The ultimate how-to book

Henry Alford, 45, is wise enough to see how little he’s learned. And so, the New Yorker writer has contacted dozens of elderly people and milked them for life lessons. How to Live is the moving summation of his efforts.

Some of the elders you’ll meet along the way are already well known: Take the scholarly Harold Bloom, who turns out to be sweet as well as erudite, or the actress Sylvia Mills (who seems simply sad). Others are well worth knowing: Charlotte, an outspoken San Francisco septuagenarian, is as sprightly as Granny D (who walked across America for campaign reform) is surly. And the book itself is a timely reminder to pepper the senior citizens you meet with questions: You never know what you’ll find out.

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