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 on 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 discovered that the word count was naturally magnified, sometimes doubling and even tripling due to what he called his “natural eloquence.”

In the introduction, he writes: “These are… very personal pieces, the meandering reflections of a literary sybaritic.” The essays themselves vary widely in subject matter and rarely adhere to stated headings.”

A longtime book columnist for The Washington Post, Dirda also writes regularly for many literary columns in publications such as the New York Review of Books. 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 her accidental discoveries and the joy of reading for its own sake. His passion goes beyond bibliophile; the compilation is his love letter to all the books he encountered on his way.

The writer’s quick wit is clearly on display 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 all over again.

“I hope that ‘Browsings’ as a whole will convey some sense of a year in the life of a particularly literary journalist.” I also hope 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 only requires reading a few at a time.

“Let me make two small recommendations: First, don’t read more than two or three parts in one sitting.” Space them out. That way, the “Searches” will last longer and you’ll enjoy each essay more. Trust me on this.

“Second, consider reading the columns in the order they appear. Each one is meant to stand on its own, but I tended to enjoy the variety in my choice of themes, as well as the seasonal arc of the series as a whole.

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