Saturday, August 15, 2015


Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books by Michael Dirda
Pegasus: 8/15/15
eBook review copy, 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781605988443

Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books by Michael Dirda is a very highly recommended bookish book and perfect for bibliophiles.

If you need more of an explanation, it is a collection of fifty essays that Dirda wrote between February 2012 and February 2013 for the American Scholar. These are not heavy, scholarly essays, although they do contain a wealth of information, but they are for the most part personal reflections written in a conversational style.

In the introduction Dirda writes: "Please bear in mind that these are light essays, meant to be entertaining. They aren’t jokey precisely, but they do have jokes in them. And lots of allusions and quotations, as well as the occasional pun. Now and again, I go off on rants, sometimes I make up lists, at other times I describe my misadventures at literary conventions and conferences." He continues "I’ve retained the name Browsings as the title of this collection, even though it is something of a misnomer. Rather than chronicling “the adventures of a soul among the masterpieces,” I quickly gravitated to talking digressively, and I hope amusingly, about bookishness itself. These are, in fact, very much personal pieces, the meandering reflections of a literary sybarite."

For those of us who are fellow bibliophiles, not only are these essays entertaining and engaging, they also will provide you with a list of things you simply must read someday. Keep a preferred writing implement handy so you can make lists on your preferred type of paper/notebook. This is especially true if you enjoy discovering early, classic science fiction or adventure tales. Dirda has a wealth of information and knowledge that he shares in these essays. Some extoll the wonder of discovery when a perfect, longed for edition of a book is found by chance in a used book store, a feeling many of us can appreciate. Dirda, for all his unpretentiousness about his knowledge, accomplishments, and literary acquaintances, will impress most book lovers. Some of these essays filled me longing and a desire to sit down and just listen to him talk. And maybe get a peek at his basement. And book shelves. And then listen some more.

Not all of the essays are about books. There is one about pets. There are several essays that are best described as rants. These include a trip to a Colorado state park that was undergoing road construction, enduring repeated week long power outages by Pepco (Potomac Electric Power Company), life in Washington DC area, and American culture. Most of the essays, even if they touch on other subjects, have some tie-in to literature.

In the afterword Dirda notes all the other writing he did during this time. It's impressive. Dirda is the weekly book columnist for the Washington Post and received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Pegasus for review purposes.

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