Just in time for spring commencement comes a great literary gift idea, a book that might be classified as an anthology of epiphanies. Culled from published autobiographies of well-known authors, artists, athletes, scientists, filmmakers, and others, all of the excerpts in Heading Out: The Start of Some Splendid Careers explain how the writers chose their respective vocations. Just what made them decide on their paths in life? Did each person have a well-defined goal to pursue, or was there a fair share of luck or serendipity involved? After reading more than 40 autobiographies, editor Gloria Kamen chose compelling stories of talent, hard work and chance, all of which will inspire young readers who might be wondering what to do with their own lives after high school. Believe it or not, beloved author Russell Baker hated high school English the "dull and baffling grammar," the classics thrust on him, "deadening as chloroform." When Baker wrote an informal essay on "The Art of Eating Spaghetti," he wrote it the way he wanted to, thinking he would change it later to fit the teacher's requirements. But when he didn't have time to fix it, he turned it in the way it was and got an A+. Suddenly, Baker had found inspiration for his life's work.
In another selection, Ben Carson was, by his own admission, the dumbest kid in his fifth-grade class. His mother, determined not to let him and his brother get lost, came up with an idea: turn off the television, require the boys to read two books a week from the Detroit Public Library, and make them write reports on the readings. By the end of seventh grade, Ben was at the top of his class. He is now the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Similar moments of awakening, of people on the verge of finding their way, are related by Pablo Casals, Isaac Asimov, Nelson Mandela, Sammy Sosa, Katherine Paterson and many others. Since the excerpts are from already published autobiographies, they are never sappy or contrived. They're simply moments from the lives of accomplished people that will inspire young readers about to set off on their own journeys. The sheer variety of wonderful stories will give this anthology broad appeal.