Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader – Book Review

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

“Ex Libris” is Anne Fadiman’s love song to books.  A collection of essays on books and bibliophilia, Fadiman covers a variety of topics that will be familiar to anyone who loves books and words.  She covers everything from sesquipedalians (big words) to ‘you-are-there reading’ to the essential differences between new and second hand books. 

The essay that most spoke to me was “Never Do That To A Book.”  I have been known (don’t hate me!) to leave my books open face down to hold my place, or even to dog ear pages.  I would refrain from mentioning this on LibraryThing, because that would be sacrilege.  I take solace in knowing that Fadiman doesn’t treat her books any better than I do.  Fadiman would say that those LTers who might tar and feather me for breaking book spines are ‘courtly lovers’ where the physical book is sacred while she and I are ‘carnal lovers’ to whom the paper is merely a delivery system for the words and ideas the truly compose a book. 

If you are a casual reader, you will probably be intimidated by some of what Fadiman says.  She is very passionate about books and learning.  If you are a voracious reader, you will likely identify with much or all of what she writes about and you should definitely pick this book up. 

Buy this book on Amazon.

7 comments to Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader – Book Review

  • I never understood the whole “keep your books looking brand new” concept. A well read book should look somewhat beat up, especially if its a book you’ve read more than once. Its a book, not a museum piece is my theory.

  • Melody

    What, you’re not going to tell everyone about how you used to (do you still?) take you books into your never-ending baths and they would therefore be all rumply and bumpy from water and steam? I liked seeing those books around, it was like they were an extension of you, that you even had to have them while bathing. Is this too private for your blog??…oops.

  • Erin

    I don’t dog ear the pages, it drives me nuts but I do break my spines. I also remove the dust jackets from hard covers when I read them but not to save them just because they are a pain when reading. Someone just gave me a bag of books that literally looked brand new and when I asked if she had read them already she looked at me in horror as if I won’t take good care of her babies!

    I have friends who I borrow books to and get them returned with pages falling out!

  • I leave my books face down all the time – especially if I will back in “just a minute”.

  • I had no idea that it was so bad to leave your books face down…

    I float somewhere between carnal and courtly. I tend to be more carnal with paperbacks than with hardcovers.

    I’m going to have to get this book. It sounds absolutely wonderful. Thanks for the great review!

  • After reading all these comments, I am now a bit scared to admit that I am quite “courtly” with how I read my books. I just like pretty things… though I probably beat up paperbacks more than most “courtly” readers (they are quite difficult to keep in pristine condition!). But… I would NEVER dog-ear pages or *gasp* WRITE in books. Sacrilege! :)

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