For any book lover who—despite Kirkus’s best efforts—doesn’t know what to read next, Dirda will provide a lovely and genial...



A delightful compendium of Dirda’s most memorable Washington Post Book World essays revels in seven years’ worth of bibliophilic passion.

Although the 46 “literary entertainments” collected here range widely in topic and in tone (from the nostalgic reminiscences of “The Crime of His Life” to the wry apocalyptic musings of “Millennial Readings”), Dirda’s hearty enthusiasm and good-natured bookishness stands at the forefront of his writing. From pulp fiction to serious literature, children’s books to erotica, ghost stories to classics in translation, Dirda appears to have read more books—and to remember them in awe-inspiring detail—than most libraries contain. Many of the essays contain lists of little-known and forgotten novels with brief synopses of their contents, and these simple gifts leave one breathless with reverence for the man who read, recommended, and loved these countless titles. Dirda’s erudition is obvious throughout, but pedantry is not his goal; he obviously just loves books with a passion as infectious as the Ebola virus. His response to required reading in high school (“Read at Whim!”) and his hilarious suggestions to encourage children to read by forbidding them the classics reveal a man whose tongue may be firmly in his cheek but whose heart and mind never seem to stray from the joys of the printed word. The ornery reader may find a quibble or two to snipe about (Harry Potter is maligned as merely “scary and exciting” in “Tomes for Tots”), but the joy of Dirda’s opinions lies in letting the voice and wit of a true bibliophile into your head.

For any book lover who—despite Kirkus’s best efforts—doesn’t know what to read next, Dirda will provide a lovely and genial guide.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-253-33824-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?



An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet