From Publishers Weekly
Longtime Washington Post Book World
staff writer and Pulitzer-winning critic Dirda writes a guide to reading and its life lessons ranging widely and pithily through the universal themes of learning, school, work, love, childhood and spiritual guidance. Dirda's message is simple: if reading is to be life enhancing, we need to focus our attention on books that are rewarding. Dirda encourages readers to forge a subjective and intimate relationship with books. He urges readers to spend less time on brand-name authors and more time discovering the books that truly excite them, paying attention to works from the past, including the classics. With humor and pragmatism, Dirda sets forth advice for building a hypothetical guest-room library: "Ideally items should be family, cozy, browsable, above all soothing" (and include a Jane Austen novel). Throughout are eclectic snippets of writing gleaned from a lifetime's reading; Dirda draws on a notebook in which he has recorded striking quotations and passages, and his volume has the agreeable feeling of a commonplace book . Highly cultured yet never pretentious, Dirda's survey convincingly demonstrates what a wealth of life lessons—moral, emotional and aesthetic—a good library can contain. For those who enjoy books about reading, and for all those seeking to encourage others to read, Dirda's brief yet suggestive book will inspire. (May 5)
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Dirda, a distinguished book critic at the Washington Post Book World
, continues his campaign to educate readers. In his fourth book, this well-read, well-intentioned generalist presents a commonplace collection of excerpts from admired works gathered under topical headings. Dirda's selections are enticing, and he writes knowledgeably about diverse literary matters, but his commonplaces are in the self--improvement mode and are based on his belief that one learns invaluable lessons about life from reading. Aligning himself with such advocates of tolerance and reason as Thoreau and Isaiah Berlin, Dirda offers reflections on work and leisure, love and death. He also provides useful must-read lists fashioned in the great books tradition and spanning the literary universe from Cicero to Dr. Seuss. But when he offers advice on dental care and exercise, he loses his way. Dirda means to be philosophical in his coverage of body and soul, and some readers will appreciate his self-help approach, but this is a prescriptive catchall that dilutes Dirda's literary acumen and turns literature into something small, like a pill. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved