TUESDAY

Reading is cool, and there’s no better proof than Michael Dirda’s An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland, the Washington Post Book World senior editor’s memoir of growing up in Lorain, Ohio. Dirda began life badly handicapped in the debonair department: Fat and bowlegged, he was the kind of kid who played in an accordion band, who got his glasses broken while playing freeze tag. But things started changing when Dirda picked up reading as a serious hobby, first speeding through comic books at the local pharmacy’s magazine rack, next shelling out for bulk-discounted hardbacks at thrift stores. After some false starts—pretending he was a comic-book hero called the Green Flame for a few months, or penning “The Algae Poem for Small Children”—the lad grew comfortable with his bibliolatry and managed to turn it to his advantage. He awed all of study hall by whipping out Kant multipounders. He mortified a hated English teacher with a presentation on The Communist Manifesto that ended with him howling, “Working men of all countries, unite!” Before he left high school, Dirda had miraculously transformed from a dweeb into a pimp, charging his friends a quarter per 10 minutes to read his copy of John Cleland’s 18th-century classic Fanny Hill, Or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. Who couldn’t foresee this genius stealing a Pulitzer years later? Show Dirda your “Readers Are Leaders!” tattoo when he cracks An Open Book at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (John Metcalfe)