Mark Mikula's Reviews > Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
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's review
Jul 28, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2012
Read in July, 2012

I'm bumping this rating up to a four-star--although it falls somewhere in between a three and a four for me.

All of the individual chapters were on book-related topics that held a strong appeal for me (proofreading, author inscriptions, love of long words), but very few of the chapters ended with a strong conclusion. For the most part, the chapters interested me when I was reading them, but then kind of hollowed out at the end. Maybe I'm too conditioned for each chapter to come across like a good short story with a satisfying arc that settles into some sort of compelling ending.

My favorite chapters were on the author's tendency to proofread and on aspects of plagiarism that have shaped the practice of writing. The plagiarism chapter has some entertaining footnotes in it that reflect her sense of humor and also serve to add more context to the essay itself. Her struggles with gender pronouns and her reflections on the treatment of food in novels are also memorable, but they are examples of the pieces that, for me, didn't come together as neatly as I would have liked them to.

Fadiman also shares a fair amount about her strong family relationships, both with her family of origin and with her husband and kids. That sweetness permeated several of the essays, and it was nice to read about how she and the people in her life have been shaped by their love for books. The openings to nearly all of the essays were solid whether they were well-crafted anecdotes, bits of history, or general observations on the natures of people as they relate to books and the written word. I've put several of the books about books that she has recommended into my library queue, so expect a few more reviews on similar books to come through on my profile in the near future. I also made note of a few of the more compelling words that she employs in telling her stories (syzygy, redolent, pettifogger, etc.), words that she is likely brave enough to use in conversation and words that I will likely only use parenthetically in reviews ... at least until I look them up to remind myself of their meanings.

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