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In Our Prime

The Invention of Middle Age

Patricia Cohen


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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (1/22/2012)
Paperback (1/22/2013)
MP3 CD (1/23/2012)
Compact Disc (1/23/2012)
MP3 CD (1/23/2012)
Compact Disc (1/23/2012)
Compact Disc (1/23/2012)


From the New York Times reporter whose beat is culture and ideas comes a fascinating, revelatory, and timely social history of the concept of middle age. For the first time ever, the middle-aged make up the biggest, richest, and most influential segment of the country, yet the history of middle age has remained largely untold. This important and immensely readable book finally fills the gap. In Our Prime is a biography of the idea of middle age from its invention in the late nineteenth century to its current place at the center of American society, where it shapes the way we view our families, our professional obligations, and our inner lives. Patricia Cohen ranges over the entire landscape of midlife, exploring how its biological, psychological, and social definitions have shifted from one generation to the next. Middle age has been a symbol both of decline and of power and wealth. Explaining why, Cohen takes readers from early-twentieth-century factories that refused to hire middle-aged men to twenty-first-century high-tech laboratories where researchers are currently conducting cutting-edge experiments on the middle-aged brain and body.

Praise For In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age

“A lively, well-researched chronicle of the social and scientific forces that brought midlife America to its current befuddled state…”—Laura Shapiro, New York Times Book Review

“A brilliant, wide-ranging book…Cohen’s lively prose and thoughtful insights make this a joy to read.”—Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe

In Our Prime is a fascinating study of this complex stage of life, a book whose appeal is likely to extend beyond the middle-age demographic to readers approaching or looking back on that key stage of life.”—Jerry Harkavy, Associated Press

“Very fine…lucid, straightforward and conversational… a thorough—and thoroughly fascinating—cultural history of aging.”—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

“A fascinating biography of the idea of middle age…solidly researched.”—Gail Sheehy, The New York Times

“With lively writing, astute observations, and extensive research, this cultural history looks well beyond cougars and Botox.”—Karen Holt,

“A thoroughly engaging cultural history…”—Christine Sismondo, Toronto Star

In Our Prime is a fascinating biography of the ‘idea of middle age’ in American society…Comprehensively researched…A thoughtful inquiry.”—Tom Lavoie, Shelf Awareness

“A comprehensive look at middle age through the eyes of scientists, historians, psychologists, medical doctors, marketers and many more.”—Julie Carl, Winnipeg Free Press

“Witty and engaging…this comprehensive and entertaining social history highlights the possibilities of the middle years—and shows how middle age reflects the attitudes and customs of each generation that passes through it.”Publishers Weekly

“A cool, well-documented account that puts the concept of middle age into historical context.”Kirkus Reviews

Scribner, 9781416572893, 320pp.

Publication Date: January 10, 2012

About the Author

Patricia Cohen has been a New York Times reporter for thirteen years. She has also worked at The Washington Post, New York Newsday, and Rolling Stone. She has a BA from Cornell University and a graduate degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.