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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader Paperback – November 25, 2000
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“A smart little book that one can happily welcome into the family and allow to start growing old.” ―Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
“A book for bookworms . . . 18 stylish, dryly humorous essays” ―Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Anne Fadiman is the author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, an L.A. Times Book Prize, and a Salon Book Award. She is also the author of the essay collection At Large and At Small and the editor of Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love. Her essays and articles have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, among other publications. She is the Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale.
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Since the third time is reputed to be a charm, I recently picked it up again, determined to read it through. I did, and I also discovered the reasons for my struggle to enjoy the book. The first is the repeated appearance of The Fadiman Family (father, mother, son, daughter Anne, and Anne's husband, an honorary Fadiman). In these essays, the Fadimans, certified bibliophiles, are like interesting dinner guests who stay on for a game of Trivial Pursuit and end up winning it all before the other guests have put a single slice in their own little trivia pies. No fun.
Perhaps the Fadimans overstay their welcome in "Ex Libris" because many of these essays were published separately in Civilization and later collected in this volume. Repetition is an all too common problem in essay collections.
There may be a solution. Leave the book on the nightstand. Pick it up every few months and open the book to a random spot---middle, end. Read from front to back. Try back to front. The author even has a number of useful observations on reading in bed.
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.
As for content of the book, it is fantastic. Very enjoyable essays--I think any avid reader will be able to relate.