Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by…

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (1998)

by Anne Fadiman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,3661631,614 (4.21)642

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 642 mentions

English (159)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (165)
Showing 1-5 of 159 (next | show all)
The subtitle of Ex Libris is "Confessions of a Common Reader" but I kept getting the impression that the author of these essays, Anne Fadiman, is far from a common or typical reader. While what she says doesn't go over my head, Fadiman is clearly erudite and from a highly literary family (her father was the late Clifton Fadiman) and I sometimes felt a bit envious that I wasn't as highly-born in a literary way. Neither the family I grew up in or currently am in ever sit around discussing books or quoting from books or read aloud to each other beyond a passage that might catch someone's fancy. So, I couldn't relate to her in that way. But that's okay, really.

But, as a life-long reader (though certainly not at the literary/intellectual level as Fadiman), I could relate to some of what she said. For example -- her discussion on what she terms "The Odd Shelf" -- a section of one's library that doesn't really relate to the rest -- hers is on polar exploration. Mine would be on architectural styles. I liked how she pointed out that used bookstores (which, as she loves because she knows, as I do also, that if something in one catches your interest, you better take it home that day. Barnes and Noble, say, have the same books over and over again) often have a section titled "Books on Books" while Barnes and Nobles probably would not, because it is a genre that is on the decline.

One final thought-provoking thing that Fadiman brings up -- she is relating what a friend who formerly worked in a used bookstore tells her -- when dispersing of someone's library (as in all the books from someone's estate), there's that realization that "books get their value from the way they coexist with the other books a person owns, and that when they lose their context, they lose their meaning (p. 153)". I really don't expect my kids to keep my books after I die (a very long time in the future, hopefully!), but this was somewhat of a sobering thought. Realizing that the books I own are part of my identity.

And, now that I've finished reading Ex Libris, it will join the "books on books" section of my library! ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Nov 12, 2015 |
I just adored it! When I got my first job and apartment I joined Book-of-the-Month Club, which I believe owed its existence to Clifton Fadiman--though that is probably because his is the only name that stuck with me.

At any rate, the Fadiman name drew me in, and I was not disappointed. The essays contained between its covers more than entertained me...this is one of those books I was sorry to finish. ( )
  kaulsu | Oct 23, 2015 |
A charming group of essays about reading and books ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
A charming group of essays about reading and books ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
A charming group of essays about reading and books ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 159 (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)
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For Clifton Fadiman
and Annalee Jacoby Fadiman,
who built my ancestral castles
First words
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.
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

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)

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
199 wanted
1 pay1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (4.21)
0.5 2
1 3
1.5 1
2 22
2.5 12
3 107
3.5 56
4 323
4.5 74
5 389


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 100,887,961 books! | Top bar: Always visible