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 Washington Post and an occasional contributor to several literary periodicals. As a senior editor at Book World, he oversaw—among other duties—its monthly coverage of science fiction and fantasy from 1978 until 2003.

Dirda's own books include Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments (Indiana, 2000), An Open Book: Chapters from a Reader's Life (Norton, 2003; Ohioana Book Award winner for nonfiction), Bound to Please: Essays on Great Writers and Their Books (Norton, 2004), Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life (Henry Holt, 2006), Classics for Pleasure (Harcourt, 2007), On Conan Doyle (Princeton, 2011; Edgar Award winner for biography/criticism), and Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living with Books (Pegasus, 2012). Dirda is now finishing a book about late 19th and early 20th-century popular fiction in Britain, tentatively titled The Great Age of Storytelling.

As a Book World editor, Dirda commissioned essays and reviews from virtually all the major figures in fantasy and science fiction. Besides having reviewed many, many works of literature, biography and history, he has written introductions to numerous works of "fantastika," crime fiction, and mainstream literature, most recently the Folio Society editions of The Great Gatsby, Lolita, Dune, Atlas Shrugged, and The Selected Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

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). He and Marian Peck Dirda, senior prints and drawings conservator at the National Gallery of Art, have three grown sons—Christopher, Michael, and Nathaniel.