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Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living with Books

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  975 ratings  ·  242 reviews
Michael Dirda has been hailed as "the best-read person in America" (The Paris Review) and "the best book critic in America" (The New York Observer). In addition to the Pulitzer Prize he was awarded for his reviews in The Washington Post, he picked up an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America for his most recent book, On Conan Doyle.

Dirda's latest volume collects fifty o
Hardcover, 1st, 246 pages
Published August 15th 2015 by Pegasus
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Jenny's Book Life I started a list! Mr. Dirda should know better than not to include such a thing! LOL! I gave up though, & spent lots of time reading about books, auth…moreI started a list! Mr. Dirda should know better than not to include such a thing! LOL! I gave up though, & spent lots of time reading about books, authors, organizations, publications, & publishers that he mentioned. It was time well spent for me. I did make sticky notes inside the cover that I can go back to when I am seeking one of the books he mentioned....& I did buy the "Shakespeare, In Fact" based on his call.(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
The hazards of being in a bookstore.

”But, ah, those three hours or so of wandering the shelves, pulling out interesting-looking titles, checking prices, trying to remember if I already own this book or that and, if I do, whether I really owe it to myself to upgrade to an incredibly pretty copy for only $5. Before long, my one or two books is a stack, then a boxful. Should I, perhaps, put back a few? Naah. You only live once. Besides, with any justice, Heaven itself will resemble a vast used book
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I received a review copy of this book through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Another book on books! Please don't let it mention Proust.

Okay, it can mention Proust, as long as it isn't all Proust.

And thank goodness, Michael Dirda is a bookman who reads more than just the narrow literary canon. He takes absolute pleasure in adventure stories, science fiction, conventions, used bookstores, collecting, and comparing versions of books. I am wary of books on books by so-called experts bec
Connie G
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
Michael Dirda wrote about his lifelong love of books in a weekly series of essays for "The American Scholar" website in 2012-2013. The essays about the joy of reading, literary conventions, favorite book titles, publishers, bookstores, his work in literary journalism, and the fun in collecting were gathered into this book. Dirda writes in a conversational style with a self-deprecating sense of humor. He's intelligent and enthusiastic, but occasionally redundant, especially when he write
M. Eliot Cummins
This is such a charming book. I think this is a must read for anyone with a burning passion for the wonderfully bookish reading life. I cannot recommend it enough.
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
I love books about books, but God this was boring. Also: let's stop the ebook hysteria. We can have both. We can have lovely shelves filled with lovely books, and still have e-readers filled with the kind of books we don't necessarily want to keep for the rest of our lives. I have more books than anybody I know and I still love my Kindle. Not all of us live in big houses that we can fill up with bookshelves.

Aside from that, again, this was just really boring. Also I bet if Mr Dirda tried, he cou
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Michael Dirda is currently at the top of my "famous people I'd like to have lunch with" list, a list I formed about half an hour ago while trying to come up with a succinct way of describing my Dirda fangirl status. Right now, it's pretty short. But no matter how much it grows, I'm pretty sure Dirda will stay at the top, and Browsings, a collection of his weekly columns, is a good example of why.

Dirda is a discursive, light, chatty companion: he admits to working hard to make all these essays se
Dirda wrote this pleasant set of bibliophilic essays for the American Scholar website in 2012–13. He’s the American equivalent of the UK’s John Sutherland: an extremely well-read doyen of the classics with a special love for Victorian and Edwardian genre fiction, often as revived by small presses and specialist societies. Essentially he’s a dilettante who writes about whatever takes his fancy, and it’s rather reassuring to see that someone can still make a living in that manner nowadays. “I’m a ...more
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: august-2015
“This collection of Dirda’s musings on writers, book collecting and the literary landscape is a must read for all bibliophiles. Michael Dirda won a Pulitzer for his work at the Washington Post and has been called “the best-read person in America”. I always learn something new when I read his work and this book is no exception. Great fun for all book nerds!”

Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Hilliard, OH
Julie  Durnell
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked his style of writing- humorous, self-deprecating, and in spite of a bent towards sci-fi/fantasy, very knowledgeable! He'd be very interesting to sit down with and chat books!
Kevin McAllister
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
For as long as I can remember I've had the problem of having more books that I want to read, than the time to actually read them. Recently a friend gifted me with this book thinking I would enjoy it. Enjoy it I did, but now thanks to my friend and author Michael Dirda my problem has gotten worse than ever. So many great reading suggestions, but nowhere near the time, to get to them all...
Nov 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-on-books
I mostly enjoyed this book, which is really just a compilation of columns written about books and books collecting. I can certainly sympathize with the desire to constantly acquire "new" books, even if you own a different edition of the book already. I am also drawn like a magnet to used book stores, and I almost never leave without buying something.
The only place the author lost me was when he went on non-book related rants, on such topics as gun control and socialism. These distracted from th
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
I did not like this. I found the essays/columns boring and often annoying - every other one was “I went to Oberlin”, “look at all the clubs I’m part of”, “look at this prize I won”, namedropping, hoarding (and I’m not just talking about books, this guy’s house must be a nightmare), and wishy-washy political views.

(His main political motto, according to him, is “listen to the young people”, supposedly the repository of wisdom in society - I guess he’s never heard of the Tide pod challenge. Excep
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
It feels a little odd to discuss a book by a critic who writes essays about reviewing books. It reminds me of those old cartoons about a TV scene inside an identical TV scene inside another identical TV scene. I don't really need to review a book by Michael Dirda. But, I do want to call attention to a book about books since I'm addicted to them. Browsings is subtitled "A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books".

Between February 2012 and February 2013, Dirda contributed a weekly essay
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I first read Michael Dirda when I was living near DC and commuting every day on the train, thinking that I was the only person alive who was reading Somerset Maugham's Cosmopolitans or the mysteries of Margery Allingham. Dirda's Washington Post column made me believe that there might be at least one other person (other than my brother or selected friends) who wanted to read what I wanted to read. He introduced me to Terry Pratchett and gave me a hundred other writers to explore. And made me feel ...more
Books don't just furnish a room. A personal library is a reflection of who you are and who you want to be, of what you value and what you desire, of how much you know and how much more you'd like to know.

Michael Dirda is a self-proclaimed "bookman". A book critic, a writer, a journalist, a literature teacher but first and foremost a reader. This book is a collection of the essays he wrote weekly for the American Scholar website in 2012. And they revolve about his life and his love of books. Of
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book very much as it seems that my tastes and the authors align pretty closely.

He taught a course and I plan to read as many of these books that I haven't read as of yet.

“The Modern Adventure Novel”—A semester course, a follow-up to “The Classic Adventure Novel,” taught as a visiting professor at the University of Maryland:
Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1912)
Rafael Sabatini, Captain Blood (1922)
Georgette Heyer, These Old Shades (1928)
Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest (1929)
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was one of the most interesting nonfiction books I've read. The whole thing is a series of short essays that the author wrote for a newspaper column about his own life in books (mainly his addiction of acquiring books) I really related to him on a bookish level, even if we don't read a lot of the same stuff.

I didn't agree with his philosphy on lots of other topics that would come up though, although there wasn't a lot he talked about other than books. But overall, I did enjoy these essays.
Charles McCaffrey
Sep 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
My first negative book review - As a lover of books who enjoys books about books (and bookstores) I was at first excited to find "Browsings" but became quickly disappointed in the author's too frequent digressions in the face of such a rich topic. It didn't take many pages before I felt like I was reading a really long Facebook post written by a grumpy old man with a penchant for 1920s mystery novels. I'm sorry about the hardships of road construction and power outages (which someone like Bill B ...more
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
dirda had a gig writing weekly short, 'funny', bookish pieces for 'american scholar', 2012-2013. these are the collected short pieces, all about books and the people who read them and write them, make them, sell them.
very entertaining, fairly light, but tons and tons of book recommendations. one could read their life just from the recommended titles/authors, in this fast reading book.
Nov 19, 2016 rated it did not like it
This was horrendous and boring. Pretentious dude complains a lot about how we don't read the classics and how they are so great and how he is part of all these fancy societies and buys books for amazing prices at used bookshops. Don't bother.
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle, read-in-2017
I love books, and books about books – but, with a few exceptions, I found this pretty boring. I found myself liking Dirda, book nerd to the nth degree. I highlighted a few paragraphs that resonated. But overall, it just didn't work for me. I found myself skimming too much.
Esther King
Oct 04, 2020 rated it liked it
An enjoyable little series of love letters to literature, this series of essays was a sweet dedication to books and a deep love of words. I did find patches a little barren occasionally, and that was slightly bothersome. However, the author's passion for words and books is evidently incredible. There is so much to relate here to in respect to books- especially book hoarding! A cute little read for all bibliophiles.
A nice little collection of essays I found while "browsing" in my library. Ha! While I know nothing of Michael Dirda, I liked his bookish observations. He recommended reading this in small chunks instead of straight through. I didn't listen, but don't feel like it affected my enjoyment.

My favorites? His small press recommendations, odes to more obscure titles, and adventures in thrift stores. There was even an essay titled "Charlottesville"- which was an extra delight since that's my hometown!
Jenny's Book Life
Oct 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: own-it
*** 5 Stars = An enduring classic to be read by all; 4 Stars = I LOVE IT! You gotta read it!; 3 Stars = A great book for a specific interest/type of reader/very casual read; 1 or 2 Stars = no comment***

This is one of MY favorite types of books - a book about books, which is mostly what Mr. Dirda writes. I believe I do own most of his collection. This volume is a treasure-hunt map, sending me Googling/Amazoning/Goodreading off in many directions to look up the books and authors he talks about. My
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I read it at lunch, and at first I just read it as fast as I could because I enjoyed the author's voice so much. But then I realized that once I finished it, I wouldn't get to have these great "conversations" about books and reading with Mr. Dirda, so I slowed way down and only read one or two at a sitting. My favorite entry is "Thrift Stories" in which the author talks about buying several elegant shirts that could have been worn by Jay Gatsby. I laughed out loud at some of t ...more
Julie Davis
Nov 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
These essays are from a series Michael Dirda wrote for "The American Scholar" website in 2012-2013. Whether he is propelled by a power outage or memories of bike riding, Dirda always winds up jumping from one book to another in a way that makes me want to go spend a small fortune at a bookstore. I also really enjoy the fact that he's all about the books. If he's got a political preference or sociological judgment I don't know it. And I like it that way.

He's also the second mention of ReaderCon I
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've yet to read a collection of Dirda's essays I Didn't like, and this one, too, was lots of fun. These are personal essays about books, book collecting, writing, writers, and other bookish topics, and Dirda is omnivorous in his literary (and not so literary) tastes, so, despite failing to follow his opening suggestion to read only a few essays at a time (I tried but failed!), the pieces didn't feel too repetitive. The one drawback of this book, and I saw it coming, was that Dirda, as usual, "m ...more
Jen Davis
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Oh Michael Dirda, how have I not read all of your books already? These short essays about books and book-related topics are like bibliophiles' crack. Book bloggers of the world be aware, you really can't beat him in terms of prose and an innate knowledge of how to write appealingly. I plan on keeping a copy on my nightstand when I want a little upbeat pick-me-up before bed. He singlehandedly proves that critics don't have to be stodgy or addicted to overwrought turns of phrase. (Although his voc ...more
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
After reading this book there is no doubt left in my mind that I am a freaking book nerd. Can I get an Amen on that?
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Michael Dirda (born 1948), a Fulbright Fellowship recipient, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning critic. After earning a PhD in comparative literature from Cornell University, the joined the Washington Post in 1978.

Two collections of Dirda's literary journalism have been published: Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000; ISBN 0-253-33824-7) and Bound to P

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