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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (1998)

by Anne Fadiman

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4,0012002,085 (4.19)699
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)
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English (190)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (197)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
first read Lori's in Oakland - bought at Powells Leap Year Sale 2020 ( )
  Overgaard | Feb 29, 2020 |
This book may be small but is packed with energy, excellent language, and entertainment. A quick read, the 18 essays cover an array of topics having to do with literature, use of language, bits about Fadiman's home life, and books, always books.

Part memoir and part literary musings, some of the essays resonated with me more than others. I particularly liked the one about proofreading; I could SO identify with it. Two others stood out for me...the one on plagiarism and the one on finding words you don't know in a book (I love that - always want to learn a new word!). Sometimes the book felt a little "high-brow" for me since most references are from literature and I read mostly modern fiction, yet there was still much to enjoy.

Recommended for book nerds. ( )
  Terrie2018 | Feb 21, 2020 |
My initial rating was only three stars because I didn’t like the use of so many words I didn’t know! I got fed up having to consult my dictionary, and very nearly tossed the book onto my DNF pile. In the end I decided to skip over them and forget they were there. Anne Fadiman isn’t trying to be erudite or priggish, she isn’t blowing her literary trumpet to feel good about herself - Anne truely loves words, that’s the crux of it. She comes from a family who are all big readers, authors and self confessed bibliophiles. As a family, they like nothing better than collectively proofreading restaurant menus before ordering their meals, I love that! Once I forgave my shortcomings in vocabulary I totally enjoyed these essays and must admit to being a bit of a book junkie myself. ( )
  Fliss88 | Dec 26, 2019 |
It's really nice when writers are also major readers and book lovers, because then they write cool stuff about how awesome it is to read, and hit nails on heads regarding the quirks most book lovers have. I particularly enjoyed the essay on the joys of reading mail order catalogs. :) ( )
  Zaiga | Sep 23, 2019 |
Half the time books on books don't appeal to me because they lack story. But this one, a series of essays, has plenty of observations, thoughts, and love of books to relate to. ( )
  alyssajp | Jul 29, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (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.
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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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