But beyond that, I don’t actually remember doing much to figure out how to gradually become a better and better person.

I’m not a kid anymore. So it’s high time to apply myself into becoming a better person. Happily, this book has come along at just the right time. It’s beautiful, with inspiring illustrations and sayings, along with single page essays on becoming better, myself — instead of just pretending to be better than whoever else. Here’s a paragraph that really shook me, “Thinking about what it would actually take to get there — mapping the journey between that noble place and where I am now — reveals a path so doable that it’s embarrassing. If it was some crazy quest, I’d have a better excuse for not being well on my way. But it’s time to get going.”

I am (finally) realizing that figuring all this out isn’t as hard as I feared, and that I’m not alone on this journey to lead a fulfilling, meaningful, and better life. It’s all a little groovy, I suppose, yet so down-to-earth and much more accessible than some random self-help or philosophy book. This wonderful book would make a great gift for anyone, and probably especially for young people, before they’ve wasted decades wondering why things aren’t going very well for them.

While I was going to college, on my way to a graduate degree, the class that I enjoyed most — and learned the most from — was not really a class at all, but rather a forum of successful alumni. Each week another business person would come in and offer a concise insight into what they’d found to be most important in their professional work — and personal lives. It was eye opening. I still think about things they said, years later.

So I was truly happy to see (successful business person) Richard Reed’s book, which offers similar insights from some of the most successful people in the world, from a wide range of human endeavor — from politics, the arts, business, media, and more. He really knows these people, offering a brief and engaging personal bio on each. And then he offers each expert’s concise insights on work and life. They’re amazing and wonderful — in a literal, “filled with wonder” way.

For example, I really appreciate what Richard Branson says: “People talk about work and play as if they are separate things, with one being there to compensate for the other, but all of it is life, all of it is precious. Don’t waste any of it doing something you don’t want to do. And do all of it with the people you love.” There’s so many more quotes I’d love to share but the book is actually more than the sum of its parts. A real compendium of wisdom, from across the human experience.

In our younger years, our many responsibilities call the tune of our lives, and we dance along to the tune as best we can. But what do we do with our own jukebox of life? I am old enough now to know several women who successfully reached midlife, have successful careers, beautiful homes, got their kids married off — and then… they weren’t sure how to proceed.

I think this book is needed now. And, happily, it’s really pretty fantastic advice. Down-to-earth, it’s written from an engaging and personal perspective, yet is based on real-life research, as shown in the many pull-quotes in the sidebars (worth the price alone). Overcoming regrets, how to rethink your marriage with the kids gone, and figuring out what you want to do now — with the next fifty years of your life — are all included. At the very least, it confronts the questions most women in our day and age (literally) will face, and that alone, is a true comfort. It’s really necessary, really helpful, and really valuable book. Buy this for your friends, your relations, your coworkers, or any other woman of a certain age whose life is really just beginning, however wonderful — and scary — that may seem.

I still have early editions of two of Robert Frost Pulitzer-prize winning books of poems that I got when I was a young child. Each year, they seem to add more and more meaning. Somehow, along the way, I assumed that Great Poetry Books were a thing of the past. And yet, here we are. This is an honest-to-God Great Poetry Book. It’s wonderful. I love the cat, Boots, “Little trickster who used up nine lives/ And decided to start over again.” I love the “day shut like a suitcase,” and “left for the horizon.” And I love the “leaves of cotton plants,/Like small hands/Waving good-bye.” The farm life imagery is haunting, and the metaphors which emerge from them seem universal, at least to me. I’m certainly not qualified to judge who should get a Pulitzer award today, but boy, if I could, I know who I’d give it to. A wonderful book, which has earned its place right next to Frost on my most easily reached bookshelf.

I baked often when I was a child. I vividly remember baking with my grandmother, on my own as I grew, and later, when I was a teen and newlywed. I love to share those recipes with my own children, and now, grandchildren(!). And yet, I hate to admit, some of them haven’t held up as well as I hope I have over the years.

Too often, we all find those once treasured recipes to be too greasy, too plain, or too “bla” for today’s more sophisticated — and healthy! — palate. So I’m delighted with this cookbook which updates, enlivens, and enriches classic recipes for today. The Baked Alaska Sandwich is fantastic, and all my Nutella-loving children love the Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Cradle Cake. Honestly each recipe in this well-bound, well-designed book is a treasure reborn for today.