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What We Are Studying Lately: Capitalism: The Tale at the back of the Phrase

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

Written on Fridays between February 2012 and February 2013, the essays started out as 600-word columns in The American Scholar that combined the literary and personal. Soon, Dirda found that the word counts naturally ballooned, sometimes doubling and even tripling due to what he referred to as his “natural garrulousness.”

In the intro, he writes: “These are … very much personal pieces, the meandering reflections of a literary sybarite. The essays themselves vary widely in subject matter, and rarely stick closely to their stated titles.”

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

This collection of essays serves as a true celebration of American literature. Dirda explores his serendipitous discoveries and the joy of reading for its own sake. His passion goes beyond bibliophilism; the compilation is his love letter to all the books he has encountered along his journey.

The writer’s quick wit is demonstrated clearly on the page, and he comes across as that bookworm friend who can talk endlessly about books with enough passion to make you fall in love with reading again.

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

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

“Allow me to make two small recommendations: First, don’t read more than two or three of the pieces at one sitting. Space them out. That way ‘Browsings’ will take longer to get through and you’ll enjoy each essay more. Trust me on this.

“Second, consider reading the columns in the order they appear. Each is meant to stand on its own, but I did aim for a pleasing variety in my choice of topics, as well as a seasonal arc to the series as a whole.”



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