Lifelong companions are remembered in variety and gratefulness in this collection of original essays. Boston lawyer and essayist Shwartz has assembled a fine coterie of more than 100 writers. There’s strong representation of esteemed writers known by surnames—Barth, Hawkes, Lessing, Mailer, Oates, Ozick, Paley, Updike—plus academics Witold Rybczynski and Robert Coles, journalists Anna Quindlen and Pete Hamill, and current biggies Frank McCourt and James McBride. Those wanting full multicultural spread will need to look elsewhere, as will readers troubled by the mere presence of firebrands Stanley Fish or P.J. O’Rourke. Better than complaining is to luxuriate in the memories of intellectual awakening and young endless hours to drink books in. Early choices for Jonathan Harr and others was Sherlock Holmes, for Tracy Kidder and others, Little Women. But for adolescent siren call to serious reading and writing, most cited is Dickens. “Great Expectations is the first novel I read that made me wish I had written it; it is the novel that made me want to be a writer,” says John Irving. Nabokov, Yeats, Joyce, Melville, Woolf, Tolstoy, and Conrad are often named as lifelong influences on language and thought, though many writers cite the odd title as important. The Uta (a collection of early Japanese poetry) captured Gretel Ehrlich’s feelings of exile; the children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon showed Rita Dove “the possibilities of traveling on the line of one’s imagination.” All these pieces enter a writer’s mind, but some are more welcoming than others. Not surprisingly, the most readable pieces are those by columnists and nonfiction mavens such as Roy Blount Jr., Justin Kaplan, and Dave Barry, who takes a funny trek from Archie comics to Calvin Trillin. For community with those who have loved Tarzan forever or inspiration to finally read Proust, this is a memory book of fond epiphanies.