Having studied at Oberlin College for his undergraduate degree, Dirda took a Ph.D. from Cornell University in comparative literature. In 1978 Dirda started writing for the Washington Post; in 1993 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his criticism. Currently, he is a book critic for the Post.
Two collections of Dirda's literary journalism have been published:
- Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000) ISBN 0-253-33824-7
- Bound to Please (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005) ISBN 0-393-05757-7
He has also written:
- An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003) ISBN 0-393-05756-9 (autobiography)
- Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life (New York: Henry Holt, 2005) ISBN 0-8050-7877-0
- Classics for Pleasure (Orlando: Harcourt, 2007) ISBN 0-15-101251-2
- On Conan Doyle; or, The Whole Art of Storytelling (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011) ISBN 0-691-15135-0
Dirda lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife, Marian Peck Dirda, a prints and drawings conservator at the National Gallery of Art. They have three sons: Christopher (b. 1984), Michael (b. 1987), and Nathaniel (b. 1990).
- Fischer, Heinz-Dietrich; Fischer, Erika J. (2002). Complete Biographical Encyclopedia of Pulitzer Prize Winners, 1917–2000. The Pulitzer Prize Archive 16. Munich: K. G. Saur. p. 58. ISBN 3-598-30186-3. Retrieved 21 January 2010.
- Dirda, Michael (25 March 2005). "XXX". Washington Post. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
- "Local Author Bibliography: Michael Dirda". Lorain Public Library System. Retrieved 21 January 2010.
- "Washington Post's Michael Dirda Wins Edgar Award". The Washington Post. 26 April 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
- Schweitzer, Darrell (January 2012). "On Conan Doyle; or, The Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda". The New York Review of Science Fiction (Pleasantville, NY: Dragon Press) 24 (5): 7.
- "WOSU Presents Ohioana Authors: Michael Dirda". Ohioana Authors. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- Michael Dirda "Reading Room" blog at The Washington Post
- Michael Dirda "Browsings" blog at American Scholar
- Michael Dirda "Book Review" section archive at The Washington Post
- Michael Dirda "Style" section archive at The Washington Post
- Michael Dirda "Library without Walls" archive at BarnesandNobleReview.com
- Michael Dirda archive from The New York Review of Books
- "Catalog Reading", by Sam Sacks. Review of Michael Dirda's Classics for Pleasure
- "Book Shopping with the Best-Read Man in America", The Paris Review, November 7, 2012