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Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life    by Michael Dirda order for
Book by Book
by Michael Dirda
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2006 was to be a better reader. I'm certainly an avid reader, but I have guiltily ignored the classics for several years. Michael Dirda's Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life has made me realize that literature's place in a person's life is as essential as water and air.

Dirda has been the Washington Post's book critic since 1978, and in 1993, he won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Book by Book is part compendium, part reader's guide, part commentary, and mostly musings mixed in with advice about which books had a profound effect on him.

Dirda provides insightful commentary about life and the power of books to transform our lives. One comment offers a good life lesson that can be applied to books: 'Books, by their very nature and variety, help us grow in empathy for others, in tolerance and awareness. But they should increase our skepticism as well as our humanity, for all good readers know how easy it is to misread. What counts is to stay receptive and open, to reserve judgment and try to foresee consequences, to avoid the facile conclusion and be ready to change one's mind.'

One of his chapters concludes with the message that I took to be the heart of this 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.' Book by Book is an ode to books based on a lifetime spent in their company. Perhaps only a true book lover would enjoy reading about reading; I found Book by Book to be a joy and an inspiration.

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