There being so few good men in or out of public life, this is a book one reads with some trepidation, for one wonders if Pope John's intimate diary might not inadvertently disclose an adverse picture. But the man who interrupted a St. Peter's service until a barbarism concerning the Jews had been excised, who initiated the Ecumenical Council and went amidst the Roman poor, who upon entering the Vatican could say without any sentimentality at all, ""I feel I no longer have any special ties in this life...The whole world is my family,"" emerges in these pages quite literally a figure of such genuine innocence, such shattering humility, as to appear almost anachronistic. Purely as literature it is not much; as an historical document it is of course unprecedented. The true value, however, lies in that kind of deep, but unfrenzied, unallegorical illumination with which the Pope viewed seven decades: his teenage seminarian days, the time of ministry in foreign places, finally the famous last years. It is a Giornale dell'Anima, a modern pilgrim's progress, private and yet open. The early sections remind one of lines from Lowell's version of a Rilke poem: ""Out of this distant and disordered thing/something in earnest labors to unroll."" A testament of conscience, salvation and love, with its little drama at the end: ""I think the Lord Jesus has in store for me...for my complete mortification...some great suffering and affliction of body and spirit."" Though it's usually foolish predicting a book's future, surely this one seems destined to be read widely, devotedly, even joyfully, for some time to come.