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

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  11,098 ratings  ·  1,750 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 coll
Paperback, 162 pages
Published November 25th 2000 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published October 1998)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Ex Libris, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Manzila Islam হুম। খুব সুন্দর বইটা। আমি বই নিয়ে লেখা আরেকটা বই পেয়েছি। ওইটাও খুব ভাল।
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff…more
হুম। খুব সুন্দর বইটা। আমি বই নিয়ে লেখা আরেকটা বই পেয়েছি। ওইটাও খুব ভাল।
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,098 ratings  ·  1,750 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
Elyse  Walters
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This tiny book is an absolute gem!!! charming slyly humorous-a literary delight!

These I8 essays are a tribute to books- bookworms - fellow
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 called:
“Marrying Libraries”.
It’s a story about Anne and George finally deciding to mix their books together. They had lived togeth
May 10, 2013 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
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
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 10, 2013 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
May 14, 2013 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 be
Jun 10, 2010 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
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
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
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.
“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
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
Virginie *No more time to write reviews for the moment :( *
*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
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 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
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Kaethe Douglas
I can't remember if I read this before Readerville, or if that's where I heard of it. Fadiman writes perfect little essays about various aspects of being a reader; the one on Odd Shelves stuck with me particularly, since that became a Readerville staple.
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
Sep 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 03, 2009 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.
Jun 18, 2008 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
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
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
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
Feb 01, 2013 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
Sep 21, 2007 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
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.
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ex Libris is a collection of eighteen very well-written, witty and sentimental essays about bibliophilia, love of literature and everything "dark academia", if you will.
Some essays are funny (I chuckled a lot and laughed out loud on more than one occasion), some are boring (I started to read the book in April and gave up on it because I got bored, returned to it nearly half a year later), all of them boast the author's wits (and vocabulary) and all of them are also overly sentimental.

My person
Indrani Sen
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A delightful book about books. A series of lovely essays on different aspects of reading, buying, arranging books. A wonderful few hours spent reading this book.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Recycling books 3 57 Feb 22, 2014 06:23PM  
Imprinted Life: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. Anne Fadiman 7 27 Jul 29, 2011 02:03PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Ramgarh Literary Festival
  • 84, Charing Cross Road
  • I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life
  • How Reading Changed My Life
  • Power of Reading: From Socrates to Twitter
  • Reading Turgenev
  • The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
  • Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason
  • The Uncommon Reader
  • Trece lunas
  • چگونه مرور کتاب بنویسیم؟
  • Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home
  • On Books and the Housing of Them
  • Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany
  • Phantoms on the Bookshelves
  • The Dead School
  • Parnassus on Wheels
  • Fabulous Monsters: Dracula, Alice, Superman, and Other Literary Friends
See similar books…
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

Articles featuring this book

Perhaps we're biased, but we believe books are the perfect gift for any occasion. And it doesn't have to be stressful...
82 likes · 23 comments
“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.” 482 likes
“I have never been able to resist a book about books.” 138 likes
More quotes…