August 18, 2011
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Classics for Pleasure

by Michael Dirda

In a discussion at this year’s Readercon, Michael Dirda tried to distinguish meatier criticism from the sort of thing for which he is best known, the “book recommendations” collected in Book by Book and Bound to Please. This volume is misnamed – the books it discusses are not all classics and the purpose of reading them is not always mere pleasure – but admirably extends Dirda’s project beyond the sphere of contemporary books for which magazines and newspapers typically publish recommendations. Whether urging the reader to enjoy Kipling’s adventures or Fowler’s Modern English Usage, whether praising Edward Gorey’s macabre illustrated chapbooks or Girolamo Cardano’s Story of My Life, Dirda is always engaging and his judgments are often unexpected.