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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by…

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (1998)

by Anne Fadiman

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Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)
This was a really great little book that I never saw coming. On a whim, I grabbed this at the library after seeing it highly rated on a Goodreads list dealing with books about books. This book is a collection of essays by Anne Fadiman dealing with her lifelong love of books. Each essay has a different topic, but each touch upon her life and how books have impacted it. There are written with great humor and language, and you cannot help but want to read more by her (and read the books she references).

A great find for me. I will have to purchase this book at some point, and will absolutely search for her other collections of essays as well. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
Mostly pompous, but the author does express her passion for books very clearly. ( )
  gossamerchild88 | Mar 30, 2018 |
While Fadiman definitely comes across as a book snob, and maybe even a bit elitist, I can’t quite hold it against her because she shares such incredibly warm and personal stories, and you get the impression that she does not mean to come across as condescending. She even humbles herself throughout the book, albeit it still seems to keep her a couple of rungs above the rest of us.

But I really like Ex Libris. Fadiman made me laugh, consider a few new authors, and my bookmark for this was a post-it with a few interesting sounding new works.

Ultimately, what I’m coming away with here is a comrade in marginalia, the great idea of reading aloud to my kids at the breakfast table, and a sudden desire to brush up on my Virginia Woolf.

Okay, I’ve been meaning to do that last one for quite some time, but yeah. If you like books about books, I would totally suggest looking into Ex Libris. ( )
  christina.h | Mar 2, 2018 |
This wonderful slim volume collects Anne Fadiman's essays on aspects of being a bibliophile, indeed a bibliomaniac. I am sure that anyone who loves books will, like me, be constantly smiling or chuckling in recognition at the odd, obsessive relationship we have with the printed word. The theme that connects all the essays is how books connect people - the writers with the readers, but also how we relate to friends, family and lovers through our books, and how the smears, inscriptions and marginalia of second-hand books joins us to a chain of past readers.

I'm not always a fan of the New Yorker style of writer - I often find them to be pretentious ivory-towered aesthetes and snobs, such as in Nora Ephrons recent satire of the the Stieg Larsson books - but this was witty, funny, charming and urbane. Fadiman decries, in the Recommended Reading chapter that "Book About Books" sections are to be found only in secondhand bookstores rather than new bookshops, but this little collection is a lovely addition to that small, select enclave. ( )
1 vote Pezski | Jun 8, 2017 |
In this collection of personal essays, Fadiman carefully selects every word to evoke the love of a written page. It reminds me why I read and why I love to share what I read with others. Perhaps the sentiment is best encapsulated by her following insight: "All readings are performances...When you read silently, only the writer performs. When you read aloud, the performance is collaborative." Yes, yes, yes. ( )
  e2d2 | Jun 2, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 179 (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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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.
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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)

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A collection of essays discusses the central and joyful importance of books and reading in the author's life.

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