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Michael Dirda, a longtime staff writer for The Washington Post Book World, received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. A popular lecturer and commencement speaker, he lives with his family in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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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) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Once we're finished reading all those books our teachers required us to read, where do we turn for counsel on reading and life? Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Dirda (An Open Book) affectionately offers up this bouquet of thoughts and quotations from novels, poems, and essays as a guide to discovering the meaning of our experiences. Dirda's thoughtful little meditations conduct us through all aspects of life from work, leisure, and love to art, spiritual matters, and death and grief. He imagines the ideal guest room library filled with "familiar, cozy, browsable, and soothing" books, ranging from the mysteries of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and G.K. Chesterton to the humor of P.G. Wodehouse and James Thurber and the maxims of Fran?ois de La Rochefoucauld. In the section on love, Dirda provides a minicourse on the subject in the Western world, beginning with Sappho's poetry and coursing through Ovid and Horace, Tristan and Isolde, Dante's The Divine Comedy, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Philip Roth's The Dying Animal, and Zadie Smith's On Beauty. Finally, Dirda sums up the value of a life lived book by book: "The beauty of words, the sound and fall of sentences, a writer's distinctive voice rising from the page-these, in the end, provide the greatest and most lasting pleasures of a reading life." A lovingly crafted volume, this is recommended for all libraries.-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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