How to Live: A Search tor Wisdom from Old People (While They Are Still on This Earth) by Henry Alford, Twelve, 262 pages, $23. 99, Hardcover, January 2009, ISBN 9780446196031 Readers might know Henry Alford's satirical columns from Vanity Fair, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. In his latest book, How to Live, Alford audaciously tackles the world of wisdom.
Readers might know Henry Alford's satirical columns from Vanity Fair, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. In his latest book, How to Live, Alford audaciously tackles the world of wisdom. This book isn't a typical pick for a Jack Covert Selects, since its ties to business are tenuous at best, but in these difficult financial times, it's sometimes helpful to take a step back and look at the business of life. Alford's difficult task in this book is to try and condense the history of wisdom into one neat little package. In the first chapter, Alford sets the tone of the book, explaining that while there certainly are intelligent younger people, people are most likely to find experience and wisdom from those over seventy—those who have lived long and lived well. He writes that "valuable information is slipping through the cracks in the wall and seeping into the bed linens and evaporating into the current Boca Raton weather system." What How To Live accomplishes is catching some of that information before it slips away. An interesting aspect of the book is getting the opportunity to read the different interpretations and definitions of what wisdom is from the people Alford interviews. On his quest, Alford gets the opportunity to sit down with a handful of celebrities, one being famous playwright Edward Albee. Albee states that he thinks wisdom is a matter of perspective, that "maybe it's finally being able to figure out what you should be worrying about and what you shouldn't be worrying about." Earlier in the book, Alford sits down with Granny D, who in her 70's went on a 14 month, 3200 mile walk across the country in support of campaign finance reform. When asked about what has made her successful in her life ventures and her 63-year marriage, she writes "See the humor in the situation. Make sure you think about how unimportant the issue really is in comparison to the troubles of the whole world." Alford took on the task of interviewing an older generation, some famous, some accomplished, and some simply unusual. The book that comes out of Alfords ambitious journey brings wisdom and shows important lessons on adapting, friendship, holding on and letting go. Whether you start the book with expectations and preconceptions, or pick it up out of curiosity, you will ultimately be surprised and delighted with what people who have spent seventy years on this planet have seen and what they have to say about it. In these times of so much uncertainty in business, this book might not offer solutions to your most pressing problems, but it sure gives you an idea of where to look for wiser guidance and a larger perspective.