1978 - present: Weekly book columnist for The Washington Post and former writer and senior editor for The Washington Post Book World. Freelance book reviewer, feature writer and essayist.



1977: Cornell University: Ph.D. in comparative literature. (Course work in medieval studies, European romanticism, and literary theory. Dissertation: “On Beyle's Strand: A Study in Autobiography,” a reading of Stendhal’s Vie de Henry Brulard)

1975: Cornell University: M.A., comparative literature

1970-71: Advanced study at the Universite d'Aix-en-Provence

1970: Oberlin College. B.A. cum laude with Highest Honors in English  



Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living with Books (Pegasus Books, July, 2015; Blackstone Audio Book, 2015; Pegasus paperback, 2016)

On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling (Princeton: 2012)

Classics for Pleasure (Harcourt, 2007; Harcourt paperback, 2008) Translated into Chinese, Korean  and Portuguese

Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life (Henry Holt, 2006; Holt paperback, 2007) Translated into Korean; currently being translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese

Bound to Please: Essays on Great Writers and Their Books (Norton, 2004; Norton paperback, 2007)

An Open Book: Chapters in a Reader’s Life (Norton, 2003; Norton paperback, 2004). Winner of the Ohioana Award for Nonfiction, 2003. Translated into Korean; currently being translated intoPortuguese and Japanese. Recorded Books audio version, read by Jonathan Hogan, 2008.

Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments (Indiana University Press, 2000; Norton paperback, 2003)

Caring for Your Books (Book of the Month Club paperback, 1991) 



Keynote speaker, The Wodehouse Society biannual banquet, (Washington DC, 2017)

The Richard Lancelyn Green Lecture, The Sherlock Holmes Society of London (2017)

Special Sherlockian award to “America’s Bookman,” from The Baker Street Irregulars (2017)

Speaker, Longwood University: “The Lifetime Reading Plan: Becoming a Citizen of the World” (2016); Part of a series of Longwood programs associated with hosting the Vice Presidential debate)

Commencement speaker, Woodberry Forest School (2016)

Browsings shortlisted—one of five—for The Ohioana Book Award in nonfiction (2016)

Commencement speaker to the graduating English majors, UC Berkeley (2015)

Edgar Allan Poe Award to On Conan Doyle as the year’s best critical/biographical work, presented by The Mystery Writers of America (2012). On Conan Doyle was also a short-listed finalist for the Agatha Award, presented by Malice Domestic, the Anthony Award, awarded at Bouchercon, and the Marfield Prize, the national award for arts writing.

Boydston Essay Prize, for “Messing About with The Wind in the Willows” (New York Review of Books, August 13, 2009), awarded every two years by the Association of Documentary Editing (ADE) for the best essay or review that focuses on the editing of a volume of works or documents (2012)  

Los Angeles Times Book Award, shortlisted finalist—one of five—in Current Affairs, for Bound to Please (2004)

The Ohioana Book Award in nonfiction for An Open Book (2004)

Honorary doctorate of letters, Washington College (1997)

Washington Post/Duke University Fellow, Spring (1996)

Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism (1993)

Named by Washingtonian Magazine one of the 25 smartest people in Washington (1993)

Fulbright fellowship to France (1970-71) 



The Literary Journalist in the Era of H.L. Mencken  (reprint of 2011 Mencken Day talk in Menckeniana, Fall 2011) 

Arthur Conan Doyle as Essayist and Journalist (Printed booklet, The 2009 Cameron Hollyer Memorial Lecture, Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, Toronto Public Library, 2010)

A Reader’s Guide to Ursula K. Le Guin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea”; Teacher’s Guide to Ursula K. Le Guin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea” (National Endowment for the Arts, The Big Read, 2008; also contributor to an NEA audio CD devoted to Le Guin)

The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus - One of nine contributing editors for word and usage notes, with David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, Francine Prose, David Lehman  and others (2004; second edition, 2008)

“Christmas Eve,” Limited edition broadside printed by The King Library Press, University of Kentucky (2004)

Looking for a Good Time: Reading, Libraries and the World of Books, Printed lecture (Oberlin College Press, 2002)

A Celebration of Writing (10 essay-reviews reprinted in booklet form by The Washington Post, 1993) 



Introduction to East of Eden, by John Steinbeck (The Folio Society, 2017)

Foreword to Lyonesse: Suldrun’s Garden, The Green Pearl, Madouc, all by Jack Vance (Spatterlight Press, 2016)

Introduction to Swastika Night, by Murray Constantine (Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks, 2016)

Introduction to The Circus of Dr. Lao, by Charles G. Finney (Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks, 2016)

Introduction to Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov (The Folio Society, 2015)

Introduction to Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury (Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks, 2015)

Introduction to Sherlock Holmes: The Novels, by Arthur Conan Doyle(Penguin Classics,, 2015)

Introductions to The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return of Fursey, both by Mervyn Wall (Swan River Press, 2015)

Introduction to Dune, by Frank Herbert (The Folio Society, 2015)

Introduction to The Broken Sword, by Poul Anderson (Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks, 2014)

Introduction to The Best of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction II, edited by Gordon van Gelder (Tachyon Press, 2014)

Appreciation of John Dickson Carr and Douglas G. Greene in Mysteries Unlocked: Essays in Honor of Douglas G. Greene, edited by Curtis Evans (2014)

Essay on Gene Wolfe in The Nebula Awards Showcase, 2014, edited by Kij Johnson (2014) 

Introduction to Lord Darcy, by Randall Garrett (Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks, 2014) 

Introduction to The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Folio Society, 2013)

Introductory essay on The Space Merchants, by Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, for the Library of America website, upon the publication of American Science Fiction Novels of the 1950s, edited by Gary K. Wolfe (2012)

Introduction, The Green Man, by Kingsley Amis (New York Review Books, 2013)

Foreword, I am Jonathan Scrivener, by Claude Houghton (Valancourt Books, 2013)

Introduction, Tales of Love and Death, by Robert Aickman (Tartarus Press, 2012)

Introduction, Love Poems,  Letters and Remedies of Ovid, translated by David R. Slavitt (Harvard,  2011)

Introduction, The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov (Everyman’s Library, 2010)

Introduction, ABC of Reading, by Ezra Pound (New Directions, 2010)

Introduction, Memorable Days: The Selected Letters of James Salter and Robert Phelps, edited by John McIntyre (Counterpoint, 2010)

Introduction, The Flashman Omnibus: Three novels by George MacDonald Fraser (Everyman’s Library, 2010) 

Essay on Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins in Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book: Life Lessons from Notable People from All Walks of Life, edited by Anita Silvey (2009)

Introduction, Three Philosophical Poets: Lucretius, Dante, Goetheby George Santayana (Barnes & Noble Rediscovers,  2009)

Introduction, Memoirs of an Egotist, by Stendhal (Barnes & Noble Classics, 2009)

Introduction, ABBA, ABBA, by Anthony Burgess (Barnes & Noble Rediscovers, 2009)

Introduction, Northwest Passages, by Barbara Roden (Prime, 2009)

Introduction, Homer’sIliad and Odyssey (Barnes & Noble Classics, 2008)

Introduction, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, by Vladimir Nabokov (New Directions, 2008)

Introduction, The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Vol. 3 (Night Shade Books, 2008)

Introduction, Dante: Poet of the Secular World, by Erich Auerbach (New York Review Books, 2007)

Introduction, The Nibelungenlied, translated by Burton Raffel (Yale, 2006)

Foreword, Shakespeare’s Lives, by S. Schoenbaum (Barnes & Noble, 2006)

Introduction, Diary of a Seducer, by Soren Kierkegaard (Continuum, 2006)

Introduction, The Manticore, by Robertson Davies (Penguin, 2006)

Introduction, The Collected Jorkens, Vol. 3, by Lord Dunsany (Night Shade Books, 2005)

Preface, The Horror of the Heights, by Arthur Conan Doyle (Facsimile Edition/Calabash Press, 2004)

Introduction, The Captain of the Pole-Star, and Other Supernatural Tales of Arthur Conan Doyle (Ash-Tree Press, 2004)

Introduction, Red Cavalry, by Isaac Babel (Norton, 2002)

Introductory essay (“Realm of Wonders”) to An Odyssey in Print: Adventures in the Smithsonian Libraries (Smithsonian, 2002)

Introduction, Crome Yellow, by Aldous Huxley (Dalkey Archive, 2001)

Afterword, Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne (Signet, 1984) 



“Night Manager at Quill and Brush”—Essay for The Book Collector (Spring 2017)

Brief essay on Adam Simpson’s art for Sherlock Holmes: The Novels—in Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover, edited by Paul Buckley (Penguin, 2016)

“Snow Day”—an essay about book collecting—for Browse: The World in Bookshops, edited by Henry Hitchings (Pushkin Press, 2016)

“By Any Other Name” (short story) in In the Company of Sherlock, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus, 2014); Anthony Award for best collection, 2015

“Sweet Lorain” in A Certain Somewhere: Writers on Their Favorite Places, edited by Robert Wilson (Random House, 2002)  and in Good Roots: Writers Reflect on Growing Up in Ohio, edited by Lisa Watts (Ohio University Press, 2007)

“Dukedom Large Enough” (short story), for All-Hallows, Journal of the Ghost Story Society (October, 2004)

Essay on P.G. Wodehouse for Encore Arts Programs: Production of musical comedy, “Over the Moon,” Seattle Repertory Theater (2003)

Extract from 1997 graduation address at Washington College, reprinted in Onward!: Twenty-Five Years of Advice, Exhortation and Inspiration from America’s Best Commencement Speeches, edited by Peter J. Smith (2000)

“On Looking over My Notes: Some Reflections on Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars” in The Baker Street Journal (Summer 2000)  

“P.G. Wodehouse and the Critics” in Plum Lines (1999)

Long scholarly articles on mystery writers John Dickson Carr and Edmund Crispin for Crime and Mystery Writers, edited by Robin W. Winks and Maureen Corrigan (Scribner, 1998)

“Libraries” in The Washington Post Guide to Washington (1990) 

Lengthy scholarly articles on Balzac, Merimee, Maupassant and Jack Vance for Fantasy and Supernatural Fiction,  edited by E.F. Bleiler (Scribner, 1990)  

“The Continental Tradition in Horror and the Supernatural” in The Penguin Guide to Horror and the Supernatural, edited by Jack Sullivan (Penguin, 1986) 

Annual contributor, “The Year in American Poetry,” The World Book Encyclopedia Yearbook (1990-1998)

Annual contributor, “The Year in American Literature,” to Collier's Encyclopedia Yearbook (1982-1998)  

Reviews, articles, essays and profiles for The Washington Post and The Washington Post Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, The Wall Street Journal,  Bookforum, Huanities Magazine, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Harper’s Magazine,  Lapham’s Quarterly, Poetry, The Atlantic, NPR Public Radio, Commentary, Science, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New Statesman, The New Criterion, The Folio Society Magazine, The Chronicle Review, Smithsonian Magazine, Grand Street,  Civilization, Business 2.0, The Nation, Book Marks, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Connoisseur, The New Leader, The Weekly Standard, Crisis, The Writer, The Wilson Quarterly, Inc., Old-Time Detection, Preservation, The American Book Collector, Brick, All-Hallows, The Double-Dealer, The Toronto Globe and Mail, The Manchester Guardian Weekly,  The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Detroit News, The Raleigh News and Observer, The Johns Hopkins University Magazine, Spirit: The Magazine of Southwest Airlines, The Baker Street Journal, Canadian Holmes, The Green Book, The Barnes and Noble Review (online), Arts and Letters Daily (online), In Character, U.S. Airways Magazine, the program books of the 2012 and 2013 World Fantasy Conventions, and other periodicals and newspapers. 



I regularly give talks and addresses--on criticism, biography, literary journalism, children's books and contemporary literature--at colleges and universities (Princeton, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Berkeley, New York University, Oberlin College, Washington College, Indiana University, University of Kentucky, University of Virginia, University of California at San Francisco, Carlow University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Denison University, George Mason University, Malone University, Rollins College, McDaniel College, University of Minnesota, University of Maryland, Vassar College, George Washington University, and others),  organizations (The National Institutes of Health, The Caxton Club of Chicago, the Rowfant Club of Cleveland, The Shakespeare Guild, The Children’s Book Guild of Washington, The Thurber House,  The English-Speaking Union, The Cosmos Club, The National Women’s Democratic Club, The Friends of the Lilly Library, The Toronto Public Library, The Harvard Club of New York),  literary festivals (Readercon, Words and Music in New Orleans, the Miami Book Fair, the Los Angeles Book Festival, the World Fantasy Convention, the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, the National Book Festival, the Ohioana Book Festival, the Texas Book Festival, the Virginia Festival of the Book, Book Day at Horace Mann School,  the South Dakota Book Festival), scholarly conferences (G.K. Chesterton Society, The American Philological Association, the University of Maryland colloquium on Thornton Wilder’s fiction, The P.G. Wodehouse Society), memorial evenings (for poet Anthony Hecht, Shakespeare scholar S. Schoenbaum), and civic events (The Scott Fitzgerald Award; the Kansas City Big Read program).

I also conduct occasional public conversations at the Smithsonian Institution and elsewhere with notable writers, e.g. Toni Morrison, John Updike, Arundhati Roy, Gore Vidal,  Donald E. Westlake, William Gibson, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Samuel R. Delany, Joan Didion, Terry Pratchett, Greg Bear, Neil Gaiman, Alice McDermott, Jerome Charyn, and Elmore Leonard, among others.

Regular introducer/moderator at the National Book Festival, 2001 to present (Programs with David McCullough, Marilynne Robinson, Edwidge Danticat, Frederik Pohl, Joyce Carol Oates, Henry Louis Gates,  Francine Prose, Garrison Keillor and many others)

Television and radio appearances include a “Sunday Morning” news program about Sherlock Holmes (2014), a 40-minute Youtube video of “Michael Dirda at the Library of Congress” (2009),  “Michael Dirda at the Folger Shakespeare Library” (Book TV, 2001); commentator on Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (The Learning Channel, 2001); “The Critics: Stories from Inside the Pages” (DVD); “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer”; The Diane Rehm Show; The Book Guys;  Author, Author; CSPAN, etc. 

Essay-appreciation of Michael Dirda’s Browsings and previous books, by Ernest Hilbert (The Hopkins Review, Summer, 2017)

In Conversation with the Rosenbach: Michael Dirda on Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, and the Great Detective’s “rivals”  (Philadelphia, 2017)

Talks on reading, Sherlock Holmes, and Thornton Wilder (NEA Big Read event, Homer, Alaska, 2017)

Keynote speaker, Friends of the Marriott Library, Annual Book Collector’s Evening at the Alta Club (Salt Lake City, 2017)

“Flying Saucers over DC”--A conversation with Jack Womack about UFOs and crank literature, Georgetown University Library (Washington, DC 2017)

“Embracing the Dark Side: An Introduction to Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic fantasy, A Wizard of Earthsea (NEA Big Read event, Helena, Montana, 2016)

“The Future as Nightmare: Dystopian Visions Before and Since Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (NEA Big Read event,  Mid-Continent Public Library, Kansas City, 2016)

“The Golem in Legend and Literature”—The Foundation for Jewish Studies, Distinguished Lecture Series, Washington Hebrew Congregation (2014)

 “Me Tarzan, You Jane: How One Admirer of Lord Greystoke Came to Love Elizabeth Bennet.”  Talk at the 2013 birthday meeting of TheJane Austen Society of Washington

The Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards, Master of Ceremonies, 2013, 2014

The 2013 Gunn Lecture,  University of Kansas: “A Literary Life: Thirty-Five Years at The Washington Post Book World”

Address to the annual meeting of the University ofMaryland chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, the national classical society: “Classics in the Classroom: The Life, Books and Teaching of Lane Cooper” (2013)

“Book Shopping with the Best-Read Man in America”: Article by John Lingan for the online Paris Review Daily (2012)

Podcast interview, conducted by Gil Roth, for The Virtual Memories Show (2012)

Participant in the annual Washington DC Bloomsday reading of selections from James Joyce’s Ulysses (and winner of a bottle of Jameson’s Whiskey for one of the top three readings, 2011, 2012, 2013)

“Mapping the World, Mapping the Self: Travel, Speculation, and Self-Discovery”: Speaker and participant at a Jules Verne colloquiumsponsored by the Department of French and Italian,  Princeton University, April 19-20, 2012.

“So Many Books”: An interview with Michael Dirda by Todd Kliman, Washingtonian Magazine (Jan., 2012)

Keynote speaker, National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest Awards Ceremony, The Library of Congress (2011)

The annual Mencken Day Lecture, under the auspices ofthe Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore and The Mencken Society: “The Literary Journalist in the Era of H.L. Mencken” (2011) 

Convocation speaker, The University of Alaska Anchorage (2011)

Keynote speaker, The Nebula Awards, sponsored by the Science Fiction Writers of America (2011)

Aspen Cultural Diplomacy Forum, A public conversation on cultural diplomacy between Azar Nafisi and Michael Dirda(The Aspen Institute/John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress/The Phillips Collection, 2010)

The Foundation for Jewish Studies, Distinguished Lecturer Series:  “A Cage Went in Search of a Bird—On Kafka and the Kafkaesque”  (Washington Hebrew Congregation, 2010) 

“Getting Wilder: The Fiction of Thornton Wilder”—address at a Wilder colloquium sponsored by the University of Maryland, 2010

Keynote talk at the Kansas City Library on Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, to launch a Big Read program devoted to the novel,  2010

“Why Read Verne?”—a talk at the annual meeting of the North American Jules Verne Society, 2010

An Open Book chosen for “Lorain County Reads,” with four talks by Michael Dirda at local public libraries, 2009 

One of eight panelists—including the editors of the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Times Book Review--at the day-long Princeton Roundtable on Book Reviewing, 2009 

Cover story and interview with Michael Dirda in the science fiction newszine Locus, December 2009

Critic Guest of Honor, Capclave, The Washington DC Science Fiction Convention, (2008) 

Profile of Michael Dirda in “The Hook,” Charlottesville, Virginia weekly newspaper, 2009 

Interview with Michael Dirda, The Cornell Book Review, inaugural issue, 2009

Speaker and panelist, The First Ohio Book Festival (Columbus, 2007) 

Lecturer, “Isaac Babel: I Was Not Given Time to Finish.”  Presented in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Seattle as part of the Nextbook Lectures Series on Jewish culture, art and literature (2007) 

Invited Speaker (with Jane Smiley) at a Book Expo evening for librarians, sponsored by RecordedBooks (2007) 

Invited Speaker at “Victorian Secrets and Edwardian Enigmas,” a literary conference at the University of Minnesota, Elmer Anderson Library (2007) 

Master of ceremonies, The Distinguished Speaker’s Lecture, for the Baker Street Irregulars (2003-2007) 

Speaker and panelist, “Classics and Contemporary Literature” (with Anne Carson, Margaret Drabble and Carol Goodman) at the American Philological Association convention in Montreal (2006) 

Wordfest: The DC International Poetry Festival.  Talk on “Jacques Roubaud” (2006); moderator, “New British Poets” (2004); panelist (with Dana Gioia and others), on the importance of poetry (2002)

The Annual Beck Lecture, Denison University, “Reading, Writing and Reviewing” (2005) 

 The Annual Prichard Lecture, University of Kentucky (at Lexington): "Twenty-Five Years at The Washington Post Book World” (2004)   

Panelist on current American fiction (with Michael Chabon and Diane Johnson) at a special UNESCO conference in Paris (2004)  

Commencement speaker, The American School in Switzerland (TASIS), Lugano (2004) 

“A Literary Life” (Interview with Michael Dirda, by Philip Bufithis) in Antietam Review, 2003 

Master of ceremonies, The Pen-Faulkner Award for fiction (2002) 

The Annual Holloway Lecture, McDaniel College, “Reading and Reviewing” (2002)

Moderator and panelist, with scholar Bernard Knox and theater director Michael Kahn:

The Meaning of Classical Theatre Through the Ages.  A seminar, later published as a booklet, sponsored by the Society for the Preservation of the Greek Heritage (2000)

Moderator, during the 1990s and early 2000s, of The Washington Post live chat “Dirda on Books” and the discussion blog, “Dirda’s Reading Room” 



Visiting Professor, University of Maryland (Spring, 2012)

Petrou Reader in Residence, University of Maryland (Spring, 2011)

Faculty member, The Wesleyan Writers Conference, Wesleyan University (Summer, 2010)

Visiting professor, Oberlin College (two-week mini-course on literary journalism, March, 2008)

Faculty member, The Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College (Summer, 2006)

Scholar in residence, McDaniel College (Spring, 2005 and 2006)

Thomas P. Johnson Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Rollins College (2004)

Faculty member, The Antioch Writers Workshop, Yellow Springs, Ohio (2004)

Visiting Professor in the Honors College, University of Central Florida (1999-2000)

Conducted a year-long seminar on literary journalism, American University (1985-86)

Adjunct professor of English: American University and George Mason University   

Courses taught: Literary Journalism, The Classic Ghost Story; The Classic Adventure Novel, 1885-1922; The Modern Adventure Novel, 1917-1973; Love’s Mysteries (Sappho to Nabokov);  The Book Arts; The European Short Novel; World Literature; Writing 

Other work experience:  Technical writer, Scientific Time Sharing Corporation (1977-78). Translator (French to English). 



Member, The Everlasting Club (2016)

Member, Honorary Committee, Friends of the Silver Spring Library (2015)

Member, The Friends of Arthur Machen (2013)

Member, The Mystery Writers of America (2012)

Member, Eta Sigma Phi (the national classical society, 2011)

Honorary Affiliate Member, The Science Fiction Writers of America (2011--present)

Member, The Lewis Carroll Society of North America (2011-present)

Jury member, National Endowment for the Arts—Literature Fellowships Panel (2011)

Editorial board, Lapham’s Quarterly (2010--present)

Chair of jury, Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction (2009)

Member, The North American Jules Verne Society (2009-present)

Judge, The Calvino Prize (University of Louisville, 2008)

Advisory Council, The Big Read, National Endowment for the Arts (2006-- present)

Invested member, The Baker Street Irregulars (2003--present)

National Council Member, The Atlantic Center for the Arts (1999--present)

Chair of jury, Pulitzer Prize for biography (2001)

Master Artist (literary journalism), The Atlantic Center for the Arts (1999)

Board member, The National Book Critics Circle (1990-1993)