Ex Libris (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch


Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
Anne Fadiman, 1998
162 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
May 2009

So much good stuff packed into such a small package—a book the size a large index card and a mere half-inch thick.

Anne Fadiman, is a true bibliophile. While most of say we love books, Fadiman really loves them. Perhaps better known for The Spirit Catches You, You Fall Down (1997), Fadiman here takes a lighter approach and, in 18 short essays, talks about how books, their contents and phsycial selves, have shaped her life.

In the first essay, Fadiman recounts how unsure she was after five years of marriage, not of her husband but of his library. How could the two safely "conjugate" their books—his casual "English garden" approach with her disciplined "French" one? Fadiman treats all objects as "unreliable vagrants, likely to take off for parts unknown unless strictly confined to quarters." Thus, her books are "strictly regimented." Her husband's are not.

Fadiman's writing is funny, personal, and intelligent—packed with enough bookish arcana to make a biblioholic's cup runneth over.

Ex Libris is both smart and fun. Book clubs can have a good time talking about their own bibliophilic experiences—favorite authors, books that shaped lives, lending books and never getting them back (or borrowing and not returning), how to get rid of less-loved books, and what the new world of electronic readers will look like.

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