By Mary Rogers
Truth to tell, I didn’t like the title: The Book of Charlie: Wisdom from the Remarkable American Life of a 109-Year-Old Man. But I wanted a quick read, something with an endearing character.
Here was a true story about a memorable fellow, so I downloaded a sample and was charmed when I met Charlie White as he washed his girlfriend’s new Chrysler PT Cruiser. Charlie was 102 then, an engaging man who used a golf club as a cane, liked to eat and dance, and could accurately remember what he had for breakfast as well as what happened 90 years earlier.
The author, David Von Drehle, was Charlie’s neighbor and friend. An award-winning journalist, he recognized a life-affirming story when he saw one, and over the next seven years, until Charlie died at 109, Von Drehle gathered the material for this book.
Born in 1905, Charlie grew up when there were more horse-drawn buggies than automobiles. He was 8 when a freak elevator accident took his father’s life.
From that day, Charlie understood that sadness, loss, and unexpected challenges can’t be avoided or controlled. He surrendered to the age-old wisdom that only attitude can be harnessed.
He became a physician during a time when everything a doctor knew about practicing medicine could be packed in a small leather bag and carried on house calls. But he lived to see the wonder of modern medicine and even improvised early techniques for open-heart surgery.
Charlie was adventurous and tough, and he had a gift for happiness. The story of how he found his way through a long century of turmoil, personal challenges and groundbreaking innovations is uplifting and forward-looking.
My nightstand: One hot summer day soon, I’ll begin reading Sunshine Nails by Mai Nguyen. It’s the story of a Vietnamese Canadian family who run a plain-Jane nail salon in Toronto. When the landlord jacks up the rent and a new high-end salon opens across the street, this immigrant family must find imaginative ways to keep the business open and the family together.
Two in One: When Ann Louden, once a familiar face on the TCU administration staff and active in the arts here, settled in New York a few years ago, she probably never imagined she’d give birth to an alter ego. But just like that, Kate Somerset emerged from her mind as a woman in full.
These two cranked out a little book of dating wisdom for modern-day optimists, called Mom… You Just Need to Get Laid: The Adventures of Dating After Divorce. Ann gave Kate the byline because she wasn’t ready to own up to her involvement. Never mind that the racy and memorable title was Ann’s idea, inspired by a comment fired like an arrow from a crossbow during a showdown with her daughter years earlier.
Now a consultant for nonprofits, Ann is a woman who knows about forging a new life in a place far from the familiar. No kiss-and-tell, this book is more a savvy, sassy field guide to dating and making new friends in a new place.
Considering the banter in the lengthy text messages, it might also be called a primer on flirting, a recipe for social interaction that Southerners have perfected over generations.
Kate Somerset went on to write a dating advice column, too, but Ann didn’t stay in the shadows long. She recently announced she is, indeed, Kate Somerset and signed books at least twice in Fort Worth; once at TCU with Kelly Lancarte as moderator and another time at Joe T.’s in an intimate gathering of lady friends.
Your Neighbor’s Nightstand: Community activist Louise Appleman is slipping copies of Suzanne Seifert Groves’ book, We Need to Talk: Communicating Through Difficult Situations in Four Easy Steps, to those on their way to leadership roles.
And why not? Groves, an award-winning communications strategist whom some may remember from her years at Tarrant County College, writes that leaders are her target audience. She calls her approach “the neurotransmission method” and says it examines how the brain recognizes threats.
Heavy stuff. But who isn’t looking for ways to overcome resistance when we talk to each other? Leaders honing communication skills may find good stuff in this book, but it also could be a tool for anyone who deals with teens, the aged, curmudgeons, cranky neighbors, the telephone company or any service desk.