Monday, November 23, 2015

Browsings, by Michael Dirda

I consider myself the stereotypically well-read library employee. It’s what I do. But after spending a rainy weekend in front of the fire with Browsings, Michael Dirda’s latest essays about all things books, I feel humbled. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read most of the authors he recommends.

But I shouldn't be too hard on myself, because Dirda is a fan of late 19th and early 20th century genre fiction, especially mysteries, science fiction and para-normal fantasy. And his fandom borders on the fanatical, as he freely admits. His basement is filled with boxes of books. His attic: boxes of books. And he probably keeps countless more in storage units sprinkled around the Washington DC area. Scary, no?

Although, technically a book reviewer, Dirda doesn’t really consider himself a critic at all. "I’m a bookman, an appreciator, a cheerleader for the old, the neglected, the marginalized, and the forgotten. On sunny days, I call myself a literary journalist.”

His reading is eclectic to say the least. Fancy an early 20th century locked room mystery? How about Death From A Top Hat, a thriller by Clayton Rawson about the magician-detective, The Great Merlini. Lost-race novel more your thing? The Lost Continent, written by Cutcliffe Hyne and published in 1900, should be on your reading list. And if your tastes run to the classic English gentleman sleuth, Dornford Yates’ Perishable Goods from around 1930 might be more your cup of tea. Dirda is on a mission, a “personal crusade: to entice people to try unexpected books, old books, neglected books, genre books, upsetting books, downright strange books.”

Are you looking for something to read but not in the mood for another Patterson, Steele, or Jance? I guarantee you’ll find something unexpected, neglected, and probably out of print in Michael Dirda’s delightful new collection.

And then you can talk to Katie, Newport Library’s Interloan Librarian. Because I can also guarantee that you won’t find many of these titles on our shelves. But don’t let that stop you.

You can reserve Michael Dirda’s Browsings here.

And should you find something that tickles your fancy, you can order it with our Online ILL Form.


  1. great review Jeff,,,,thanks for reminding us there is more to the literary world then James Patterson...

  2. Loved your review!