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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  10,834 ratings  ·  1,695 reviews
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 imbue ...more
Kindle Edition, 178 pages
Published (first published October 1998)
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Manzila Islam হুম। খুব সুন্দর বইটা। আমি বই নিয়ে লেখা আরেকটা বই পেয়েছি। ওইটাও খুব ভাল।
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

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হুম। খুব সুন্দর বইটা। আমি বই নিয়ে লেখা আরেকটা বই পেয়েছি। ওইটাও খুব ভাল।
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  10,834 ratings  ·  1,695 reviews


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Elyse  Walters
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This tiny book is an absolute gem!!! charming slyly humorous-a literary delight!

These I8 essays are a tribute to books- bookworms - fellow
bibliophiles!
Author Anne Fadiman’s parents were readers and writers.
The book bug stayed in the family.
Anne and her husband, George are both book people and writers. Their dog is named “Typo”.

The first story ... my favorite..is called:
“Marrying Libraries”.
It’s a story about Anne and George finally deciding to mix their books together. They had lived togeth
...more
Steve
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
JSou
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

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
...more
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
Jun 08, 2012 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
...more
Madeleine
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Diane
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jacob
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 be
...more
Lobstergirl
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
...more
Faye
First read: Jan 2016
Re-read: May 2017
Re-read 2 - February 2018
Re-read 3 - June 2018
Re-read 4 - February 2019
Re-read 5 - December 2019

There isn't anything I can say about this wonderful book of essays except I absolutely love it and anticipate re-reading it many more times in the years to come.

5/5 stars, best of 2016 & best of 2017
...more
Megha
This was my first book about books. Written in an essay form, the book deals with various topics that all readers will identify themselves with. I don't usually review books, but I want book readers to read this one so badly that I'm making an exception. Following is a list of (some of the many) reasons why I request, plead, and beseech bibliophiles to read this one-

1. It talks about couples merging their books after marriage. (Very aptly titled 'Marrying Libraries." It made me realise that marr
...more
Tristan
“Some friends of theirs had rented their house for several months to an interior decorator. When they returned, they discovered that their entire library had been reorganized by color and size. Shortly thereafter, the decorator met with a fatal automobile accident. I confess that when this story was told, everyone around the dinner table concurred that justice had been served.”

Books about books - or the reading experience in general - I am known to have mighty trouble saying no to. In fact, I go
...more
Lisa Vegan
May 21, 2007 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.
...more
Anna Luce
★★★★✰ 4.5 stars

“Books wrote our life story, and as they accumulated on our shelves (and on our windowsills, arid underneath our sofa, and on. top of our refrigerator), they became chapters in it themselves. How could it be otherwise?”


Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is a delightful and uplifting ode to bibliophiles.
Anne Fadiman's collection of charmingly written essays examine the way in which much of her life was (and is still) shaped by books.
Fadiman pays attention to the physic
...more
Virginie
*Last book of 2019!*

I would rate the different essays from 2 to 5 stars, so I think 3.5 is a fair rating for the whole book. Some really entertained me while others left me indifferent.

My favorites are Marrying Libraries, Nothing New Under the Sun (interesting facts about plagiarism), My Odd Shelf and Never Do That to a Book. In this last one, Fadiman says that we should not take excessive care of physical books (I know I do sometimes), so I'm glad I read it laying in the sand under a light rai
...more
Aubrey
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
Chrissie
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
Daniela
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like many books of essays this one was hit and miss. There were great essays and others that were more on the average side. However, overall, it's a very enjoyable read especially for the glimpses that Anne Fadiman give us of what it is to be born into a literary family, and how benefitial it is to surround oneself with books since childhood. I'll definitely be looking for other books by Ms. Fadiman, especially the recently published memoir about her relationship with her father, the intellectua ...more
Cheryl
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
...more
Cecily
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.
Leanna
Jun 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
Celeste
Reading a book about books are among the coziest experiences a bookworm can have, in my opinion. Even if you don’t share all or many or any of the author’s views on books at all, there’s something about the knowledge that this person took the time to write an entire book for the soul purpose of expressing their fervent love for the medium that produces instant camaraderie between writer and reader.
“I have never been able to resist a book about books.”

Anne Fadiman is overly loquacious and verbose
...more
Ilana
Author Anne Fadiman has book love well anchored in her genetic pool. A cursory glance at wikipedia tells us she is the daughter of the renowned literary, radio and television personality Clifton Fadiman, who among other things, between 1933 and 1943 was in charge of The New Yorker's book review section, and World War II correspondent and author Annalee Jacoby Fadiman. She also attended Harvard University, graduating in 1975 from Radcliffe College. I would say therefore, that I have one major gru ...more
Jonfaith
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
Lena
Sep 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sandy
Mildly amusing collection of literary trivia, heavily peppered with blatant affectation. Not to be taken in large doses. If you really, really, really insist on reading this drivel, the recommendation is one or two essays per annum.
Jason Pettus
Jul 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kathryn
Nov 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kendra
Sep 26, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I realize that I'm not the ideal target for this book since I'm much more of a bibliophage than a bibliophile: the library is my favorite place away from home, and I'd be broke if it weren't. Even so, I’m perplexed by the large number of “loved it” or “it was amazing” reviews. As I struggled through this book, I was reminded of graduate school, the only other place I’ve ever encountered anyone so intent on “one-upping” the rest of the world in terms of the quality and number of books owned or re ...more
Alex
Sep 16, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
You had me at "learned about sex from Fanny Hill."
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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

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“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.” 481 likes
“I have never been able to resist a book about books.” 137 likes
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