Michael Dirda received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for his essays and reviews in The Washington Post Book World. He is currently a weekly columnist for The Post as well as a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, the online Barnes & Noble Review, The Times Literary Supplement and several other literary periodicals. As a senior editor for The Washington Post Book World, he oversaw its monthly coverage of science fiction and fantasy from 1978 until 2003.
Dirda is the author of Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments (Indiana, 2000), An Open Book: Chapters from a Reader's Life (Norton, 2003, Recorded Books audio version, 2008; Winner of the Ohioana Book Award for nonfiction), Bound to Please: Essays on Great Writers and Their Books (Norton, 2004; Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist in Current Affairs); Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life (Henry Holt, 2006); Classics for Pleasure (Harcourt, 2007), and On Conan Doyle (Princeton, 2011; Edgar Award for biography/criticism). "Messing Around with The Wind in the Willows" (in The New York Review of Books) received the 2012 Boydston Prize for the best essay on textual editing published during the previous two years (awarded by the Association for Documentary Editing). Dirda is now at work on a book about popular fiction in the late 19th and early20th century, tentatively titled The Great Age of Storytelling (Knopf, forthcoming).
As a Book World editor, Dirda has commissioned essays and reviews from virtually all the major figures in fantasy and science fiction. His own reviewing ranges widely over contemporary and classic literature, history, biography and cultural studies. He has written introductions to numerous works of "fantastika" including Lord Darcy, by Randall Garrett (Gollancz, 2014),The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov (Everyman's Library, 2010); "The Big Read" Reader's Guide and Teacher's Guide for Ursula K. Le Guin's, A Wizard of Earthsea (National Endowment for the Arts, 2008), The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, Vol. 3 (Night Shade, 2007); The Collected Jorkens, Vol. 3 (Night Shade, 2005); and The Captain of the Pole-Star and Other Supernatural Tales of Arthur Conan Doyle (Ash-Tree, 2004). Dirda has also contributed substantial essays on Balzac, Merimee, Maupassant, and Jack Vance to E.F.Bleiler's Fantasy and Supernatural Fiction. He wrote the article on "The Continental Tradition" for The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (Sullivan, ed).
Dirda graduated with Highest Honors in English from Oberlin College (1970), received a Fulbright grant to teach in Marseille (1970-71), and earned an M.A. (1975) and Ph.D. (1977) from Cornell University in Comparative Literature (concentrating on medieval studies and European romanticism). In 2002 Dirda was invested in The Baker Street Irregulars as "Langdale Pike." In 2008, he was Critic Guest of Honor at Capclave. He has taught at several colleges, most recently the University of Maryland (a two-semester course on the adventure novel, 2011, 2012). He and Marian Peck Dirda, senior prints and drawings conservator at the National Gallery of Art, have three grown sons, Christopher, Michael and Nathaniel.