As a long-time amateur book reviewer (i.e., unpaid), I admire those who can do this for a living, not so much because I want that job—I fear that it would remove the pleasure of reading if it were to become my employment—but simply because those who take it up as a profession seem so much better read than I will ever be. This is supremely true of Michael Dirda, long-time reviewer for the Washington Post Book World and other newspapers, a man whom has such a wide-range of interests and knowledge, it’s almost hard to believe.

This comes through in Book by Book, which is a paean to the joys of reading, taken from his commonplace book—a notebook in which he inscribed quotes or thoughts he had during his reading. There is so much in this book for a reader that it would be useful to revisit it in a few years time, to discover other new authors or sources for enlightenment. As it was, I took notes on a few dozen authors and books that I should investigate, had I but world enough and time.

In subjects, this ranges from education to love, to philosophy and death. And, all the while, Dirda makes it clear that there are those who have gone before us who can give us some guidance, while also noting that it is in our own power to make our own way.

If you are at a loss as to what to read next, this is an excellent book to review. I find it hard to believe that even the most jaded reader won’t find something provocative here that will lead her or him to a new discovery.

[Finished 7 Aug 2018]


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First Impressions Copyright © 2016 by Glen Engel-Cox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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