Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living With Books by Michael Dirda
Rating: 4 Stars
Description: 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 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 of his witty and wide-ranging reflections on literary journalism, book collecting, and the writers he loves. Reaching from the classics to the post-moderns, his allusions dance from Samuel Johnson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and M.F.K. Fisher to Marilynne Robinson, Hunter S. Thompson, and David Foster Wallace. Dirda's topics are equally diverse: literary pets, the lost art of cursive writing, book inscriptions, the pleasures of science conventions, author photographs, novelists in old age, Oberlin College, a year in Marseille, writer's block, and much more, not to overlook a few rants about Washington life and American culture. As admirers of his earlier books will expect, there are annotated lists galore - of perfect book titles, great adventure novels, favorite words, essential books about books, and beloved children's classics, as well as a revealing peek at the titles Michael keeps on his own nightstand. (from Goodreads)
Why I Picked This Book: It's a book about books and did you see the cover? I'm not strong enough to resist that!
My Impression: I've always had a massive sweet tooth and when I was a little girl my grandmother used to give me a Whitman's Sampler every year for holidays and I always loved them. I loved the variety and the tiny little chocolates meant to be savored. When I got a little older my parents would get me a small box of Godiva chocolates as one of my gifts for Christmas and birthdays. I used to set on my bed with my pretty gold box and read the insert explaining which chocolate was which. After much debating and looking I would select one piece and nibble at it, savoring it until it was gone.
This book is the literary version of those chocolate boxes. At the very beginning Dirda recommends that you read it in small doses which is precisely what I did and he was very right. The chapters are short and cover a variety of topics all linked somehow to books and tend to ramble a little. I think if I had tried to read 50 to 100 pages in a stretch it would've felt a little overly random but read little by little each chapter reads like a nice little treat at the end of the day. The metaphorical chocolate caramel carefully selected from the pretty chocolate box.
The blurb pretty well sums up the variety of topics covered in this book. Despite the accolades and awards Michael Dirda is a new name for me and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. While in theory I love books about books there are times when they can be on the smug side where the author throws out obscure names and titles to prove how well read he or she is. While Dirda is most certainly better read than I am but I could easily relate to how he felt about books and all the other fun stuff associated with bookishness. Each chapter was a delightful rambling little treat with which to end the day and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, definitely! He references another one of his books a few times called Classics for Pleasure that I would love to read.
Would I Recommend this Book?: If you enjoy books about books this is a must read.