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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  9,996 ratings  ·  1,585 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 collec
Paperback, 162 pages
Published November 25th 2000 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published October 1998)
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Manzila Islam হুম। খুব সুনদর 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

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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
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
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
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
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

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
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Megha by: Ritika Gupta
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
“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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Jason Pettus
Jul 28, 2009 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
Nov 26, 2007 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
Eveline Chao
Oct 02, 2012 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
Aug 03, 2016 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 27, 2009 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
Aug 11, 2014 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
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m a firm believer in the saying ‘you are what you read,’ especially after reading a book about the neural networks that are created when you read a novel. Books are a language and people who read deliberately, widely, and often, we all speak the same language and can carry on endless conversations about authors, books, words, ideas, places, and characters that non-readers simply cannot participate in. When you find another ‘brain on books’ you can’t help but gravitate towards it and pry apart ...more
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Anne Fadiman says that most serious readers keep an “odd shelf” of books on a topic mismatched to the rest of their personal library. Her own contains books on polar exploration, north and south. She’s particularly fond of failed British expeditions, Scott’s suffering and death having more romantic appeal than Amundsen’s easy jog to victory.

It never occurred to me that I might have an “odd shelf.” Perhaps I’m not a serious enough reader. My bookshelves are hardly organized at all, so the volumes
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Recycling books 3 55 Feb 22, 2014 06:23PM  
Imprinted Lives: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. Anne Fadiman 7 25 Jul 29, 2011 02:03PM  

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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
“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.” 468 likes
“I have never been able to resist a book about books.” 132 likes
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