Books in Print
by Mary Catherine Bateson

Note: Some of these links go to; others to, depending on availability of the books. Some passages of jacket copy have been inserted.

Updated: August 31, 2014

Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom
Knopf, September, 2010
ISBN/EAN: 978-0-307-26643-9

From the author of Composing A Life (first published in 1991 and still in print), an exuberant exploration of a new stage of the life cycle—“Adulthood II”—created by unprecedented levels of health, energy, time, and resources – of which we have barely begun to be fully conscious.

Mary Catherine Bateson sees aging today as an “improvisational art form calling for imagination and willingness to learn,” and in this ardent, affirming study, she relates the experiences of men and women—herself included—who, entering this second adulthood, have found new meaning and new ways to contribute, composing their lives in new patterns.

Among the people Bateson engages in open-ended, in-depth conversation are a retired Maine boat-yard worker who has become a silversmith and maker of fine jewelry; an African-American woman who explores the importance of grandmothering; two gay men finding contentment in mutual caring; the retired dean of a cathedral in New York City who exemplifies how a multiplicity of interests and connections lead to deeper unity; and Jane Fonda, who shares her ways of dealing with change and spiritual growth.

Here is a book that presents each of us—at any age—with an exhilarating challenge to think about and approach our later lives with the full force of imagination, curiosity, and enthusiasm. At the same time, it speaks to us as members of a larger society concerned about the world that our children and grandchildren, born and not yet born, will inherit. “We live longer,” she says, “but we think shorter.” As adults find themselves entering Adulthood II, making the choices that will affirm and complete the meaning of the lives they have lived, they can play a key role, contributing their perspectives and experience of adapting to change. In our day, wisdom is no longer associated with withdrawal and passivity but with engagement with others and the contribution that Bateson calls “active wisdom.”

Willing to Learn: Passages of Personal Discovery
Steerforth Press, September 2004
ISBN: 1586420801 (distributed by Random House)

This collection of Bateson's work can be read as a memoir of unfolding curiosity, for it brings together essays and occasional pieces, many of them previously unpublished or unknown to readers who know the author only from her books, written in the course of an unconventional career.

Bateson is a singular thinker whose work enriches lives by bringing fresh, original ideas to subjects that affect all of our lives. Willing to Learn is at once an articulation and an exemplar of the composition of Bateson's own life's work.

Arabic Language Handbook

Arabic Language Handbook [1967]
2nd edition, Georgetown University Press, 2003
ISBN 0878403868

Composing A Life [1989]
Grove/Atlantic, Inc. Paperback, 2001
ISBN: 0452265053

With A Daughter’s Eye:
A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson
HarperCollins, 2001
ISBN: 0060975733

Peripheral Visions: Learning Along the Way [1994]
Harper Perennial Paperback, 1995
ISBN: 0060926309.

Our Own Metaphor: A Personal Account of a Conference on the Effects of Conscious Purpose on Human Adaptation [1972]
Hampton Press, 2005
ISBN: 1-57273-601-1

Angels Fear Angels Fear: Towards an Epistimology of the Sacred [1987]
(with Gregory Bateson).
Hampton Press, 2005
ISBN: 1-57273-594-5


  • Full Circles, Overlapping Lives: Culture and Generation in Transition. Ballantine Books. 2001.
  • Thinking AIDS (with Richard Goldsby). New York: AddisonWesley. 1988.
  • Structural Continuity in Poetry: A Linguistic Study of Five PreIslamic Odes. The Hague: Mouton, 1970.
  • Approaches to Semiotics: Indiana University Conference on Paralinguistics and Kinesics (edited, with Thomas A. Sebeok and Alfred S. Hayes). The Hague: Mouton, 1964.

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