The sortes Virgilianae is an old form of do-it-yourself divination: you open the Aeneid at random, put a finger on a verse, and therein find wisdom or solace tailored to your troubles. For the bored or “blocked” man of letters, Michael Dirda’s collection Bound to Please has a similarly tonic effect. It includes a hundred-odd of Dirda’s reviews—of books, yes, but also of the minds behind the books. Pick one at random. Depending on whether you know the work discussed, you’ll receive a thoughtful reconsideration or, perhaps more fun, an enthusiastic introduction.

Michael Dirda has reviewed books for The Washington Post Book World since 1978. Bound to Please represents, by Dirda’s account, 20 percent of his output. This is an impressive amount of writing; it is the result of a downright alarming amount of reading. (When did he eat, sleep, or bathe?) He was...


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