Both Harper Lee and Umberto Eco died on Friday.
While some have searched for meaningful commonalities between the two authors--with results ranging from the need for their readers to be curious to the relevance of their lead characters today--there is meaning to be found elsewhere too.
The extremely private author of To Kill a Mockingbird and her more outgoing contemporary both earned reputations as literary greats, but in very different ways. Ms. Lee's most famous tale took a child's point of view to tackle the pervasive racism of the Deep South in the 1930s and quickly became required reading in high schools across America; Mr. Eco's The Name of the Rose is a post-modernist mystery set in the 14th century that quivers with erudite references to everything from medieval history to philosophy to literary theory. Ms. Lee published just two books, 55 years apart; Mr. Eco's bibliography includes novels, children's books and essays.
Had they not died on the same day it is not unreasonable to believe that their names would very rarely appear beside each other, apart from an end-of-year reading list. But taken together, they remind us of one thing: no matter how they're written, no matter what the subject matter, a good book can touch the world.