During his 20-minute daily trudge to an Ohio high school in the '60s, Dirda committed Shakespeare soliloquies, Dryden couplets, and hundreds more lines of poetry to memory. Don't you hate him already? He was a go-getter, and it paid off: Today, he's a Pulitzer-winning ''Washington Post'' book critic. The really exciting half of his memoir -- genuinely inspiring, if you're a bookish teen or an unstoppable bibliophile -- details his unquenchable reading habits early on (he polished off Plato, Kant, Plutarch, ''Moby-Dick,'' and ''War and Peace,'' all before his 16th birthday). The less lively half concerns his overly familiar Midwestern upbringing -- everything he did when he wasn't sitting around with his face in a book.