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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by…
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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (1998)

by Anne Fadiman

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Recently added byjillmwo, BoekenTrol71, Jvknoerl, private library, paige.alden, dieKatze, Ductor, KarenAFY, RachelDoose
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English (174)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All (181)
Showing 1-5 of 174 (next | show all)
How can an avid reader like me not like this little book? Although I'm usually not fond of short stories, the ones collected in this book were not really stories. They were short, yes, but as the preface states, they're more like essays, little booky fragments out of the author's life that she shares.
I liked the book. My favourite essays are (in order of appearance in the book):
- Marrying libraries
- True Womanhood
- The his'er problem
- r/ Inse^t a Car-ro-t /e
- Eternal Ink
- Sharing the Mayhem
- Secondhand Prose ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Apr 25, 2017 |
This is a gratifying book for people who love books. It's very affirming to have someone care as much about reading books as you yourself might. Fadiman covers a broad array of the ways we interact with books and, potentially, how many of us define our identities by them. This book revels in the loaded history we might have with our books, the intensity of our feelings about marginal commentary, the taken-for-granite minutiae that seem to codify what it means to be a capital-R Reader.

There were definitely times that Fadiman came off as competitive and times she seemed to cast herself as the precocious ingénue, but I say that knowing I do that day to day in my life so I mean, sinners casting stones here. All the essays in the book are short, so even when you get into ones where you might disagree with the way she treats reading (I know some people would get up-in-arms about writing in a book, or others who won't ever buy second-hand, or what have you), it's never going to be that long a section, and she's usually pretty good at relaying stories from friends or colleagues with the opposing view.

Having just started library school, there were a lot of things I made mental note of and that I will plunder and recite back in classes, from questions of copyright and theft to the Virginia Woolf book that she quotes in the beginning. Woolf's [b:The Common Reader|18840|The Common Reader|Virginia Woolf|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1423877141s/18840.jpg|2684550] is really the chief book added to my to-read list, which surprised me because I expected to approach Ex Libris as I did Alan Bennett's [b:The Uncommon Reader|1096390|The Uncommon Reader|Alan Bennett|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1317064291s/1096390.jpg|1792422], as a resource for further titles to acquire. I knew most of the works she cited, had read a lot of them, and those I hadn't read I've got no great interest to read. Trollope can wait, as far as I'm concerned.

This book also scored points because not only do I now attempt to read 50/50 women/men authored books, but I'm trying to add more non-fiction to my repertoire. This is still so literary, but it can be my gateway. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
A book lover, Fadiman shares her insights into the reading experience with humor and beguiling prose. ( )
  bkinetic | Mar 17, 2017 |
I absolutely devoured this delightful little ode to bibliophiles. Modern Mrs. Darcy featured this on her podcast and, from the first page, I was hooked. Fadiman's prose is easy on the mind and had me giggling and nodding along. I felt like I was sitting on her couch across from her, listening with rapt attention as she basically spoke my mind back to me concerning books, love affairs with books, and navigating life. ( )
  knivae | Mar 9, 2017 |
Usually, books about books, they often feel too defensive or too elitist and haughty, but here Fadiman balances it all just right and has proved to be the exception. Her essays range from the typical books-about-books topics of book-buying, book-defacing (dog-ears and writings etc) to essays about the sexism of language, one of my everyday pet topics, and involuntary proofreading reflexes. Even if you do not share the same opinions and book-reading niches as Fadiman - I value practicality over romanticism so her Antarctic explorer defenses did not work on me but I could appreciate her appreciation of her own niche -, her honesty and overwhelming love of books are heartwarmingly resonant with this common reader. ( )
1 vote kitzyl | Feb 28, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 174 (next | show all)
The book is a modest, charming, lighthearted gambol among the stacks. It serves up neither ideas nor theories but anecdotes about the joys of collecting and reading books.
added by jburlinson | editSalon, Dan Cryer (Oct 7, 1998)
 
A terribly entertaining collection of personal essays about books, reading, language, and the endearing pathologies of those who love books.
added by jburlinson | editBoston Book Review, Patsy Baudoin (Jan 23, 1998)
 
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For Clifton Fadiman
and Annalee Jacoby Fadiman,
who built my ancestral castles
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Preface:
When the Irish novelist John McGahern was a child, his sisters unlaced and removed one of his shoes while he was reading.
A few months ago, my husband and I decided to mix our books together.
Quotations
Wake is just the right verb, because there is a certain kind of child who awakens from a book as from an abyssal sleep, swimming heavily up through layers of consciousness toward a reality that seems less real than the dream-state that has been left behind.
I, on the other hand, believe that books, maps, scissors, and Scotch tape dispensers are all unreliable vagrants, likely to take off for parts unknown unless strictly confined to quarters.
It has long been my belief that everyone's library contains an Odd Shelf. On this shelf rests a small, mysterious corpus of volumes whose subject matter is completely unrelated to the rest of the library, yet which, upon closer inspection, reveals a good deal about its owner.
Americans admire success. Englishmen admire heroic failure.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374527229, Paperback)

The subtitle of Anne Fadiman's slim collection of essays is Confessions of a Common Reader, but if there is one thing Fadiman is not, it's common. In her previous work of nonfiction, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, she brought both skill and empathy to her balanced exploration of clashing cultures and medical tragedy. The subject matter here is lighter, but imbued with the same fine prose and big heart. Ex Libris is an extended love letter to language and to the wonders it performs. Fadiman is a woman who loves words; in "The Joy of Sesquipedalians" (very long words), she describes an entire family besotted with them: "When I was growing up, not only did my family walk around spouting sesquipedalians, but we viewed all forms of intellectual competition as a sacrament, a kind of holy water as it were, to be slathered on at every opportunity." From very long words it's just a short jump to literature, and Fadiman speaks joyfully of books, book collecting, and book ownership ("In my view, nineteen pounds of old books are at least nineteen times as delicious as one pound of fresh caviar"). In "Marrying Libraries" Fadiman describes the emotionally fraught task of merging her collection with her husband's: "After five years of marriage and a child, George and I finally resolved that we were ready for the more profound intimacy of library consolidation. It was unclear, however, how we were to find a meeting point between his English-garden approach and my French-garden one." Perhaps some marriages could not have stood the strain of such an ordeal, but for this one, the merging of books becomes a metaphor for the solidity of their relationship.

Over the course of 18 charming essays Fadiman ranges from the "odd shelf" ("a small, mysterious corpus of volumes whose subject matter is completely unrelated to the rest of the library, yet which, upon closer inspection reveals a good deal about its owner") to plagiarism ("the more I've read about plagiarism, the more I've come to think that literature is one big recycling bin") to the pleasures of reading aloud ("When you read silently, only the writer performs. When you read aloud, the performance is collaborative"). Fadiman delivers these essays with the expectation that her readers will love and appreciate good books and the power of language as much as she does. Indeed, reading Ex Libris is likely to bring up warm memories of old favorites and a powerful urge to revisit one's own "odd shelf" pronto. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Ex Libris recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language. For Fadiman, as for many passionate readers, the books she loves have become chapters in her own life story. Writing with remarkable grace, she revives the tradition of the well-crafted personal essay, moving easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family. As someone who played at blocks with her father's twenty-two-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who considered herself truly married only when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marrying Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of flyleaf inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proofreading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading aloud.… (more)

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