Much of my enjoyment of An Open Book stems from the fact that Michael Dirda grew up on W. 29th Street and my house was a street away on W. 30th. (That's a recent photo of the Dirda house in the photo above.)
Since we had almost identical geographic vantage points of 1950's/1960's Lorain, it was easy to relate to the first part of the book focusing on his childhood. Even though he is 11 years older than me, the Lorain of his youth was the same as mine.
Consequently, all of the iconic Lorain businesses and landmarks of the west side are represented in the early pages of the book: Yala's Pizza, Willow Hardware, Meyer Goldberg's, Rebman's, Whalen Drug, Lorain Plaza Shopping Center, etc. It's a nice snapshot of a Lorain that is beginning to slowly disappear.
Also enhancing my enjoyment of the book is the fact that Dirda and I had similar blue-collar upbringings. Many of his memories made me smile as they were the same as mine: stopping at Whalen's to check out the rack of comic books; playing in the fields that at that time were not yet developed into housing subdivisions; poking around construction sites; and most hilariously, dreading the wooden spoon that his mother would use to administer punishment.
I guess any Baby Boomer Lorainite, especially those who grew up on the west side, will see much of themselves in the early part of the book.
Next: memories of the Journal