Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader” as Want to Read:
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  7,718 Ratings  ·  1,209 Reviews
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 col
Paperback, 162 pages
Published November 25th 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1998)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman84, Charing Cross Road by Helene HanffBook Lust by Nancy PearlThe Professor and the Madman by Simon WinchesterThe Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
Best Non-Fiction Books About Books and Reading
1st out of 407 books — 337 voters
The Book Thief by Markus ZusakFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyMatilda by Roald DahlThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Books about Books
21st out of 825 books — 1,277 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
May 10, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it
Like many a Goodreader, no doubt, I have a thing for books about books. In this particular case, there’s a chapter in the book about books about books. (It might be tempting someday to write a book about such books about books about books, but let’s not get silly, or meta-silly for that matter.) Anyway, Fadiman’s essays are as elegant and well-written as my introduction is awkward and inane. She’s the kind of bookworm friend we’d all ‘like’ to the stratosphere here on this site.

Fadiman is the da
Jun 05, 2013 Madeleine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who considers him- or herself a bibliophile
Recommended to Madeleine by: Steve
If you'll excuse what I know has to sound like a weak attempt at an obvious pun, I find that books are easier to read than people. I summon far less effort to read a page than a face, a chapter than mixed body language: Even the subtext and allusions and metaphors are all naught but new takes on old tricks, and the most elusive hidden messages are often buried no deeper than a careful reexamination of text laid bare with a willingness most people eschew in the name of self-preservation and tactf ...more
Feb 25, 2010 JSou rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
Just a couple weeks ago, a great review of this book popped up on my update feed, (Ah, the magic of Goodreads) so when I spotted it at a booksale I went to last week for a dollar, I grabbed it quick. If you haven't read Jon's review yet, check it out:

Thanks to a bout of insomnia last night, I finished this and loved it. I feel like shoving this book onto some family and friends who think I'm much too obsessed with all things book. All of these essays show
May 22, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it
I loved this collection of bookish essays. One of my favorite pieces was "Marrying Libraries," which was when Anne and her husband, George, decided to combine their book collections:

"We ran into trouble when I announced my plan to arrange English literature chronologically but American literature alphabetically by author. My defense went like this: Our English collection spanned six centuries, and to shelve it chronologically would allow us to watch the broad sweep of literature unfold before ou
October 2012

I don't always read books about books, but when I do, my to-read list suddenly grows. Still, it's nice to read someone who understands me so well:
"Alas," wrote Henry Ward Beecher. "Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore!" Mine is relatively strong at Barnes & Noble, because I know that if I resist a volume on one visit, and someone else buys it, an identical volume will pop up in its place like a plastic duck in a shooting gallery. And if I resist that one, there will
Jun 12, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Shelves: books-on-books
There are two groups of people in this world. The first are erotically aroused by eating voluptuous, dripping fruits and having the fruity, pulpy juices trickle down their chins. The second would just like to get to a sink and wash it all off. Count me among the latter. Anne Fadiman is the former:

I have always preferred Keats to Wordsworth, but I was never able to put my finger on why until I read that Wordsworth, according to a visitor, "will live for a month on cold beef, and the next on cold
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
Jun 16, 2012 Ruby Tombstone [With A Vengeance] rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: prigs, pendants, prudes, snobs
Recommended to Ruby by: Derek
In the spirit of full disclosure, this book was selected for me as part of a Bossy Book Challenge. A book of essays about reading is certainly something I would never have chosen for myself, but I did try to keep an open mind..

I understand why people like this book. The writer obviously truly loves books to the point of obsession, and anyone with a love of books will find something to relate to here. Unfortunately, that thing is unlikely to be the writer herself. The book's subtitle is, "Confess
Yet another case of had I read this book a mere few years ago, four stars would have been a guarantee, five if I was feeling especially forlorn due to few real life acquaintances even liking the concept of a book, let alone sharing my fervent devotion for the written word in bound and paged form. Alas, while I added this book more than two years ago, I didn't get around to a finally acquired copy till now, and the three stars would need a great deal of this way or that motion to raise or lower i ...more
This is a delightful slim book, a collection of personal essays about her love of reading.
In "Marrying Libraries", she and her husband embark on merging their libraries. "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." They had to agree on which order to shelve their books, how to deal with the duplicates, whether to be a lumper or a splitter. "His books commingled democratically....mine were ba
This book is primarily a book of humor. There are 18 essays, all of which are related to books and you and me, the people who read them. It is a book about us! Of course some essays are better than others. The majority had me laughing, but not all. How do you organize your library? Are you a courtly book-lover or a carnal one? I am carnal, meaning that I write in my books and don't hesitate one second to use then for other purposes. They follow me around, get dirty, squished in bags, are taken t ...more
Feb 07, 2013 Jonfaith rated it liked it
It has become familiar. Perhaps, excessively so. I have ventured again for family reasons to a funeral home. This is five times in the last nine months. This reflects a turning of corners in my family dynamics. While it isn't unusual for people at my work to pass prematurely, there has been a statistical glut in my family where people live beyond the norm and have now passed in quick succession. I have also begun buying books with regularity upon leaving the funeral home or cemetery. In itself, ...more
Jun 18, 2008 Leanna rated it liked it
I walked past Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader at the library and immediately turned around. Without reading the dust jacket, I added the book to my pile. Any book about books must be a good book.

After reading Ex Libris, I'm not so sure. The collection of essays is ten years old, and they already feel dated—particularly an essay about pens and typewriters. More than anything, though, I take umbrage with the subtitle. Fadiman is anything but the “common reader.” She is the
Feb 12, 2008 Lena rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This short collection of essays on the reading life is a true delight of a book. Anne Fadiman writes with self-depreciating joy about the pleasures and pains of the book obsessed, and reading her confessions helped reawaken (and soothe my guilt) about my own book-related afflictions. Her ruminations on marrying libraries (a task I have not yet been bold enough to undertake with my own husband), the art of inscriptions, and her clever discussion on plagiarism and the originality (or lack thereof) ...more
Lisa Vegan
Jul 17, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone on goodreads,those who love beautiful language, essays
This is one of my favorite books. The daughter of Clifton Fadiman can write! These are wonderful essays about life, family, and most importantly, about books & reading. All are interesting & written beautifully, and they also have a lot of warmth & humor. This is a book worth owning to be able to reread certain essays every once in a while.

This book is a perfect gift for anyone who enjoys reading, books, and language.
Jason Pettus
Jul 28, 2009 Jason Pettus rated it really liked it
Although there are exceptions to this, in general I am not much of a fan of meta-nerd "books about books written for obsessive lovers of books," nor of essays that treat physical books themselves as precious sacred objects, to be lusted after like sex symbols and used to partially define who we are in the first place. (For what it's worth, I instead tend to look at books as simple delivery vehicles for what's truly important, the information being conveyed on their pages through the codified use ...more
Jan 28, 2008 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: book lovers!
Recommended to Kathryn by: Melanie (thank you!)
Shelves: non-fiction
I finished this book on my flight home from Florida and it provided me with great pleasure amidst my great dislike of flying. (Perchance I would have given it five stars had I read it from the cozy comfort of the couch in my den!) It felt so chummy to hear Anne's discussion of her love of books (both literary and tactile!) and I found myself nodding with agreement for many of her observations and confessions.

My favorite essays:
Marrying Libraries (of the joys and tribulations of merging one's li
Jan 03, 2009 Cecily rated it it was amazing
A delightful collection of essays by a bibliophile, for fellow bibliophiles. Small enough for a pocket, great for dipping in to.

She describes growing up a sesquipedalian, the joys (and otherwise) of trying to merge her library with that of her husband, the quirks of proof reading, and much more, as she shares her love of all things literary.

A delight from cover to cover and worth every one of the very pennies it costs.
A charming collection of about 18 essays on the art of reading and loving good books.

All addicts need apply here. You do not have a problem. Embrace it. There are always more books and you will always find new ones. There is no way to stop, not even if you wanted to. It is better here.
Sep 26, 2016 Kirsty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was having a bit of a rereading kick during September (largely due to the fact that my TBR shelves were almost exhausted), and decided to pick up Anne Fadiman's charming little volume of essays, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. Throughout, Fadiman's scope is broad. Whilst all of the essays are about books (no shit, Sherlock...), she writes about such things as the value of books as objects and how we treat them, to the art of writing sonnets, a skill she feels she has never quite mas ...more
Mar 22, 2009 rivka rated it liked it
Recommends it for: all book lovers
Recommended to rivka by: Jennie Peterson
Shelves: non-fiction, borrowed
I enjoyed this book, but perhaps not nearly as much as some of my friends seem to have. It's always nice to read something that makes me feel that someone out there is like me and/or my family -- that we're not completely crazy! ;)

So reading about another kid who was taught NOT to say "the hoi polloi", someone else who can't help but proofread menus, who is an obsessive book collector -- these are cool.

However. Anne Fadiman has an annoying to tendency to assume that her delineations are univers
Beth Bonini
I don't know how many times I've read this collection of essays about the love of books, but it has been many. Sometimes I just dip into one of my favourites: "Marrying Libraries," "Never Do That To A Book," or "You Are There" -- but today, I ended up rereading the entire thing. This book is an absolute must for the book lover, the book hoarder, the word collector and the grammar/punctuation pedant. Fadiman's writing style is just so perfectly polished, and I love the confiding warmth of her voi ...more
Aug 11, 2014 Ycel rated it it was amazing
This book is an excellent collection of essays on the reading life. The title is a reference to Virginia Woolf (The Common Reader, the First and Second Series), who borrowed it from Samuel Johnson’s Life of Gray, who 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, as Dr. Johnson implies, differs from the critic and the scholar. He is worse educated, and nature has not gifted him so g ...more
Sep 26, 2007 Natalie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves to read
My aunt Heather recommended this book to me. She is exactly the type of reader Anne Fadiman is and also very frugal. So instead of buying books as gifts for me she mails me short lists of books she thinks I will enjoy and should check out at my local library.
This one was an easy beach read for me one year at Myrtle and then I read it again on a winter break. I later gave it to my cousin-in-law for a gift so I no longer have a copy of it by as I remember them each of the short stories were base
Eveline Chao
Oct 04, 2012 Eveline Chao rated it it was ok
I went into this expecting that I was going to LOVE it. After all, it's a woman who loves books writing about her love of books, and, hey, I love books too. But, I ended up not really connecting with it. Every once in a while there would be a sentence here or a passage there that I loved, but for the most part I felt alienated by this woman's relationship to books, which felt SO different from mine and, honestly, a little bit elite. I guess it just felt like she was addressing an audience of peo ...more
Nidah (SleepDreamWrite)
Been in a books about books mood lately. This is one of them. Basically what I been reading so far, books with a book theme to it really. This was interesting, good but interesting.
Jul 21, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
So Weird Al needs to dedicate his song “Word Crimes” to the Fadiman family, and I really want to met Fadiman and her husband George. (I swear, if I find they are divorced, I will sob uncontrollably for a minute).

I picked this up at one of those really cheap book stores. You know the type with tables and not bookshelves. It was a pleasant surprise to read this book.

Now, to be fair, not every essay in the book is great. The first one, however, is a beautiful piece of writing about love, marriage
Jul 09, 2011 pinknantucket rated it it was amazing
Anne Fadiman is wonderful and brilliant and witty (and poignant, why not?) and you should all read her. This volume is a series of her personal essays on books and reading; perhaps I didn't love it quite as much as the other book of hers I've read (At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays) but the Goodreads scoring method doesn't allow for such infinitesimal adjustments.

One of Fadiman's essays, "Never do that to a book", is about the difference between the "courtly" love of books and a "carnal" on
Jul 14, 2009 Wendi rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sarah Brannon
Recommended to Wendi by: Tina Dalton
My friend subconsciously suggested this book to me after a conversation we had about finding treasures hidden in books. She had just purchased a book for her husband, used book (the best kind), and within its pages she found a treasure trove of items left by the former owner(s). It sparked me to tell her how wonderful I thought that was, and how I loved finding notes scribbled in the margins of books. That's when she told me about Ex Libris.

This book may be sub-titled Confessions of A Common Rea
Koji Mukai
Mar 29, 2009 Koji Mukai rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a collection of essays first published in Civilization, the magazine of the Library of Congress, which is where I first read many of them. These essays were written by, for, and about booklovers. My favorites include "Never Do That to a Book" where the author discusses two different ways to love a book - "courtly love" in which the reader tries to keep the book in as pristine a state as possible vs. "carnal love" in which the reader does not care a bit about the appearances of a book, le ...more
Apr 07, 2009 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-books
This book was WAAY too much fun. Anne Fadiman is Clifton Fadiman's daughter, and she has collected this book of essays about book-love. She is funny and frank and the book is a delight. There are essays on merging her library with her husband's, on the delight of finding long, delicious words, on sonnets, on "carnal-love" book lovers versus "courtly-love" book lovers (for the record, I'm in the carnal-love category--my books know they are loved), ink pens, flyleaf inscriptions, the compulsive ed ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Recycling books 3 48 Feb 22, 2014 06:23PM  
Imprinted Lives: ...: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. Anne Fadiman 7 17 Jul 29, 2011 02:03PM  
  • A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books
  • A Passion for Books: A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books
  • Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books
  • Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments
  • Ruined By Reading: A Life in Books
  • The Anatomy of Bibliomania
  • Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books
  • The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History
  • More Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason
  • Q's Legacy
  • Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home
  • Bibliotopia: Or, Mr. Gilbar's Book of Books & Catch-All of Literary Facts & Curiosities
  • Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World
  • How Reading Changed My Life
  • At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries
  • The Book on the Bookshelf
  • Shakespeare Wrote for Money
  • So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading
Anne Fadiman, the daughter of Annalee Whitmore Jacoby Fadiman, a screenwriter and foreign correspondent, and Clifton Fadiman, an essayist and critic, was born in New York City in 1953. She graduated in 1975 from Harvard College, where she began her writing career as the undergraduate columnist at Harvard Magazine. For many years, she was a writer and columnist for Life, and later an Editor-at-Larg ...more
More about Anne Fadiman...

Share This Book

“My daughter is seven, and some of the other second-grade parents complain that their children don't read for pleasure. When I visit their homes, the children's rooms are crammed with expensive books, but the parent's rooms are empty. Those children do not see their parents reading, as I did every day of my childhood. By contrast, when I walk into an apartment with books on the shelves, books on the bedside tables, books on the floor, and books on the toilet tank, then I know what I would see if I opened the door that says 'PRIVATE--GROWNUPS KEEP OUT': a child sprawled on the bed, reading.” 443 likes
“I have never been able to resist a book about books.” 121 likes
More quotes…