Readings, Michael Dirda, 2000

Dirda, a Pulitzer Prize winner for literary criticism and the Book World writer for the Washington Post, has shared a wealth of reading experiences, recommendations, and thoughts about reading in this collection of essays originally published in the Post between 1993-1999.  Describing them as ‘literary entertainments”, he admits to the ‘catch all’ format of the book taking the reader on visits to Florida and New Orleans and to authors as varied as P.G. Wodehouse, the author of Tales of Genji from 10th C Japan, H.P Lovecraft’s gothic mysteries, Max Beerbohm, and (my favorites) lists—lists of 10 favorite books of aphorisms, fragments and original thinking; an Abecedary of authors, characters, and books; 12 pieces of commencement address advice (“Choose some heroes and imitate them…Montaigne, Samuel Johnson, Stendahl, Jane Austen, Chekhov, and Collette….are my secular saints.”);9 modern books to begin a new canon; 100 English books written in the 20th C that are masterpieces of humor and high spirits; a list of his favorite authors who had recently died (Ross Thomas, Anthony Burgess, John D. McDonald, Robertson Davies, John Gardner, James Merrill); a long list of children’s books conveniently grouped by ages; 7 suggestions for choosing vacation books .  Throughout, with enthusiasm and unwavering excitement, he echoes Randall Jarrell’s advice to Read at Whim!