What We Are Reading Today: Capitalism: The Story behind the Word

Author: Michael Dirda

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Dirda compiled a year’s worth of literary essays in his 2015 book about books, aptly titled “Browsing: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books.”

Written on Fridays between February 2012 and February 2013, the essays began as 600-word columns in The American Scholar that combined the literary and the personal. Soon, Dirda found that the number of words naturally increased, sometimes doubling and even tripling, due to what he called “natural noise”.

In the introduction, he writes: “These are…very personal pieces, tortuous reflections of literary flattery. The essays themselves vary widely in subject and rarely stick exactly to their given titles.’

A longtime columnist for The Washington Post, Dirda also writes regularly for numerous literary sections in publications such as the New York Review of Books. Washingtonian Magazine once ranked him among the 25 smartest people in the nation’s capital.

This collection of essays serves as a true celebration of American literature. Dirda explores her accidental discoveries and the joy of reading for herself. His passion goes beyond bibliophile; the compilation is his love letter to all the books he encountered along the way.

The writer’s sharp wit is clearly demonstrated on the page and he acts like a fellow bookworm who can talk endlessly about books with enough passion to make you fall in love with reading all over again.

“I hope that ‘Browsings’ as a whole conveys some sense of a year in the life of an extraordinarily bookish literary journalist. I also hope it encourages readers to seek out some of the many titles I mention or discuss,” writes Dirda.

The books he reviews are diverse and he provides readers with insights that jump off the page. The essays are short enough, but he asks that only a few be read at a time.

“Let me make two small recommendations: First, don’t read more than two or three parts at a time. Spread them out. This way, the “browsing” will take longer and you will enjoy each essay more. Trust me on this one.

“Second, consider reading the columns in the order they appear. Each should stand on its own, but I tried to have a nice variety in the choice of themes, as well as the seasonal arc of the series as a whole.’

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