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Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting,…

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

by Michael Dirda

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Deplorably, this book about books lacks an index.
  KayCliff | Sep 8, 2018 |
Excellent book that every bibliophile should read. Since it is set up as a collection of readings, it is very easy to pick up, read a bit and then put it down although found myself to engaged in the prose to do that too often. ( )
  RetiredProf | Jun 19, 2018 |

The essays in Browsings are eclectic and seemingly random…from Mr. Dirda's sad musings of his mother’s nursing home to the loss of cursive penmanship – but the connective tissue is books, reading books, collecting books, finding books, talking about books and writing about books.

He has a love of older books – eschews bestsellers and feasts his eyes (and his wallet) on the vibrant dust-jackets of the 1940’s and 50’s. There’s a divine essay dedicated to the golden age of detective novels. Mr. Dirda, in another excerpt, reflects upon the bookshelves, favorite notebooks and writing implements of various great authors — what reader can’t resist picturing Colette writing with a beloved Parker fountain pen?

After reading an article about millionaire author and Law & Order producer David Wolf, who owns a home in Montecito, California — “where God would live if he had the money.” –he ponders excessive wealth and Tolstoy’s lament – “how much (land) does a man need?” Mr. Dirda reflects on his own excess — books:

"It’s certainly not as though I need any more books. Just yesterday I was up in the attic creating neat stacks of those I would like to read Right Now."

Of course the author speaks fluent French and taught English in Marseille. He tells of a hunch-backed dwarf who cut hair in a garage, where one had to climb down into a pit so he could circle around and cut the hair. I don’t do the tale justice, you must read it for yourself.

I just love this guy, he’s a charming, quirky book nerd. How could I not fall for a guy who dreams of traveling around North America in a van visiting secondhand bookstores.
After finishing the final essay, and in addition to the wildly optimistic new list of books I must want to read, I jotted down some quotes from Browsings – you bibliophiles out there will relate:

I also think of some books as my friends and I like to have them around. They brighten my life.

The world of books is bigger than the current best-seller list.

Books don’t 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.

What fun it was to spend time with Mr. Dirda -- a witty, engaging and off-the-charts-smart booklover whose reading covers a surprisingly wide breadth of interest and expertise.

Look for his other books which include Book by Book, Classics for Pleasure, and Readings.
See all my bookreviews at http://www.bookbarmy.com ( )
  BookBarmy | Apr 13, 2017 |
During 2012, noted book reviewer Michael Dirda wrote a weekly series of essays for the online version of "The American Scholar" called "Browsings," which this collection gathers together in their entirety. To someone such as I, who has been reading Dirda for years in the "Washington Post" and listening to him hold forth at the science fiction convention "Capclave," there aren't a lot of surprises here. There's the variegated literary interests. The swooning over the joys of bargain hunting. The wistful desire for a little more time to accomplish all that must be done. One thing that was different is that there were times when the man expressed some unalloyed disgust with the course of American society and some depression as the darkness gathers in American society and his own personal life. ( )
  Shrike58 | Dec 3, 2016 |
It is risky to review a reviewer. Michael Dirda reviews books, about one a week, for various prestigious media. I review two books a week here. He dwells on stories; he can’t get enough sci-fi, mysteries and period (1870-1930) fiction. I review nonfiction. I started writing reviews because I couldn’t possibly remember the high and low points of books. He seems to remember incredible amounts. He has thousands of books. I force myself to keep just 500.

So I could and did learn a lot from Browsings.

Michaell Dirda is totally consumed by the book world. He is a member of every author and genre club you can name, and numerous others you never dreamed existed. He haunts used bookstores and rarely leaves empty-handed. He loves adding new editions of books he already has. He attends conferences, speaks on panels and teaches. And networks. And it’s all pleasure. Luckily, he actually makes a living out of it.

Browsings is a collection of blog entries that cover one year in the life of a bookman. While this might at first seem boring, it is not. It is very personal, very broad, but also very intense. He lightens the load with what he calls ironic deflation, in which he gently mocks that straw man Michael Dirda, from having too much of an authoritative approach. It works well, taking a pause on the otherwise relentless ascent into the importance of authors unknown.

Often, he just lists book and authors we should check out. He can’t seem to write without paraphrasing some other author. Very often. He has such a wealth of allusions, he seems to just assume readers will recognize them with a knowing smile. Smile maybe, but recognize, not so much. It is a fairytale life, which is most appropriate for a lover of stories.

What I learned that applied directly to me was that “You can’t just read and write all day, much as I’d like to” or as he quotes from Te Tao Ching: “Know when to stop.”

David Wineberg ( )
1 vote DavidWineberg | Nov 24, 2016 |
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To the memory of Clifton Fadiman, Randall Jarrell, Cyril Connolly, and Robert Phelps
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The author shares personal essays on diverse topics ranging from literary pets and cursive writing to book inscriptions and the pleasures of science fiction conventions.

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