"Old is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time to take bigger risks on behalf of the common good."

— Parker J. Palmer
Hello everybody

About The Book

From beloved and bestselling author Parker J. Palmer (Let Your Life Speak), a brave, beautiful book of reflections on eight decades of life and work. Reframing aging as “a passage of discovery and engagement,” Palmer writes, “Old is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time to take bigger risks on behalf of the common good.”

With gravity and levity, compassion and chutzpah, Palmer talks about the importance of developing a robust inner and outer life, a sense of meaning and purpose amid pain as well as joy, and the intergenerational relations that enhance the lives of young and old alike. Here’s a book not only for elders but for those younger folks we call “old souls.”

Ultimately, Palmer sees age as a precious gift. Surprised by the fact that he likes being old, he writes, “Welcome to the brink of everything. It takes a lifetime to get here, but the stunning view of past, present, and future—and the bracing breeze in your face—make it worth the trip.”

Read A Sample Chapter

Download the first chapter of On the Brink of Everything absolutely free. Start reading now!
By Parker J. Palmer


  • "Parker Palmer is one of our wisest minds and lives, and one of my greatest mentors. He has the spirit of a poet and the stature of a prophet. This book is a companion for not merely surviving a fractured world, but embodying—like Parker—the fiercely honest and gracious wholeness that is ours to claim at every stage of life."
    ~ KRISTA TIPPETT, founder of On Being Studios, author of Becoming Wise, winner of the 2014 National Humanities Medal
  • "Parker Palmer is the most integral and wholehearted teacher of our age. His latest book is a deep reflection on aging that offers a master's earned view of the large and the small, and how we're all vital threads woven together by life. This book will stir your soul and bring you closer to everything. "
    ~ MARK NEPO, author of More Together Than Alone and The Book of Awakening
  • "…a wondrously rich mix of reality and possibility, comfort and story, helpful counsel and poetry, in the voice of a friend. It's an honest wake-up chime, no matter where you are in your own time line, because somehow, these pages hold all of time—past and present, stirring together—refreshing the spirit. This is a book of immense gratitude, consolation, and praise."
    ~ NAOMI SHIHAB NYE, author of Transfer and Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners, and National Book Award finalist
  • "Our entire culture is deeply in need of true elders, and you can’t be one until you have arrived there—chronologically, spiritually, and intellectually. Parker J. Palmer is a writer and a man who has clearly earned the title of elder. And he elders with such readability and humor! This book is a generous gift to all of us—and to our attempts at a truly human civilization. "
    ~ RICHARD ROHR, founder of the Center for Contemplation and Action, and author of Falling Upward and Adam’s Return
  • "Parker J. Palmer’s newest offering is clear-eyed and good-humored, luminously prophetic and disarmingly honest. It is tender to the core for our shared human condition and fierce with love and unguarded hope for our shared human possibility. It has the feel of a lovely kitchen table conversation between the author and reader, a generous gift to readers of every age, and to a worried and weary world."
    ~ CARRIE NEWCOMER, musician, recording artist of The Beautiful Not Yet, author of A Permeable Life: Poems and Essays, and Grammy songwriting award winner
  • "Parker Palmer has given me so many gifts through the years. On the Brink of Everything has given me new and special gifts. Parker, now in his late seventies, has helped this guy in his early sixties think of my years ahead as 'triple wrapped in mystery.' Savoring this book is a kind of mentorship in aging, and it ends in a crescendo of poetry. My first thought when I turned the last page: 'I want to read this again from the beginning, starting right now.'"
    ~ BRIAN D. McLAREN, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
  • "Parker Palmer has been a mentor and midwife to countless people in my generation, including me. In my twenties, his writing released the music within me. Now in my thirties, as the cacophony of vitriol and violence becomes deafening, his friendship teaches me how to remain faithful to my own melodies. This book is filled with gems of wisdom, each a prism that helps us see our own vast interiority and sing our own truths. My greatest aspiration is to arrive at the brink as Parker has, with humility and faithfulness, and pockets full of gems."
    ~ VALARIE KAUR, civil rights activist, lawyer, filmmaker, and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project
  • "One of the wisest people on the planet has written one of the finest books on growing b/old gracefully. This warm and witty book will delight and inspire readers of all ages."
    ~ RICHARD LEIDER, best-selling author or coauthor of The Power of Purpose, Repacking Your Bags, and Life Reimagined


On the Brink of Everything

About Parker J. Palmer

Parker J. Palmer is a writer, speaker, and activist on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality, and social change. Founder and Senior Partner Emeritus of the Center for Courage & Renewal, he holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley, thirteen honorary doctorates, two Distinguished Achievement Awards from the National Educational Press Association, and an Award of Excellence from the Associated Church Press.

Palmer is the author of ten books—including several award-winning titles—that have sold over 1.5 million copies and been translated into ten languages: On the Brink of Everything, Healing the Heart of Democracy, The Heart of Higher Education (with Arthur Zajonc), The Courage to Teach, A Hidden Wholeness, Let Your Life Speak, The Active Life, To Know As We Are Known, The Company of Strangers, and The Promise of Paradox.

In 1998, a national survey of 10,000 educators named Palmer one of the thirty “most influential senior leaders” in higher education and one of the ten key “agenda-setters” of the decade. In 2005, Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer, was published. In 2010, Palmer received the William Rainey Harper Award; previous recipients include Margaret Mead, Elie Wiesel, and Paolo Freire. A member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker), Palmer and his wife Sharon live in Madison, Wisconsin.


Recent Press

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    Father’s Day this year launched me on a trip down memory lane. My father, Max J. Palmer, died at age 81 in 1994. But...

Press Inquiries

To request an interview with Parker Palmer regarding On the Brink of Everything, please contact:
Kelly Hughes
By Parker J. Palmer
(312) 280-8126
On the Brink of Everything

Pre-order or Buy Your Copy Now

Drawing on eight decades of life – and his career as a writer, teacher, and activist – Palmer explores the questions age raises and the promises it holds. "Old," he writes, "is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time to dive deep into life, not withdraw to the shallows."

But this book is not for elders only. It was written to encourage adults of all ages to explore the way their lives are unfolding. It's not a how-to-do-it book on aging, but a set of meditations in prose and poetry that turn the prism on the meaning(s) of one's life, refracting new light at every turn.

From beginning to end, the book is laced with humor as well as gravitas, beautifully enhanced by three free downloadable songs from the gifted singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, written in response to themes in the book. When the book begins to ship, please visit NewcomerPalmer.com/home. Get your copy now…

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