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Age with health, wealth and style? Five books to read

If retirement is a state of mind, the key to enjoying it is to keep the mind working long after the whistle has blown at quitting time. Mindfulness, a kind of meditation practice said to soothe anxiety and promote well-being, is a hot topic and the market is now teeming with books preaching the importance of mind power. Apparently it can cure everything, from anxiety to illnesses that accompany the aging process. Whether in the form of a memoir, an accounting guide or a scientific study, the best books on the subject make clear that if you take care of the brain, it takes care of you. Here are some new titles to make you think:

The Brain’s Way of Healing

Remarkable Discoveries And Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity

By Norman Doidge

(Viking, 432 pages; $34.95)

Toronto-based psychiatrist Norman Doidge is The New York Times bestselling author of The Brain That Changes Itself, selected by the Dana Foundation for the Brain as the premier book on the brain aimed at the general public. That early book, published five years ago, shed light on the groundbreaking discovery that the brain can heal itself in response to mental experience, a practice known as neuroplasticity. In this follow-up, published in January, Dr. Doidge builds on that theme, using real-life stories and case studies in combination with cutting-edge science and holistic methods in presenting simple approaches to brain performance and health which anyone can use. Light, sound, vibration and movement are natural and non-invasive methods used to stimulate the brain and awaken the senses with none of the side effects typically associated with high-tech forms of treatment. Dr. Doidge shows how they can help cure attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and lessen the severity of multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Of particular interest to the aging population are those sections of the book dealing with Parkinson’s disease, which tends to strike people aged 50 and older. Dr. Doidge shows how researchers have been able to reverse some of the worst symptoms of Parkinson’s by using a method of barely perceptible tingling of the tongue. There are other miracle cures, all harnessing Western brain science as well as traditional Eastern medicine to improve brain plasticity and decrease the risk of dementia in the old.

Mr. Hockey: My Story

By Gordie Howe

(Viking, 242 pages; $32)

Gordie Howe has penned his autobiography, and in it the Canadian hockey legend who was 52 when he retired at the end of the 1979-80 season – after 32 pro campaigns – sheds light on his longevity as a winning player, both on and off the ice. Born in Floral, Sask., in 1928, the sixth of nine children raised during the Great Depression, the former Detroit Red Wings star quotes his father, Albert, telling him early on “not to take dirt from anyone, because if you do they’ll just keep giving it to you.” Mr. Howe took the advice to heart, going on to endow his 34-year hockey career with a fighting spirit. He could be a terror on the ice, mercilessly executing his revenge on any player who dared cross him. The book is filled with choice anecdotes detailing the punch-ups. But the thrill is seriously diminished, even rendered poignant, given that Mr. Howe, now 86, is known to be suffering from cognitive impairment and has had several strokes recently. Is his dementia related in many way to the blows he received to the head? Mr. Howe’s era was comparatively helmet-free; it was hockey played by warriors without fear of concussions. Fellow hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr, in his forward to the book, observes that this fearlessness is what made No. 9 great. “His longevity as a professional hockey player reflects his absolute passion for the game,” Mr. Orr writes. “I believe it was his passion to play that set him apart from his peers.”

Stop Over-Thinking Your Money!

The Five Simple Rules of Financial Success

By Preet Banerjee

(Penguin Canada, 224 pages; $18)

This one is a no-brainer. Author and Globe and Mail columnist Preet Banerjee says people often over-think their finances. They don’t have to. Building a solid nest egg is more a common-sense exercise, equivalent to sit-ups for your body. Crunch the numbers as you might do your abs every day and soon enough things start firming up. Admittedly, that’s not always easy to do in a climate choked with buzzwords and complicated strategies for growing your money. So Mr. Banerjee simply banishes the jargon and focuses in on five easy steps for entering retirement debt free. Like a well-intentioned friend, he lays them out in two easy-to-read sections of his book, a financial guide that reads more like a heart-to-heart conversation about spending smart. None of it is rocket science. Most of the advice dispensed in “The Five Rules” and “Beyond the Five Rules” centres around the basic tenet of not spending more than you earn. Mr. Banerjee also explores diversification, risk and returns and the perennial debate between stocks and bonds. But none of it makes your brain spin. The message is more about keeping it simple.

French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging With Style & Attitude

By Mireille Guiliano

(Grand Centreal Life & Style, 258 pages; $28)

Mireille Guiliano first told us that French Women Don’t Get Fat, the title of her 2004 international best-seller. And now in French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, her recently released sequel, the former sixtysomething LVMH chief executive officer shares some of her secrets for how to age gracefully. And yes, it does include Champagne. Ms. Guiliano aims her advice book at seniors, but seniors with style, writing from the perspective of a one with “a foot in two countries.” Married to an American husband, she owns an apartment in New York and a home in Paris and observes that each is separated by more than geography. In North America, old age starts at retirement, typically 65. In France, where the life expectancy of the average French woman is 84, one’s dotage begins at 80. Looking good and living well right up until the grave is a given in France where women have mastered the art of being “bien dans sa peau,” comfortable in their own skins. Beauty is ageless there, she argues. Not so in North America which by contrast is youth-obsessed. Aging is a state of mind, she says. It requires a good attitude. To cultivate it, Ms. Guiliano chattily guides the reader through the basics of French savoir faire, including the art of grooming and the benefits of laughter which beautifies from within. Eating well is also emphasized, and here Ms. Guiliano supplements her tips with recipes. The tone is lighthearted but the topic serious enough: “No one is young after 40,” she quotes Coco Chanel as saying, “but one can be irresistible at any age.”

Second Chance: For Your Money, Your Life and Our World

By Robert T. Kiyosaki

(Plata Publishing, 400 pages; $19.95 )

From the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad comes this book looking back on the 2007 financial crisis and gleaning the lessons to be learned for safeguarding your money, no matter what the state of the universe. U.S. businessman Robert Kiyoski says it’s time to rethink how we do things. “The world has changed and continues to change, yet many of our leaders continue to implement the same Industrial Age solutions to solve Information Age problems. If our leaders are unwilling to change, it’s up to individuals to make new and different decisions about their money and their lives, decisions that can make a difference in our world and give them a second chance,” he writes. To help them along, Mr. Kiyoski divides his new book into three distinct parts: the past, the present and the future. He defines the past as the financial crisis, offering insights into the causes. He then applies what he knows about that economic downturn to the present day, advising how to create a plan for financial freedom. Mr. Kiyoski writes from the perspective that it’s okay to make mistakes on the road forward. That’s what makes the future, his last area of discussion, manageable. Once you know what not to do, you are better prepared to take that second chance when it comes along. The goal is to think positively.

Editor's Note: The original version of this article reported that Dr. Doidge says he has been able to reverse some of the worst symptoms of Parkinson’s. This version has been corrected to say Dr. Doidge shows how researchers have reversed some of the worst symptoms of Parkinson’s.

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