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Growing Up (Signet) Mass Market Paperback – June 2, 1992
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Now that my husband and I are retired, we are reading this book to each other. The other day I read to my husband the part of the book that talks about Mr. Baker's wife when he didn't know he was going to marry her. He thought that he would just be a playboy until he saw his future wife kissing another guy . . .
More than a wonderful story about a wonderful man who made something of himself. Well written and well deserving of the Pulitzer Prize. This is a book that will be enjoyed 100 years from now. Today, Mr. Baker is in his eighties. He has left for us this gift of telling us about his life.
In 1983 I was a freshman in college selling New York Times subscriptions at night by phone. Russell Baker was a columnist for the Times. I read that newspaper every day back then (no longer do) because I respected it (no longer do), because even in its criticism of the president (Reagan, at the time) and other politicians, its news stories remained objective, and its opinion piece were civil.
Baker was one of those writers I respected.
One evening, probably in early 1983, just a few months after Growing Up was released, a prospective customer on the phone told me: "I just read a GREAT book called Growing Up, by Russell Baker Have you read that book? I"ll take a subscription if you promise to read Growing Up. Russell Baker, Growing Up." Eager to make a sale, I replied: "Ok, I promise!"
I fully intended on keeping that promise, but autobiographies never really interested me (they still don't), unless the entire story is about what makes the author famous in the first place. In Baker's case, I wanted a book on what it's like to work for the Times - not what his childhood was like. Obviously, I concluded, a title like Growing Up suggests the latter, and so I put it off. The weeks turned into months, and soon enough, I forgot about the promise.
Years later, I saw the book in a bookstore and thought to myself: "I'm going to buy this and read this one day, but not today."
Last month, however, while looking for the newly released book Growing Up Italian-American, by Fedinand J. Visco, MD, the father of a friend of mine, just to see the reviews, the sales, etc. the first "Growing Up" that came up in the search was Baker's book. Well, that did it - 34 years was long enough! And so, I bought the book and I just finished it - less than 20 minutes ago!
It could very well be as good as any autobiography I ever read. That's why I gave it five starts. I still don't like autobiographies, but that's no reason to give it a bad rating. For what it is - it is great. So, if you want to read about a boy's coming of age in rural America from the days of the Depression to the end of World War 2, you won't find a better book.
I hope that some way, somehow, and in some dimension, the man on the phone who asked me 34 years ago to read Growing Up knows that I have - finally - made good on that promise.