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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (1998)

by Anne Fadiman

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4,1472032,148 (4.19)708
Anne Fadiman is--by her own admission--the sort of person who learned about sex from her father's copy of Fanny Hill, whose husband buys her 19 pounds of dusty books for her birthday, and who once found herself poring over her roommate's 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only written material in the apartment that she had not read at least twice. This witty collection of essays 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 22-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who only really considered herself married when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marrying Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proof-reading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading out loud. There is even a foray into pure literary gluttony--Charles Lamb liked buttered muffin crumbs between the leaves, and Fadiman knows of more than one reader who literally consumes page corners. Perfectly balanced between humor and erudition, Ex Libris establishes Fadiman as one of our finest contemporary essayists.… (more)
Recently added byprivate library, Suziff, scunliffe, Ignatius777, LFL92556, geoff79, riemerreads, RachelPollock
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English (193)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (200)
Showing 1-5 of 193 (next | show all)
thoughts on books and reading from Clifton Fadiman's daughter
  ritaer | Jul 7, 2021 |
A charming little monument to bibliomania. ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
Re-read 2/5/17
Re-read. 1/4/15

Wonderful and beautifully written. I'd recommend this to any book lover. I love that Fadiman is not only passionate about books and reading, but doesn't dumb down her prose for a general audience. I felt like she respected me as a reader, which immensely added to my enjoyment of reading this. She really pinpointed the passion that people feel for books, for a variety of reasons, and how odd or eccentric we can be as well. Just wonderful. I'm thrilled to have read this one and was sad when it ended. 11/1/08 ( )
1 vote JustZelma | Dec 20, 2020 |
A nice little collection of essays on books and reading and those who enjoy them. It is the kind of book you want to read in bed, or maybe sit in a nice, comfy armchair with a cup of your favorite hot brew. If you like reading books about reading, or you enjoy reading light essays, this is a good book for you. ( )
  bloodravenlib | Aug 17, 2020 |
4 Stars - I love to read books about books and reading. This is a very enjoyable book. It will stretch your vocabulary (something i consider to be a good thing), you will learn a lot about the author's family and her upbringing because those things are fully intertwined with all things books for her. The book consists of essays she has written over a few years, and i would give the book 5 stars but for one essay which completely frustrated me: an essay about plagiarism entitled "Nothing new under the sun". If you are afflicted with the virus of bibliophilism, you'll love this book too. ( )
  JohnKaess | Jul 23, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 193 (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)
 
Witty, enchanting and supremely well-written... One of the most delightful volumes to have come across my desk in a long while, a book of essays in celebration of bibliophilia that will appeal to anyone who's ever tootled about in a secondhand bookshop and who loves books.
added by Lemeritus | editLondon Observer, Robert McCrum
 
These 18 stylish, dryly humorous essays... pay tribute to the joys of reading, the delights of language, and the quirks (yes there are a few) of fellow bibliophiles... A charmingly uncommon miscellany on literary love.
added by Lemeritus | editEntertainment Weekly, Megan Harlan
 
It is not just that she is erudite (which she is), or that an outlandish word will send her to the dictionary (which it will). It's that a book will set her pulses racing, whether it's Livy's account of the battle of Lake Trasimene or Beatrix Potter's "The Story of the Fierce Bad Rabbit." More to the point, perhaps. she can set ours racing too.
added by Lemeritus | editThe Economist
 
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For Clifton Fadiman
and Annalee Jacoby Fadiman,
who built my ancestral castles
First words
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.
In The Common Reader, Virginia Woolf (who borrowed her title from a phrase in Samuel Johnson’s Life of Gray) wrote of “all those rooms, too humble to be called libraries, yet full of books, where the pursuit of reading is carried on by private people.” The common reader, she said, “differs from the critic and the scholar. He is worse educated, and nature has not gifted him so generously. He reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others. Above all, he is guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole.”
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Anne Fadiman is--by her own admission--the sort of person who learned about sex from her father's copy of Fanny Hill, whose husband buys her 19 pounds of dusty books for her birthday, and who once found herself poring over her roommate's 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only written material in the apartment that she had not read at least twice. This witty collection of essays 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 22-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who only really considered herself married when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marrying Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proof-reading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading out loud. There is even a foray into pure literary gluttony--Charles Lamb liked buttered muffin crumbs between the leaves, and Fadiman knows of more than one reader who literally consumes page corners. Perfectly balanced between humor and erudition, Ex Libris establishes Fadiman as one of our finest contemporary essayists.

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