Sister Mary Mercedes (1871-1965), a Dominican sister, was a teacher for more than 50 years. She wrote the original Book of Courtesy in 1910 for use at the Dominican Convent Upper School in San Rafael and later at the San Domenico School in San Anselmo. The class of 1950 revised this book in honor of their fiftieth reunion and the sesquicentennial of the Dominicans in California. Check out their new guidelines etiquette for email and cell phones.

Rudeness, incivility, violence, and disregard for the rights of others reveal that common courtesy is in short supply in these times. The neglect of this virtue leads to the collapse of community and widespread personal enmities. Now more than ever we need a revival of courtesy to lubricate both private and public interactions between people.

The sage advice of Sister Mercedes has a timeless validity. She notes at the outset: "You may not think that living with others is an art, but it is the finest and most difficult of arts. . . . Courtesy is a way of living inspired by thoughtfulness, consideration, and respect for others and for yourself."

Sister Mercedes presents a code of conduct based on dignity, thoughtfulness, and kindness that can be used in public places, houses of worship, schools, the workplace, and personal correspondence. Whether writing about the values of promptness, taking care of your body, or putting others before yourself, she demonstrates how little expressions of graciousness build character. A Book of Courtesy: The Art of Living with Yourself and Others proves that manners still matter and can contribute mightily toward the making of a better world.