Cracking the Aging Code: The New Science of Growing Old---And What It Means for Staying Young


A revolutionary examination of why we age, what it means for our health, and how we just might be able to fight it.

In Cracking the Aging Code, theoretical biologist Josh Mitteldorf and award-winning writer and ecological philosopher Dorion Sagan reveal that evolution and aging are even more complex and breathtaking than we originally thought. Using meticulous multidisciplinary science, as well as reviewing the history of our understanding about evolution, this book makes the case that aging is not something that “just happens,” nor is it the result of wear and tear or a genetic inevitability. Rather, aging has a fascinating evolutionary purpose: to stabilize populations and ecosystems, which are ever-threatened by cyclic swings that can lead to extinction.

When a population grows too fast it can put itself at risk of a wholesale wipeout. Aging has evolved to help us adjust our growth in a sustainable fashion as well as prevent an ecological crisis from starvation, predation, pollution, or infection.

This dynamic new understanding of aging is provocative, entertaining, and pioneering, and will challenge the way we understand aging, death, and just what makes us human.


North American publisher: Flatiron Books

Foreign rights sold: Japan (Shueisha), Turkey (Altin Kitaplar); worldwide Spanish (Planeta Mexico)

Foreign rights contact: The Marsh Agency

Jessica Woollard ( for the United Kingdom

Camilla Ferrier ( for Arabic World, Bulgaria, China, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy*, Japan, The Netherlands**, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam

Jemma McDonagh ( for Baltic States, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Rupublic, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy**, Korea, The Netherlands*, Poland, Romania, Scandinavia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Turkey


Film rights contact: Gillian MacKenzie (


“The authors have attacked one of the greatest paradoxes in the evolutionary sciences. If genes are so damned selfish, why do they code for the destruction of the bodies that carry them? This book includes many a fascinating [and] entrancing but real tale from nature. And it shows how every one of these pieces of evidence challenges us to answer the book’s big question: Why would genes code not just for survival but for an organism’s annihilation?” –Howard Bloom, author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History and The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates

“In Cracking the Aging Code, an enlightening and entertaining elucidation of senescence, you’ll learn the sad truth: We are prey to an inner assassin. The programmed self-destruction we call aging is an inside job. But authors Mitteldorf and Sagan still manage to find hope and offer practical advice to help you live long and prosper.” –Julie Holland, M.D., author of Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy

“This truly revolutionary book presents a new view of aging: We don’t wear out; we are killed from within by genes timed to eliminate us for the good of the larger community.Are the authors right? They’re certainly persuasive,and the implications are staggering.” –Carl Safina, Stony Brook University Endowed Professor for Nature and Humanity and author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel

“How do we grow into old age? Josh Mitteldorf knows as much about this subtle question as anyone writing today, and his account is full of surprises. He and his coauthor, Dorion Sagan, have created a winning combination of biological literacy and civilized conversation, a true gift to the reader.” –Angus Fletcher, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the City University of New York Graduate School and author of The Topological Imagination: Spheres, Edges, and Islands

“Brilliant, challenging, rejuvenating . . . with dazzling, sagacious prose and fascinating, cutting-edge science . . . Josh Mitteldorf and Dorion Sagan take an extended and profound look at the pernicious problems of death and aging from all angles. If you love life and want to live more of it, Cracking the Aging Code is brimming with ideas that are broken down with patience and humor, so even the less scientifically minded can grasp what the great anti-aging researchers are grappling with today.”–Susan Block, Ph.D., author of The Bonobo Way and director of the Dr. Susan Block Institute