Ex Libris: Confessional of a Common Reader; Anne Fadiman

I chose this book for the Book Riot Reader Harder 2017 (Read a story collection by a woman), but it was so good I had to share it in more detail.

Because, really, y’all should read this book. 🙂

I’m the target audience for this book, with Fadiman’s interests aligning so near perfectly with mine, that this book is the equivalent of a cup of tea and warm blanket on a cold, rainy day. Perfect and cozy.  Every once and awhile, people need a book like this. And because it’s a collection, you can spread out the cozy feeling if you like. (I disagree with her on the use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun–I find it acceptable as the best choice for some people, and she does not, though she has no better option.)

Like all true bibliophiles, Fadiman loves the sight and smell and feel of books. She loves immersing herself in stories, talking with fellow book lovers about books, marking her life events with books, and searching for treasures in used bookstores. Her whole family is guilty of hunting out grammar/punctuation mistakes and trading them, of loving books to pieces, and of strange and esoteric shelving organization. (There’s a chapter on Fadiman and her husband merging their libraries, which focused a great deal on how he organized his books versus how she organized hers.)

She includes plenty of personal stories to anchor her topics–this isn’t a vague or philosophically generalized collection that talks about books as an ideal. Instead, these essays contain plenty of colorful examples–phrases written in beloved copies of books, quotes from favorite stories, and humorous family anecdotes.  This specificity is what makes it work, as any reader’s likely to recognize themselves in there, too. Ever been scolded for laying a book flat? Then there’s a section that should make you chuckle, just as it did me. The end has recommended reading on more books with similar subjects, though I’m not certain how available all of them are. (Certainly the ones I looked at weren’t available at my library.)

This is a book about books, readers, and writers, and I love those kinds of books. If you do, too, you should love this book as well. Happy reading!

About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

4 responses »

  1. Lilyn G says:

    Does sound like the perfect book for some of us.

  2. FranL says:

    I LOVE this book! It’s one of my all time favorite “books about books”.

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