Having studied at Oberlin College for his undergraduate degree in 1970, Dirda took an M.A. in 1974 and Ph.D. in 1977 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