One of the first posts that I ever wrote as The Midlife Second Wife, nearly one year ago, included reference to a book. So profoundly have books influenced my life that it doesn’t seem enough to fill our home with them, bring volumes back from the library, or download tomes to my Kindle. No, I need a place on the blog—a library, if you will—where the books that have been important enough to me to mention in my posts can be found readily by my own readers.
Today I bring you An Open Book: The Midlife Second Wife’s Library. I do not bring it to you complete, because it will take some time for me to stack the shelves, so to speak. And it will be an evolving project, with new titles added all the time. So I ask your patience while I get this new project underway.
The title for the blog’s newest page comes from a favorite book of mine, Michael Dirda‘s An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland. I’ve recommended this book to so many people that not only have I lost count, it seems I should share in the royalties. The book is, quite simply, wonderful. It’s the lively story of a young boy coming of age in Lorain, Ohio (my late mother’s hometown, by the way), who discovers the joy of reading, and how that passion changes his life. Born into a world where the majority of its inhabitants work either at the steel plant (as Dirda did for a time) or the shipyards, Dirda breaks free from that blue-collar cycle and enters Oberlin College. (I’m also an Oberlin graduate, although I attended some years after Dirda.)
The young reader continues his studies, going on to earn a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Cornell University, and parlays his passion for the written word into a career reviewing books, ultimately becoming a senior editor at The Washington Post, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Rich with anecdotes, Dirda’s book happily romps through some of the titles that he has savored, and ends by sending the reader off not with just any reading list, but with his own, sagely compiled when he was 16-years-old.
Admittedly, this book is an exercise in nostalgia for me; I remember many of the places that Dirda recalls. And while our youthful taste in titles might have differed, I am in complete accord with Dirda’s thesis: that reading is the key to becoming the person you are meant to become.
The open book depicted in the photo illustrating this post (and the new blog page) is, appropriately, Dirda’s An Open Book. If you’re casting about for something good to read this summer, I highly recommend it. There, I’ve done it again.