Scholars and critics of literature—as well as enthusiastic, if less garlanded readers—often talk about the importance of revisiting texts that once had significance for them. The teenage reader will likely react differently to The Great Gatsby, Moby-Dick, or Huck Finn than will the mature adult; and of course, those texts are well worth periodic reimmersion.

Except for scholars, readers are less likely to return to influential nonfiction works, even though classics like The Interpretation of Dreams, Silent Spring, or Notes of a Native Son would clearly benefit from periodic revisiting. As it happens, I have had the unusual opportunity to visit one such book at three pivotal times: as an eighteen-year-old in 1962; as a thirty-five-year-old in 1978; and now, on the cusp of eighty, at the start of 2023.

Howard at 18: I was a college freshman, with scant exposure to scholarly texts, let alone...

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