Some human experiences are inevitable, and they inevitably bring books. The focus might shift, but the topics of death, grief, and aging never go away. Today, as baby boomers age, these books are finding even more readers seeking comfort, guidance, and encouragement.
Benedictine nun Joan Chittister writes an overarching book on life milestones with For Everything a Season (Mar.). Using timeless verses from Ecclesiastes, Chittister writes that meaning and fullness exist in all moments, according to publisher Robert Ellsberg: “We tend to focus on the highlights of our life, whether the happy moments or the moments of joy, but those are inextricably intertwined with the dry moments of grief and sadness.”
While books on aging, caring for aging parents, death and dying, and grief have always found an audience, interest in life passage books has increased as boomers age and their parents are living longer, affirms Dawn Woods, publisher of Christian living and gift books at B&H Publishing. She cites National Alliance for Caregiving data that estimates 65 million people in the U.S. are unpaid family caregivers.
“As a Christian publisher, we’re looking for more ways to inspire and get [people] through,” Woods says, adding that highly personal books sell well. B&H’s titles on coping include Melissa (June) by Frank Page, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (with Lawrence Kimbrough), about the suicide of Page’s adult daughter.
Says Tamara Crabtree, executive director of marketing for Abingdon Press, “The experiences of our authors are compelling them to write around these milestones in their lives.” Abingdon is publishing Moving Miss Peggy by Robert Benson (May), about his family coping with his mother’s dementia. This summer Thomas Nelson publishes Walk Through the Dark by Eva Piper with Cecil Murphey (July). The book tells Piper’s side of the story of her husband, Don, who was hospitalized, died, and returned, as told with Murphey in the megaselling 90 Minutes in Heaven (Revell, 1994).
In Love Growing Older, but I’ll Never Grow Old (Abingdon, Apr.), J. Ellsworth Kalas addresses learning to “make peace with where you are right now.” Donald Hilliard Jr., presiding bishop of Covenant Ecumenical Fellowship and Cathedral Assemblies Inc., writes with Rhoda McKinney-Jones about his journey past 40 in Midlife, Manhood, and Ministry (Judson Press, Apr).
Reflections on Bereavement
Stories about great suffering attract readers by offering comfort and insight into how others survive terrible situations, notes Dave Lewis, executive v-p of sales and marketing for Baker Publishing Group. In A Force of Will (Baker Books, Mar.), pastor Mike Stavlund explores his struggles after his four-month-old son’s sudden death. Stavlund hated what books on loss had to say. “He felt like nobody was being real with him,” says Lewis, describing Stavlund’s as “a very honest book.”
Taylor’s Gift (Revell, Apr.) by Todd and Tara Storch, with Jennifer Schuchmann, tells of the death of the Storches’ 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, in a skiing accident and the donation of her organs to five people. The publisher sends out media kits with a bottle of nail polish in Taylor’s favorite shade of blue. “Because of the organ donation, we’re getting quite a strong media backing on this book,” Lewis says.
New books from other publishers include Life After Death by Elizabeth Bookser Barkley (Franciscan Media, Apr.), on widowhood; North of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson (Zondervan, Apr.), about the author’s travels to the site in Alaska where a grizzly bear killed her parents; and Grieving the Loss of a Loved One by H. Norman Wright (Regal, June).
Joseph Durepos, executive editor for trade acquisitions at Catholic publisher Loyola Press, says, “What we’re seeing right now is a lot more interest in what we and others in the business call second-half-of-life spirituality.”
Loyola’s titles include Rock-Bottom Blessings by Karen Beattie (Feb.), Love and Salt by Amy Andrews and Jessica Mesman Griffith (Jan.), and A Season of Mystery by Paula Huston (2012). Long after Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s death, the memoir of his final days, The Gift of Peace (1998), continues to sell.
“One of the things about the second half of life is that everything that was black and white when you were younger becomes less so,” Durepos says, and life’s troubles teach many to “see the world with a little more mercy, a little more charity.”