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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for people who love books
I was reading Ex Libris as my 9-year-old daughter Sarah was reading a Marguerite Henry book. I laughed out loud, and Sarah wanted to know why, so I read her a passage from Ms. Fadiman's essay on taking care of books. There are two camps of booklovers: the "words are everything" group, into which the entire Fadiman family, as voracious a bunch of readers as...
Published on November 10, 1998 by Lawrence Dietz dietzls@maritz.com

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read, think, smile
What a captivating and fun little book! I don't attach to it the same deep meanings that some of my fellow reviewers did, but there is plenty here that any true book lover will identify with and enjoy.
I found the book a bit uneven -- we've all read enough bad poetry to want to avoid reading about flawed verse in the chapter called Scorn Not the Sonnet, and while the...
Published on September 26, 2003 by Eric J. Lyman


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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for people who love books, November 10, 1998
By 
I was reading Ex Libris as my 9-year-old daughter Sarah was reading a Marguerite Henry book. I laughed out loud, and Sarah wanted to know why, so I read her a passage from Ms. Fadiman's essay on taking care of books. There are two camps of booklovers: the "words are everything" group, into which the entire Fadiman family, as voracious a bunch of readers as you could imagine, belongs. They write in margins, dog-ear pages, break spines. To them, a book is merely a container for the thoughts in it. And then there are the folks who would never write in a book, or turn down a page. I asked Sarah, who's been reading, avidly, for six years, which group she belonged to. Of course the words are important, she replied, but if you don't take good care of the book, you won't be able to read them. You can have that sort of conversation over and over while reading the essays that make up Ex Libris, and since you care about books (why else would you be visiting Amazon dot com, or Ms. Fadiman's page?), you probably will -- even if you're alone, and the conversation is internal.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The charming musings of a fellow-traveller, September 3, 2004
By 
This book made me think that Anne Fadiman would be my new best friend if she lived close enough. Books are in her genetic make-up, obtained from her energetic parents, shared with her affectionate husband, and passed on to her young children.

The book itself consists of a series of short essays on book and reading-related topics: happy arguments between new spouses about how to merge their collections; the peccadillos of how each of us treats books (to bend down a corner or not to bend?), the joys of spelunking in used bookstores; and the like.

Fadiman's prose is charming and articulate, as those readers familiar with her outstanding book "The Spirits Catches You and You Fall Down" will already know. It's a brief and thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a few hours. However, since the book is a set of essays originally published in the magazine "Civilization," the chapters don't GO anywhere; there is no Grand Point or Theme beyond the affection for books.

Fadiman shouldn't be condemned for this, but enjoyed - this book is not an entree but a box of dessert chocolates, delicious if not enough for a full meal.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful read, December 17, 2000
This is the perfect little book for anyone who prefers reading to TV watching. Fadiman grew up in a reading family where their favorite pastime was grilling each other about the origins of quotations. "Like the young Van Dorens, the Fadiman children were ritually asked to identify literary quotations. While my mother negotiated a honking traffic jam on an L.A. freeway... my father would mutter, `We are here as on a darkling plain...' and Kim and I would squeal in chorus, `Dover Beach.'"
While some might find this egocentric, I was enthralled with their literary banter. My family used to hold similar competitions on words and quotes, and of course we played Jeopardy! against each other for years. There are many excellent essays in this collection - I particularly loved one of her funniest essays on plagiarism in which she swamps the readers with a multitude of superfluous footnotes. Another hilarious essays details her encounter with the legendary William Shawn (New Yorker) who tried not to embarrass her for not knowing the correct pronunciation of the "Ms." in Ms. Magazine. This is a book to be savored while sipping tea, reclined in a favorite reading chair in the family library.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Each Page a Sip of Fine Cognac!, July 3, 2006
Anne Fadiman (b. 1953) is that rare writer - she speaks directly to the mind of the reader. Though we don't know her, she seems to be our best friend. I even think she'd be pleased that I read the 162-page volume the way I'd pick at a delicious tinned fruit cake - savoring each morsel-filled page. Emerging from an eminent literary family - and knowing enough, though happily married - to keep her own name - she recounts childhood days of compulsively proofreading menus and enjoying the art of reading a Toyota manual. An entire chapter is delightfully devoted to the library of former British prime minister Gladstone (1809-98). When "leadership pressed too heavily on him, Gladstone did one of 3 things: felled large trees with an ax; walked around London talking to prostitutes; or arranged books." Arrange your own bookshelf or nighttable to include this beautiful lime-colored volume, with little Anne sitting atop a pile of books, our next-best teachers on how to live our lives. Her wit and humanity abound!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speaks to the book fanatic, August 31, 2000
By 
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What a marvelous book!
When Anne Fadiman started to describe the merger of her library with her husband's (never mind that they had been married for years and had children together, this was the event that convinced her they were *really* married), I knew I had stumbled on a kindred soul. Anne Fadiman can write, and she chooses to write about what it means to live a life surrounded by (and wallowing in, let's admit it!) books.
Her love affair with the written word permeates this book. The details of her life are completely different than mine, but this book made me feel like I understood her from the inside out. I read large parts of this book out loud, to anyone I could find who seemed like they might find it amusing. Most of them ran out and got themselves a copy of the book. I can't read it out loud to you, so all I can say is if you love reading, if you are consumed with a love of the written word, Anne Fadiman's book will speak to the deepest part of your soul.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Charming Defense of Bibliophilia, November 23, 2000
By 
Jaycel Adkins "the_common_reader" (JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA United States) - See all my reviews
It begins...(not really, drop to the next paragraph and skip seven words in)..."There is a certain kind of child who awakens from a book as from an abyssal sleep, swimming heavily up through layers of consciousness toward a reality that seems less real than the dream-state that has been left behind. I was such a child." This is who we are. Those of us stricken with this Blessed Illness will find ourselves reflected lovingly within the pages of this elegant and thoughtful work. Through a series of charming, moving, and at times hilarious essays, Anne Fadiman chronicles a life lived in literature.
The first essay, "Marrying Libraries" chronicles the attempt by the author and her husband "to mix our books together." We bear witness to their loving drama as she says, his "English garden" approach to organization collides with her "French garden" sensibilities. A series of precarious negotiations commences. Should our books be seperated by nationality? Yes. Should they be ordered chronologically or alphabetically? Well...yes and yes. Yes, the British literature canon should be ordered chronologically since it spans over six centuries. But, the American literary canon should be ordered alphabetically due to the fact that nearly all of it is twentieth century literature. All of which leads to the following question: Should one be chronological WITHIN each author? CRISIS!!! A particularly bad moment occured while he was in the process of transferring my Shakespeare collection from one book case to another and I called out, "Be sure to keep the plays in chronological order!"
"You mean we're going to be chronological within each author?" he gasped. "But no one knows for sure when Shakespeare wrote his plays!"
"Well," I blustered, "we know he wrote Romeo and Juliet before The Tempest. I'd like that reflected on our shelves."
George says that was one of the few times he had seriously contemplated divorce.
The crux of the essay and I believe the book comes when they are left to the fifty or so books that they both own, the duplicates. The question becomes: which ones do we keep?
We each owned about fifty books in common. We decided that hardbacks would prevail over paperbacks unless the paperbacks contained marginalia. We kept my Middlemarch, read at eighteen, in which were registered my nascent attempts at literary criticism (page 37: "Grr"; page 261: "...."; page 294: "Yccch"); George's Magic Mountain; my War and Peace. Women in Love generated the most agonizing discussion. George had read it at sixteen. He insisted that whenever he reread it, no edition other than his original Bantam paperback, with it's psychedelic cover of one nude and seminude woman, would possibly do. I had read it at eighteen. I kept no diary that year, but I had no need of one to remind me that that was the year I lost my virginity. It was all too apparent from the comments I wrote in my Viking edition (page 18: "Violence substitute for sex"; page 154: "Sexual pain"; page 159: "Sexual power"; page 158: "sex"). What could we do but throw in the towel and keep both copies?
Their bridges had been burned.
In the essay, "You-Are-There" Fadiman, illuminates the role a certain setting can have upon a reader's experience, namely reading the novel in the place in which it is set. She opens the essay, appropiately with a scene:
On November 12, 1838, Thomas Babington Macaulay set out by horse-drawn coach from Florence to Rome. "My journey lay over the field of Thrasymenus," he wrote in his journal, "and as soon as the sun rose, I read Livy's description of the scene."
The being a titanic battle between the Romans and Hannibal, in which the Romans suffered a devastating defeat, fifteen thousand of their number dying in three hours. This is an example of "You-Are-There" reading. The essay evolves from Thomas Babington Macaulay, whom she considers possibly the greatest reader to ever live, to her own experiences with "You-Are-There" reading. She goes on to list her own adventures: "I had read Yeats in Sligo, Isak Dinesen in Kenya, and John Muir in the Sierras. By far my finest You-Are-There hour, however, was spent reading the journals of John Wesley Powell, the one-armed Civil War veteran who led the first expedition down the Colorado River, while I camped at Granite Rapids in the bottom of the Grand Canyon." What follows being a loving potrait of a young married couple on vacation in the Grand Canyon reading, The Exploration of the Colorado River and it's Canyons. As she says, "In one crucial aspect, I bested Macaulay. Alone on his grand tour, he had no one to share the rapture of Thrasymenus except the shade of Livy. In the Grand Canyon, I had George."
Her own account and the descriptions have even inspired me to take one of my favorite books and plan to reread it in it's various settings, that book being, A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin, the settings being Rome, Munich, and Venice, hopefully next year.
Each essay can be viewed as a love letter to and about the reading life, as well as a series of lover letters from a wife to a husband. It is a charming and endearing account of one woman's love of literature from an early age to young womanhood to marriage. But I dare say that it is more than just ab out the author's encounters with literature. It is a testament to all of us who take life from books and infuse not just our own narratives with literature, but inject our selves into the novels that we love over the years. For I find myself on my shelves.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A readable collection about reading and collecting, May 15, 2000
This is a charming little book. Anne Fadiman is a very good essayist; she writes well on a range of topics which most would find hard to express in essay form. Her purpose is not didactic, but rather to entertain and to encourage, and one certainly comes away wanting to read more, to buy more books, even just to sit and admire one's own library. All book-lovers will find something with which they identify, whether in terms of reading habits, the arrangement of one's books, the treatment of them, or in the concept of an odd-shelf. I was continually struck at Fadiman's ability to take one's attitude to books and related matters and then to find expression of this 'type' in other daily habits (I think especially of the obsessed proof-reader and his tendency to remove 'the lint from the clothes dryer' and to skim 'the drowned bee from the pool'). Although the essays stand on their own, I would suggest reading them in order, since one gets a picture of the Fadiman book-mania early on, and many of its aspects manifest themselves (mostly unconsciously) in later essays. At the end of the book, there are several useful pages of recommended readings. One only hopes that we shall be hearing (or reading) more from Anne Fadiman in the future.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious reinforcement for the Readaholic!, April 26, 2001
This book is sheer enjoyment for anyone who loves to read. I laughed 'til my eyes teared at her chapter on the compulsive proofreader (Insert a Car^/rot)! Anne Fadiman obviously had fun examining the many facets of the reader/book relationship - and the human relationships also affected. Both the trials, and special pleasures unique to married readers are all here. The books brought to bed, attendant crumbs, read-aloud passages... And the reading parent and child relationship, with chewed pages, re-visited favorites, the teen discovery of erotica on a parent's shelf. It's all here, in her fresh and clean prose.
I, who NEVER read non-fiction without a concrete need, could not put this book down! It is a book to read, keep, and share.
Throughout her essays, you will recognize yourself, your family members, and your friends who read, with their beauties and eccentricities (often one and the same). If I had the money, I'd buy a cratefull! I have already thought of at least a dozen folks to whom I would love to give this book...
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proving you can love books for more than just their words, December 3, 2000
I keep this slim book of essays on my bedside table - it is something to read when I have nothing else. Or something it is just to read instead of anything else. Anne Fadiman has described the love of books and of words in all their forms in a series of short essays.
Her chapters cover a range of subjects, from the discovery of rare words, merging libraries, book buying and to the odd shelf - a whole range of subjects for confirmed bibliophiles.
My favourite chapter, the one I read over and over again is "The Joy of Sesquipedelians" - when she found a book from the 1920's full of words she had never read before. It is like a short detective story tracking showing both the changing background which underlies our education and experiences, and reflects the changes in our language. Words in common use then are barely used or understood now. How many of us know the meaning of Grimoire, Paludal, retromingent, apozemical, goetic and some 17 others. These beautiful words that roll off the tongue - it seems criminal that they are now almost extinct .
The final chapter is the loveliest - a surprise birthday trip which ends up being to a second hand bookshop.
This book is a joy to read for those that find it a joy to read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read, think, smile, September 26, 2003
By 
Eric J. Lyman (Roma, Lazio Italy) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
What a captivating and fun little book! I don't attach to it the same deep meanings that some of my fellow reviewers did, but there is plenty here that any true book lover will identify with and enjoy.
I found the book a bit uneven -- we've all read enough bad poetry to want to avoid reading about flawed verse in the chapter called Scorn Not the Sonnet, and while the point is well made in Nothing New Under the Sun, I felt I was going to suffocate under the weight of all those footnotes. But where Ex Libris is good it is very good.
On this book's pages, you'll find charming anecdotes about messages written inside book covers, funny stories about people compelled to proofread at all time, an essay on the joy of reading a book in the place it is about, and a little stab at the annoying practice of removing the gender from popular sayings. Every one a gem.
This is also a handsome edition of the book, making it a great gift for any book lovers you know. It's an even better gift to yourself.
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