‘The Book of Charlie’ by David Von Drehle

There is a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from those who’ve lived the longest, and journalist/author David Von Drehle learned that first-hand when he moved to Kansas City and encountered a centenarian neighbor named Charlie who, by all accounts, had lived an extraordinary life and had no intention of slowing down.

The two hit it off right away and a friendship was born, which became the basis for a biography written by Von Drehle titled The Book of Charlie: Wisdom from the Remarkable American Life of a 109-Year-Old Man.

From the book’s description:

Charlie White was no ordinary neighbor. Born before radio, Charlie lived long enough to use a smartphone. When a shocking tragedy interrupted his idyllic boyhood, Charlie mastered survival strategies that reflect thousands of years of human wisdom. Thus armored, Charlie’s sense of adventure carried him on an epic journey of the Jazz Age, racing aboard ambulances through Depression-era gangster wars, improvising techniques for early open-heart surgery, and cruising the Amazon as a guest of Peru’s president.

David Von Drehle came to understand that Charlie’s resilience and willingness to grow made this remarkable neighbor a master in the art of thriving through times of dramatic change. As a gift to his children, he set out to tell Charlie’s secrets. The Book of Charlie is [an] inspiring story of one man’s journey through a century of upheaval. The history that unfolds through Charlie’s story reminds you that the United States has always been a divided nation, a questing nation—a nation of Charlies in the rollercoaster pursuit of a good and meaningful life.

Although only about 200 pages long, this is one of those books that has so much to teach about how to live and find happiness and meaning even in the face of hardships, mistakes, and tragedy. Don’t go in expecting tips on how to live longer; it’s more about living better, whatever time is left on the clock.

“I came to realize Charlie was not a survivor. He was a thriver. He did not just live. He lived joyfully. He was like a magnet, pulling me across the street and into his confidences, where I discovered something about life’s essentials. The sort of something one wants to pass on to one’s children.”

David Von Drehle, author

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