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

Author: Michael Dirda

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Dirda collected 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.

The essays, written on Fridays between February 2012 and February 2013, began as 600-word columns in The American Scholar that combined the literary and the personal. Soon, Dirda realized that the word naturally counted as a balloon, sometimes doubling and even tripling due to what he called its “natural loudness”.

In the introduction he writes: “These are… very personal pieces, the tortuous reflections of a literary sybarite. The essays themselves are very varied in their subject matter and rarely stick to their given title.”

As a long-time columnist for The Washington Post, Dirda regularly writes numerous literary columns in publications such as the New York Review of Books. Washingtonian Magazine once named him one of the 25 smartest people in the nation’s capital.

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

The author’s quick wit clearly shows on the page, and he’s the bookish friend who can talk endlessly about books with enough passion to make you fall in love with reading again.

“I hope that the entirety of Böngésés will convey the meaning of a year in the life of a literary journalist who especially loves books. I also hope it will encourage readers to seek out some of the titles I mention or discuss,” writes Dirda.

The books he reviews are varied and provide readers with insights that jump off the page. The essays are quite short, but he asks us to read only a few at a time.

“Let me make two small suggestions: First, don’t read more than two or three in one sitting. Place them. This will make your “browsing” last longer and you will enjoy each essay more. Trust me on this one.

“Secondly, consider reading the columns in the order they appear. Each one stands on its own, but I aimed for a pleasing variety in my choice of themes, as well as a seasonal arc to the series as a whole.”

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