How to Grow Old – Review

How to Grow Old

by John Bishop

  • Format Read – Audiobook
  • How did I get this book – Library Loan
  • Date Read – May 1st – 11th
  • Genre – Memoir / Comedian / Nonfiction / Self Help
  • Publisher – Penguin Audio

How to Grow Old is a stupid title, because the answer is obvious: Don’t Die. Provided you don’t die, you are growing old.

Don’t come to this book under any illusions. It isn’t going to tell you how to stay alive any longer. It won’t help you understand the aging process from a sociological and anthropological perspective, and I’m not sure how much practical advice you’re going to get.

However, if you happen to want to know what a white, heterosexual, middle-aged man thinks of getting old – from the struggle to stay fit, keep hold of your friends or stay relevant, to why I’m better at doing a dump now than at any time in my life – this book could very well be exactly what you have been looking for. You might even find it a bit funny.

My thoughts

The blurb for this book itself shatters the title of this book. It’s right there in big print. Just don’t die. That’s how you grow old. So no, this is not instructions on how to get old. What it becomes over the course of the book is a story with how to deal with getting old. John is 52 at the time of writing and although it didn’t start out being that way, the book becomes a bit of a cathartic process for him to deal with getting older, and admitting that, he may not be able to do all the things he once did. The book takes a look at the process’s men go through as they are getting older. John freely admits that this book is not for everybody, in fact, it is probably only for one limited audience. Middle aged white men, like him. While I am not middle aged (or am I, I hope not) I am certainly in the privileged demographic of white man, so I definitely associated with some of the content here, and can only imagine that some of the rest is coming in the future (which is closer than I would like to admit, and coming faster every year).

So, is the book for you? Well… it certainly has its moments where I was laughing out loud, other sections of the book didn’t have me laughing at all – but not because the jokes weren’t landing. It was because John had opened up, and was detailing some of the more serious aspects of his life.

This book starts off with what seems like an intention for John to talk to others in the industry about getting older and how they can continue but rapidly turns into an updated autobiography. The stories that focus on John increase as the book goes on, to it’s benefit. I think that he has done a great job putting them together.

John is quite frank about the events in his past, and when it comes down to it, this is a book about family and togetherness. The stories John tells about his family and especially his father had me welling up at times. He speaks about how something as simple as football is so important to the family and how it keeps them together.

It is a bit strange to have listened to this directly after the Peter Crouch book I, Robot – which had me laughing almost all the way through. The book by a comedian, where he speaks about football quite a bit, had me on the brink of tears. Such is life, I guess.

So, while the target audience for this book may be middle aged white men who like to complain (the subtitle for this book is actually A Middle Aged Man Moaning) I think the book can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to read or listen to a good story of family, and acceptance that we won’t always be able to do what we can do today. One day we won’t be able to play with our kids, or kick football with the lads. So, we should do it while we can.

It might just be the lockdown, and not being able to do what we otherwise would, but I loved this book. I highly recommend you give it a go.