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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

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Anne Fadiman is (by her own admission) the sort of person who learned about sex from her father's copy of Fanny Hill, whose husband buys her 19 pounds of dusty books for her birthday, and who once found herself poring over her roommate's 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only written material in the apartment that she had not read at least twice.

This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language. For Fadiman, as for many passionate readers, the books she loves have become chapters in her own life story. Writing with remarkable grace, she revives the tradition of the well-crafted personal essay, moving easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family. As someone who played at blocks with her father's 22-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who only really considered herself married when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marrying Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proof-reading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading out loud. There is even a foray into pure literary gluttony: Charles Lamb liked buttered muffin crumbs between the leaves, and Fadiman knows of more than one reader who literally consumes page corners. Perfectly balanced between humor and erudition, Ex Libris establishes Fadiman as one of our finest contemporary essayists.

162 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 1998

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About the author

Anne Fadiman

25 books561 followers
Anne Fadiman, the daughter of Annalee Whitmore Jacoby Fadiman, a screenwriter and foreign correspondent, and Clifton Fadiman, an essayist and critic, was born in New York City in 1953. She graduated in 1975 from Harvard College, where she began her writing career as the undergraduate columnist at Harvard Magazine. For many years, she was a writer and columnist for Life, and later an Editor-at-Large at Civilization. She has won National Magazine Awards for both Reporting (1987) and Essays (2003), as well as a National Book Critics Circle Award for The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, a collection of first-person essays on books and reading, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1998. Fadiman was the editor of the intellectual and cultural quarterly The American Scholar from 1997 to 2004. She now holds the Francis chair in nonfiction writing at Yale. Fadiman lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, the writer George Howe Colt, and their two children.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,117 reviews
Profile Image for Pakinam Mahmoud.
755 reviews2,942 followers
May 10, 2023
"تكتبُ الكتب قصة حياتنا،وعندما تتراكم في مكتباتنا تصبح بحد ذاتها فصولاً من تلك القصة.."

من كتبي،اعترافات قارئة عادية ..كتاب للناقدة الأدبية والمراسلة الأمريكية آن فاديمان وهو عبارة عن ١٨ مقالة كتبتهم الكاتبة خلال أربع سنوات..

المقالات كلها بتتكلم عن الكتب سواء عادات غريبة لبعض القراء ،طرائف عن المؤلفين و ذكريات عن الكاتبة وعائلتها وهي العائلة التي كانت تعشق الكتب و أنتقل هذا الشغف لآن كما إنها تزوجت أيضاً من قارئ نهم مثلها...

المقالات متفاوتة المستوي،في مقالات عادية ومقالات اتكلمت فيها عن كُتاب لم أسمع عنهم من قبل فكانت مملة شوية بالنسبة لي وفي مقالات كانت رائعة خصوصاً المقالات اللي اتكلمت فيها عن والدها و عن زوجها وحبهم للكتب و كفاية إنه يوم عيد ميلادها اصطحبها زوجها لمتجر للكتب يحتوي علي ٣٠٠ الف كتاب مستعمل،غادروه بعد ٧ ساعات وهي شايلة ٨ كيلو من الكتب!
أعتقد دي ممكن تكون أحلي هدية عيد ميلاد ممكن حد يجيبهالي:)

ما يميز جميع المقالات إنها مكتوبة بعفوية و جزء كبير منها حيلمس أي قارئ أو كما قالت الكاتبة فهو كتاب موجه لكل من تفتنهم رائحة الورق و الحبر أو الذين يدللون كتاباً قديماً كما يداعبون أطفالهم...

وأخيراً كل قارئ فينا علاقته مع كتبه بتكون علاقة خاصة جداً..
في اللي بيحب يكتب في الكتاب و في اللي ميقدرش حتي يثني زواياه..
في اللي القراءة تمثل جزء بسيط من حياته وفي اللي القراءة هي أهم حاجة في حياته..
في اللي بيحب يتكلم مع الكتب وفي اللي بيتمني يعيش جوة الكتب وفي اللي حتي بيحلم كل يوم بالكتب...
أياً كانت علاقتنا بكتبنا..فإحنا أكيد كلنا متفقين إن
القراءة هي اللي بتخلينا نحلم و إحنا عينينا مفتوحة،بتخلينا نطير حتي لو معندناش أجنحة و أهم حاجة إنها بتخلينا مع كل كتاب بنقرأه بنقدر نعيش حياة جديدة😍
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews33 followers
July 30, 2018
This tiny book is an absolute gem!!! charming slyly humorous-a literary delight!

These I8 essays are a tribute to books- bookworms - fellow
Author Anne Fadiman’s parents were readers and writers.
The book bug stayed in the family.
Anne and her husband, George are both book people and writers. Their dog is named “Typo”.

The first story ... my favorite..is called:
“Marrying Libraries”.
It’s a story about Anne and George finally deciding to mix their books together. They had lived together for six years, been married for five. They mis-matched coffee mugs, socks, record collections, years ago without any incident- but their libraries remained separate. It’s such a wonderful story - and actually deeper than the joyful humor it is.
Ultimately libraries are about bringing people together..and for this couple bringing their libraries together was about profound intimacy.

In “The Joy of Sesquipedalian’s”... it’s a story about obsession with words.

“My Old Shelf”... very funny... it’s the library shelf that contains small mysterious corpus volumes whose subject matter is completely unrelated to the rest of the library, yet which upon closer inspection, ‘reveals’ a good deal about the owner.

“Never do that to a Book” is great fun.....you’ll see yourself. What rules do ‘you’ have about ‘your’ books?

I loved these essays -mostly about books, and a little about family and food.
Anne Fadiman’s prose speaks directly to the heart!!!

Many thanks to LisaVegan for this treasure of a gift!!! ❤️

Profile Image for Steve.
251 reviews875 followers
May 10, 2013
Like many a Goodreader, no doubt, I have a thing for books about books. In this particular case, there’s a chapter in the book about books about books. (It might be tempting someday to write a book about such books about books about books, but let’s not get silly, or meta-silly for that matter.) Anyway, Fadiman’s essays are as elegant and well-written as my introduction is awkward and inane. She’s the kind of bookworm friend we’d all ‘like’ to the stratosphere here on this site.

Fadiman is the daughter of renowned literary critic, Clifton Fadiman, and former author and WWII correspondent for Time Magazine, Annalee Jacoby Fadiman. She had a very bibliocentric upbringing, as you might imagine. As a kid she was allowed to build a playhouse out of her dad’s 22-volume set of Trollope books. You might say she was to the omnibus manor born. She grew to love sesquipedalians (a great self-descriptive word meaning ‘long words’) like everyone else in her family, and shared an obsession for editing grammatical flubs with her “captious, carping, pettifogging” relations.

Her essays cover a variety of topics that are bound to interest booklovers. She begins with a personal story of how she and her husband, after five years of marriage and a child, “were ready for the more profound intimacy of library consolidation.” The challenge was how to decide between her “French-garden” approach (ordered and well-tended) and his “English-garden” style (abundant but more haphazard). In other essays we learn her thoughts on:

* Classifications of book people into those who keep their volumes as pristine as possible out of respect (“courtly lovers”) and those who might dog-ear pages and delight in marginalia (“carnal lovers”)

* The joys of reading out loud

* The art of the inscription (with great examples among literary giants)

* The pleasure of buying 19 pounds worth of used books (as opposed to fungible new copies from big box stores)

* How, to the reading obsessed, even a roommate’s 1974 Toyota Corolla Owner’s Manual will do

This is a small appetizer of a book, but one full of literary flavor. While it’s not what I’d call LOL funny, it is amusing in a clever and scholarly way. Fadiman writes very well, too –- never a word wrong, never a cacophonous beat. I’m tempted to buy a bookplate that says “Ex Libris Steve” to print inside its cover. Oh wait, an ex libris of ex libris books is too much like the twaddle in my intro. I can’t be seen as a one-shtick pony even though I am.
Profile Image for Ruby  Tombstone Lives!.
338 reviews412 followers
June 17, 2012
In the spirit of full disclosure, this book was selected for me as part of a Bossy Book Challenge. A book of essays about reading is certainly something I would never have chosen for myself, but I did try to keep an open mind..

I understand why people like this book. The writer obviously truly loves books to the point of obsession, and anyone with a love of books will find something to relate to here. Unfortunately, that thing is unlikely to be the writer herself. The book's subtitle is, "Confessions of a Common Reader", but the word "common" is apparently intended to mean "wealthy and privileged", "having a classical literature degree" and "being part of an elite literary circle".

This woman actually seems to believe that all teenagers go through a sonnet-writing phase. Fadiman describes herself in the book as, "an unregenerate goody-goody, a priggish little pedant who would no more have permitted a rogue trochee to sneak among her perfect iambs than show up in Miss Farrar's class with a smudge on her monogrammed school uniform." Now observe the teenage Ruby Tombstone and her circle of friends in 1986:
Not a sonnet between us.

This is a woman who reads old books, makes a list of the words she doesn't understand and then quizzes her family and friends on them. For fun. And keeps score. Her mother keeps hundreds of newspaper clippings of grammatical errors, intending to mail them in to the paper one day. Fadiman went through the clippings and catalogued them. She made meticulous corrections on a paperback edition of Speak, Memory and sent them to Nabokov himself. She grew up watching college quiz shows with her family, playing as a team against the teams on tv, using the chair arms as buzzers. As an adult, she remembers their high scores, and which colleges her family "beat". She says in the book, I know what you may be thinking. "What an obnoxious family! What a bunch of captious, carping, pettifogging little busybodies!" No. That was not at all what I was thinking. It's not what anybody in the world was thinking. What I was thinking was, Fuck you, lady, and the iambic pentameter you rode in on.

The final straw was this phrase the author uses when discussing her father's library, which apparently, spanned the globe and three millennia, although it was particularly strong in English poetry and fiction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The only junk, relatively speaking, was science fiction.. Really, Ms Fadiman? You're above science fiction too? You've spent an entire chapter boring me stupid with anecdotes about your reading of European mail order catalogues and now you're dismissing science fiction as "junk"? I'd like to reiterate my earlier point and say, Fuck. You.

If you're wondering what there is to like about this book, it's this: Anyone who loves books will see something in here to remind them of their own reading foibles. The discussion on how people treat their paper books is one I often see on GoodReads (ie Are you a "courtly" or a "carnal" reader?) and is bound to raise a smile of recognition. There are lots of examples in this book of other people with book obsessions just like our own. Just no examples of people just like us. Prigs, pedants and pretentious elitists excluded, of course.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,302 followers
April 28, 2023
Îmi plac mult cărțile în care autorii spun (și dovedesc) că și lor le plac mult cărțile. Anne Fadiman e un astfel de autor. Excelent scrise, eseurile din Ex libris sînt adesea poveștile unor aventuri. În definitiv, poți trăi aventuri teribile nu numai dacă vizitezi neînarmat jungla, taigaua, deșertul Gobi, sau te plimbi pe Marele zid chinezesc: una dintre aventurile cele mai grozave e să citești, de exemplu, Ulysses de Joyce, înțelegeți ce vreau să spun...

Am ales din eseurile lui Anne Fadiman cîteva întîmplări livrești. În „Never do that to a book”, autoarea evocă o călătorie de demult. A ajuns într-un hotel, s-a instalat cu părinții și, pentru că mai era timp pînă la cină, a deschis o carte. A citit cît a citit, apoi a fost chemată la masă. A făcut o ureche paginii la care ajunsese și a mers să mănînce. Una dintre femeile de serviciu a văzut cartea, a strîmbat din nas și a exclamat cu mînie: „Niciodată să nu mai faci asta unei cărți!” Comentariul lui Anne Fadiman e mai mult decît ingenios.

Sînt cititori care văd în carte un instrument de lucru și îndrăznesc să o sublinieze (cu roșu, verde, portocaliu, ce oroare...), sau să-i îndoaie paginile. Dar există și cititori a căror relație cu o carte urmează modelul „iubirii curtenești”: obiectul adorat nu trebuie pîngărit.
Traduc cum mă pricep: „În ultimii 30 de ani, am înțeles că așa cum există mai multe chipuri de a iubi o persoană, la fel există mai multe chipuri de a iubi o carte. Îngrijitoarea / camerista (the chambermaid) credea în iubirea curtenească. Esența fizică a unei cărți (a book's physical self) era sacrosanctă pentru ea, forma cărții inseparabilă de conținut; datoria ei ca iubitoare a cărților era o adorare platonică, o încercare nobilă, dar și dureroasă de a păstra pentru totdeauna starea de perfectă castitate în care le primise de la librar... În schimb, familia Fadiman credea în iubirea carnală. Și pentru noi o carte era sfîntă, dar hîrtia, legătura, coperta, cleiul, cerneala care o alcătuiau erau doar un simplu purtător (vessel); deci, nu era nici un sacrilegiu să o tratezi așa cum îți dictau dorința și nevoile”.

Mărturisesc fără rușine că fac parte din categoria sacrilegilor care notează pe paginile cărții și lasă linii „obscene” sub pasajele preferate. Voi mai menționa o anecdotă narată în eseul „Eternal Ink”. Legenda spune că într-o zi, pe cînd Sir Walter Scott era la o vînătoare, nu-și putea scoate din minte o frază la care lucrase toată dimineața fără succes. Dintr-o dată i-a venit inspirația. Din păcate, nu avea cu ce scrie. Ca să nu piardă fraza din cap, prozatorul a împușcat o cioară, i-a smuls o pană, i-a ascuțit capătul, l-a muiat în sîngele păsării și a notat prețioasele cuvinte.

Anne Fadiman mai scrie despre dedicații și autografe, despre plagiatori, despre cataloage bibliografice, dar mai ales, în eseul „Sharing the Mayhem” despre importanța cititului cu voce tare. Așa a străbătut Heinrich Heine Don Quijote, plimbîndu-se printre copacii și straturile cu flori din Grădina Palatului din Düsseldorf. Charles Lamb considera că este o crimă să-i citești pe Shakespeare sau Milton în tăcere, chiar dacă prin preajmă nu se găsește nici un mușteriu. Cînd a orbit, Milton și-a rugat fiicele să-i citească din cărțile preferate. În Divina commedia (cîntul V din „Inferno”), Paolo și Francesca citesc cu voce tare din romanul despre isprăvile cavalerului Lancelot du Lac.

Se opresc pentru un sărut. Apoi sînt uciși și merg împreună în infern...
Profile Image for Heba.
1,037 reviews1,991 followers
February 5, 2022
حسناً ماذا بإنتظارك هنا ؟؟...
الشغف...عندما لا يمكن ان يصمد دون أن يُدلى به في اعترافات قارئة لم تكن عادية أبداً....
تأتيك الاعترافات..في عالم فاتن...ساحر...طريف جداً مُعبقاً برائحة الكتب المُغبرة ، ناعماً بملمس أغلفة الكتب المهترئة ، زاهياً بألوان مبهجة حتى لأكثر الكتب قِدماً وأصالة....
احتفاء بالكلمات...عندما تسع عالم بأسره...تشوبها عاطفة مخلصة لعالم الكتب....
تتحدث الكاتبة " ان فاديمان" في ثمانية عشر مقالاً كعاشقة حقيقية للكتب وتدعونا لزيارة فردوسها الخاص بها لنحتفي بتفاصيله الثرية وذكرياتها مع أفراد عائلتها التي تُبجل الكلمة...كأيقونة لا يمكن المساس بها إلا لتقديسها وليس لتدليلها...فهى لا تقبل بمثل هذا الترف للكلمة ....
لقد تلمست اصابعي أرفف مكتبتها المثقلة بالكتب...مررتها على اغلفتها...تسللت بداخلها زائرة خجلة امام أسرارها الصغيرة التي سلمتها لي....💕
تكتب الكتب قصة حياتنا ، وعندما تتراكم في مكتباتنا ورفوف نوافذنا وتحت أريكتنا وفوق ثلاجتنا تصبح بحد ذاتها فصولاً من تلك القصة..وكيف لا...؟؟....
Profile Image for amin akbari.
297 reviews125 followers
February 13, 2022
به نام او

یک کتاب بسیار خوب و خواندنی برای کتابخوانهای حرفه ای که با خوشیها و ناخوشیهایِ کتابخوانی و کتابداری آشنا هستند و مدام با آن کلنجار می روند

این کتاب به شدت به کتابخوانها و کتابخوارها توصیه میشود
Profile Image for JSou.
136 reviews213 followers
February 10, 2017
Just a couple weeks ago, a great review of this book popped up on my update feed, (Ah, the magic of Goodreads) so when I spotted it at a booksale I went to last week for a dollar, I grabbed it quick. If you haven't read Jon's review yet, check it out:


Thanks to a bout of insomnia last night, I finished this and loved it. I feel like shoving this book onto some family and friends who think I'm much too obsessed with all things book. All of these essays show why bibliophiles love their book collection so passionately; our books become a part of who we are. There are funny parts all throughout the book, and the end of the last essay nearly brought tears to my eyes.

I've always loved books, and admit that since joining Goodreads my obsession has increased a thousand fold. My GR addiction has reached the point where if this site was suddenly not available, I don't know what I would do. Not having a whole lot of friends in "real-life" who are book-lovers like myself, makes this website and books like this almost a necessity. They give you the sense that it's okay to constantly be re-organizing your bookshelf, kind of panicking inside when someone asks to borrow a book, or even spotting annoying grammar and spelling mistakes everywhere you go.

This was a very entertaining read and a must-have for the crazily obsessed bookworm. Read it, Goodreaders.
Profile Image for Madeleine.
Author 2 books861 followers
June 5, 2013
If you'll excuse what I know has to sound like a weak attempt at an obvious pun, I find that books are easier to read than people. I summon far less effort to read a page than a face, a chapter than mixed body language: Even the subtext and allusions and metaphors are all naught but new takes on old tricks, and the most elusive hidden messages are often buried no deeper than a careful reexamination of text laid bare with a willingness most people eschew in the name of self-preservation and tactful modesty. Besides, I'm far (far, far, faaaar) more apt to dislike a person than a book, so why not be better acquainted with the entity that's more likely to strike me as pleasing?

Having encountered hundreds of agreeable books by now, I can tell when one is poised to bound across the threshold between casual acquaintance and trusted friend. Because no two books, in a rare display of commonality with us moodier mortals, share the same personality, the one variable is when the deepening of our relationship will become apparent -- will we know by the time the last word hits us like a too-soon au revoir or will we realize that our meeting was fated for roaring success before I've even turned the first page?

Confessions of a Common Reader and I were destined for each other. I knew this to be an undeniable truth simply from a mutual friend's appropriately glowing review that gave rise to the heartening pang reserved for the flash of recognition in spotting a kindred spirit from a distance that may be easily conquered but lengthened intolerably by the inconvenient fact that we'd not been properly introduced yet (thanks for playing matchmaker, Steve!). Like a friend insisting that I ought to meet this person they just know with whom I'll enjoy an easy rapport, I sought the aforementioned book's companionship immediately, knowing it would be one of those rare times reality and fantasy sung in pitch-perfect harmony. Anne Fadiman's collection of essays culled from a lifetime of bibliomania and I, in truth, needed no introduction once our eyes locked in a Barnes & Noble: We knew that we were about the enjoy the rare bliss of a fast friendship and flowing conversation buoyed by quiet but doggedly personality-defining quirks.

Forgoing the polite formalities of aimless small talk that I've never had any use for, we quickly discovered our kinship by way of unabashed conversation girded with the intimate admissions that are usually divulged to the friends whose loyalty was built on years of shared experiences: Ours was a love at first sight that is usually only relegated to the fictions we both treasure as though they are the pillars upon which our own personal histories rest (and, really, they decidedly do).

We found instantaneous common ground by confiding early on that we both regarded it as a monumental moment, indeed -- with an eye cast far more optimistically toward the future than a mere marriage proposal, infinitely more demonstrative of a trust we'd only felt for one person that we proclaimed it before a roomful of witnesses, embracing a humbling but welcome vulnerability light years beyond that first appearance of the two-backed beast -- when we allowed the person we've vowed to love and support until both of our bodies have expired to combine their personal libraries with our own lovingly tended but fiercely guarded treasure trove of tomes, that to allow such a commingling of the closest we'll ever come to an outward manifestation of our personalities' truest forms with another's is the very definition of the hard-won but popularly cliched and carelessly bandied-about designation of "soulmate."

As we freely offered each other the pieces of ourselves we usually sheltered beneath layers of protective trivia and adopted personae, sitting forehead-to-forehead as hours melted away like minutes during our sometimes tittering, sometimes somber but always generously peppered with earnest, animated outbursts of "I know exactly what you mean! I thought I was the only one!" conversation, we unearthed more and more gold nuggets of shared insights and experiences: rampant logophilia; an incorrigible but well-intentioned need to proofread everything made of words; the ongoing struggle against but secret thrill of one's living space looking less like a home and more like a used bookstore (which, really, is the only other place we're truly ourselves, anyway); the pleasure of carnally loving a book to the extent that its spine is permanently bent and its marginalia is such an imprint of the self that the very idea of letting someone else borrow it requires tapping into some inner peace to get over the anxiety akin to letting someone rifle through your diary with dirty fingers and malicious intent; the unavoidable comparison between a decadent meal and a five-course book and the primitive, multi-sensory satiation that accompany both.

Alas, all good things must come to an end and, as we blinked with disbelief into the light of a new day, we realized that our electrifying and animated first meeting was rushing toward its inevitable denouement. And I realized that the jealousies I'd brushed aside in the eager pursuit of getting to know this marvelous new ally with whom I shared multitudinous proclivities and compulsions were now a spreading stain that unfairly marred our enchanted first encounter, which is a personal failing that should say terrible things about me and should not, at all, be held against this exuberant and eloquent little book (but is why I docked a star off its rating -- I assume, with the heavy-handed clarity of hindsight, that Confessions of a Common Reader is dressed in green to warn me how deeply I'd envy anyone whose childhood was a warmly nurturing word nerd's dream and a booklover's haven). I know we'll meet again and, that when we do, my pettiness will have long ago been overshadowed by fond memories of a soul-baring heart-to-heart that is worth the dozens of instances of painfully insipid chatter I suffered through to find it.
Profile Image for عبدالرحمن عقاب.
680 reviews767 followers
January 15, 2021
(لا أستطيع مقاومة كتابٍ عن الكتب) هكذا تقول آن فاديمان.
وبهذه الخصلة نفسها وصلتُ إلى كتاب فاديمان. ويا له من كتاب!
تكتب فاديمان: (الكتب المتراكمة في بيوتنا تروي قصة حياتنا). وهذا ما فعَلَته هنا. روت لنا نتفًا من سيرتها الذاتية من خلال مقالات تحولت إلى فصول هذا الكتاب.
تنحدر "آن" من عائلة شغوفة بالقراءة والكتب، الأب والأم والأخ. وتزوجت "جورج" الذي كان على شاكلتهم. ومن خلال مواضيع تتعلّق بالكتب وعالمي القراءة والكتابة المرتبطين بها، نتعرف أكثر إلى هذه العائلة القارئة.
مقالات "فاديمان" جميلة وأسلوبها ممتع وظريف.
سيقرأ كلّ قارئ عاشق للكتب في هذا الكتاب أشياء تشبهه، ومواقف مرّ بها. وسيتعرف على عائلة سيحبها أو ربما ظنها عائلته التي لم يلتقِ بها.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,656 followers
May 22, 2013
I loved this collection of bookish essays. One of my favorite pieces was "Marrying Libraries," which was when Anne and her husband, George, decided to combine their book collections:

"We ran into trouble when I announced my plan to arrange English literature chronologically but American literature alphabetically by author. My defense went like this: Our English collection spanned six centuries, and to shelve it chronologically would allow us to watch the broad sweep of literature unfold before our very eyes. The Victorians belonged together; separating them would be like breaking up a family. Besides, Susan Sontag arranged her books chronologically. She had told The New York Times that it would set her teeth on edge to put Pynchon next to Plato. So there. Our American collection, on the other hand, was mostly twentieth-century, much of it so recent that chronological distinctions would require Talmudic hairsplitting. Ergo, alphabetization. George eventually caved in, but more for the sake of marital harmony than because of a true conversion. A particularly bad moment occurred while he was in the process of transferring my Shakespeare collection from one bookcase 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 even knows for sure when Shakespeare wrote his plays!'

'Well,' I blustered, 'we know he wrote Romeo and Juliet before The Tempest. I'd like to see that reflected on our shelves.'

George says that was one of the few times he has seriously contemplated divorce."
September 19, 2021
Enticing and eloquent. Bibliophiliak and elegiak. Simultaneously intimate and hilarious!
Anne Fadiman really ssurpassed all my expectations with this book about her reading experiences.
I lay with my husband (a Clym) in a bed that was lumpy with books, hoping the delivery of our first child would resemble Kitty’s birth scene in Anna Karenina but fearing it might be more like Mrs. Thingummy’s in Oliver Twist. (c) LOL!
What simultaneously most thrilled me and made me feel most like a dunce was Van Vechten’s vocabulary. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d met so many words I didn’t know. By the end of the book I’d jotted down twenty-two. Not only did I have no idea what they meant, I couldn’t remember even seeing them before. They might as well have been Old Norse. Here is the list: monophysite, mephitic, calineries, diapason, grimoire, adapertile, retromingent, perllan, cupellation, adytum, sepoy, subadar, paludal, apozemical, camorra, ithyphallic, alcalde, aspergill, agathodemon, kakodemon, goetic, and opopanax. These words didn’t require a wordworm. They required a word anaconda. (c)
The lawyer, who, incredibly, had bumped into mephitic just the previous week in Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus, possessed particularly vigorous powers of memory. When I asked him to define monophysite, he said, “That’s a heretic, of course, who believes there is a single nature in the person of Christ. I first encountered it in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, of which I read an abridged version in a green Dell Laurel edition with a picture of Roman ruins on the cover that I bought with my allowance for seventy-five cents when I was in grade school, at the bookstore at the corner of Mill Road and Peninsula Boulevard in Valley Stream, New York. I read it while walking home. It was springtime, and all the trees on Mill Road were in bud.” No man ever remembered the face, dress, and perfume of an old lover with fonder precision than Jon remembered that glorious day when he and monophysite first met. (c)
Americans admire success. Englishmen admire heroic failure. Given a choice—at least in my reading—I’m un-American enough to take quixotry over efficiency any day. (c)
Who but an Englishman, Lieutenant William Edward Parry, would have decided, on reaching western Greenland, to wave a flag painted with an olive branch in order to ensure a peaceful first encounter with the polar Eskimos, who not only had never seen an olive branch but had never seen a tree? Who but an Englishman, the legendary Sir John Franklin, could have managed to die of starvation and scurvy along with all 129 of his men in a region of the Canadian Arctic whose game had supported an Eskimo colony for centuries? When the corpses of some of Franklin’s officers and crew were later discovered, miles from their ships, the men were found to have left behind their guns but to have lugged such essentials as monogrammed silver cutlery, a backgammon board, a cigar case, a clothes brush, a tin of button polish, and a copy of The Vicar of Wakefield. These men may have been incompetent bunglers, but, by God, they were gentlemen. (c)
You’re a romantic. What’s romantic about a guy wanting to go somewhere and getting there? (c)
Profile Image for Lobstergirl.
1,715 reviews1,243 followers
June 12, 2010
There are two groups of people in this world. The first are erotically aroused by eating voluptuous, dripping fruits and having the fruity, pulpy juices trickle down their chins. The second would just like to get to a sink and wash it all off. Count me among the latter. Anne Fadiman is the former:

I have always preferred Keats to Wordsworth, but I was never able to put my finger on why until I read that Wordsworth, according to a visitor, "will live for a month on cold beef, and the next on cold bacon," whereas Keats once wrote his friend Charles Wentworth Dilke:

Talking of Pleasure, this moment I was writing with one hand, and with the other holding to my Mouth a Nectarine - good God how fine. It went down soft, pulpy, slushy, oozy - all its delicious embonpoint melted down my throat like a large Beatified strawberry.

I have never read two sexier sentences.

So hippie-bourgeois. As is the first trip she and her future husband George took, to the Grand Canyon, where they skinny-dipped and washed each other's hair in the Colorado River and read aloud John Wesley Powell's The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons.

Some things she writes are odd, and not believable. She loves the written word so much that, having run out of regular reading material in her apartment, she began obsessively poring over a 1974 Toyota Corolla manual. Really? She should have just sat back and daydreamed. I think her writing would be better for it.

Sometimes she is overcome by twee. A thin book gets tightly packed in among her other books and goes AWOL for awhile. Finally, she finds it: "Out tumbled the vanished ectomorph." She and her husband develop a habit of reading aloud to each other before bedtime. She figures The Odyssey will take them six months. "When we started, I felt we were too busy to read Homer. Now I feel we are too busy not to read him." That level of profundity belongs in O: The Oprah Magazine, or else maybe I heard Roger Rosenblatt ruminate it on MacNeil/Lehrer. (Rosenblatt's style might be called pedestrian twee.)

Maybe I'm just being mean, but would she have been offered a column in the Library of Congress's in-house magazine, Civilization, if her last name weren't Fadiman? Would she have gotten a summer job interview as a 19-year-old with Wallace Shawn at the New Yorker?

It's not all bad. I enjoyed some of the essays, like the ones on plagiarism ("Nothing New Under the Sun") and the Fadiman family's anal proofreading habits, which I share. I dug the anecdote about the Danish hotel chambermaid who, finding Fadiman's 13-year old brother had left an open book face down on the bedside table, left a signed note: "SIR, YOU MUST NEVER DO THAT TO A BOOK."
Profile Image for Jacob.
129 reviews471 followers
July 5, 2021
October 2012

I don't always read books about books, but when I do, my to-read list suddenly grows. Still, it's nice to read someone who understands me so well:
"Alas," wrote Henry Ward Beecher. "Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore!" Mine is relatively strong at Barnes & Noble, because I know that if I resist a volume on one visit, and someone else buys it, an identical volume will pop up in its place like a plastic duck in a shooting gallery. And if I resist that one, there will be another day, another duck. In a secondhand bookstore, each volume is one-of-a-kind, neither replaceable from a publisher's warehouse nor visually identical to its original siblings, which have accreted individuality with every ownership. If I don't buy the book now, I may never have another chance. And therefore, like Beecher, who believed the temptations of drink were paltry compared with the temptations of books, I am weak.
("Secondhand Prose," p. 150)
Meet Anne Fadiman, my new BFF. In these essays, originally published in Civilization magazine, Fadiman shares her love (and life) of books and the written word. In charming tales about vocabulary and grammar (and the obsessive need to fix errors of both), "Odd Shelves" and the odd titles found on them (in her case, a vast collection of books on polar exploration, and it's a good thing she didn't offer any titles because I would've had to add them all), challenges of combining one's library with a loved one's own, the many proper ways of handling a book (including using them as building blocks), as well as joys of reading aloud, reading about food, and reading books in the place they are about (the nearest I ever managed was reading George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords on a bus in Southern France), and more, Fadiman keeps pointing out that her love of books and reading vastly surpasses mine, but I'm not going to let that come between us. What are Bestest Friends for, if not to share and recommend good books? Now if only she'll return my calls. Anne? Anne? Where are you? We were supposed to go bookstore-browsing today. Anne? Are you there? Hello?
Profile Image for Faye.
419 reviews45 followers
January 27, 2022
First read: Jan 2016
Re-read: May 2017
Re-read 2 - February 2018
Re-read 3 - June 2018
Re-read 4 - February 2019
Re-read 5 - December 2019
Re-read 6 - January 2022

There isn't anything I can say about this wonderful book of essays except I absolutely love it and anticipate re-reading it many more times in the years to come.

5/5 stars, best of 2016 & best of 2017
Profile Image for Megha.
222 reviews120 followers
October 24, 2017
This was my first book about books. Written in an essay form, the book deals with various topics that all readers will identify themselves with. I don't usually review books, but I want book readers to read this one so badly that I'm making an exception. Following is a list of (some of the many) reasons why I request, plead, and beseech bibliophiles to read this one-

1. It talks about couples merging their books after marriage. (Very aptly titled 'Marrying Libraries." It made me realise that marriage can have some benefit after all, you increase the books at your home.)

2. It has an essay which emphasises that for so long, we've ignored the feminine pronouns, only to be taught that 'she' is always understood when 'he' is said. (I was given this answer when I used to question why do we use mankind and not humankind. And no, I will not accept 'to each his own' as an answer here.)

3. It describes the ethereal beauty of reading a book at the place where it is set. (Not like I need more reasons to fuel my longing for travel.)

4. It classifies readers into "courtly" lovers- who treat the form and the content of the book to be the same and want their books to be preserved in their pristine glory or "carnal" lovers- for whom, the words are holy and the book otherwise is just a vessel to hold all the words in. (I court books. Break my book's spine and I'll break yours. In my head, of course. Hopefully.)

5. It reminds us that we're slowly losing so many beautiful words. (And I do accept that my capacity to learn new words has reduced drastically.)

6. It discusses compulsive proofreading and how egregious it is to find misspelt words. (Guilty as charged.)

7. If you're not sold on it already, one of the chapters is dedicated to books and food, and the author revealed some gluttonous excerpts. (Two of my most salient characteristics- reading and eating.)

8. There's a chapter on plagiarism. Book readers and writers, both alike, would agree that plagiarism is a sin and imitation to the extent that it's a blatant copy is not the sincerest form of flattery. (Seriously, there are better ways to show your admiration. Try writing an original piece as a tribute, maybe?)

9. There is an essay about growing up in a house full of books and having parents who together had about seven thousand books between the two of them. The delight of developing the love for reading because you've been surrounded by books right from your childhood. (Also, inheriting books, wow! And here I constantly get into fights with my mother over space constraints, and I own only measly hundreds.)

10. A chapter is beautifully dedicated to second hand books and second hand bookstores. (I cannot explain my love for used books, the joy of being able to own/afford pretty hardbacks otherwise way out of my purse's reach.)

I would have loved to know the Fadimans. The relationship between the author and her husband is adorable without being cheesy. The anecdotes are humourous and realistic, you can actually imagine you and your friends having similar conversations! There are far too many favourite lines to be reproduced but I'd like to just quote one, which in all fairness will affirm the author's love for books-

"These beautiful volumes have been published in 1897, and not a single person had read them. I had the urge to lend them to as many friends as possible in order to make up for all the caresses they had missed during their first century."

Go, do yourself a favour and don't miss this one!
Profile Image for Kendra.
456 reviews27 followers
September 27, 2011
I realize that I'm not the ideal target for this book since I'm much more of a bibliophage than a bibliophile: the library is my favorite place away from home, and I'd be broke if it weren't. Even so, I’m perplexed by the large number of “loved it” or “it was amazing” reviews. As I struggled through this book, I was reminded of graduate school, the only other place I’ve ever encountered anyone so intent on “one-upping” the rest of the world in terms of the quality and number of books owned or read – largely because only in graduate school did I meet with people so insecure about their intellectual status.

I'd also like to quibble with the use of the word "common." No matter which definition she's using, Ms. Fadiman seems to be to be taking great pains to present herself as anything but common.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,257 reviews451 followers
April 4, 2022
Perfect little essays about reading and books and a literary family. This was a re-read for me. After reading another review here on GR, I went straight to my shelf and plucked if off for my bedtime book.
Profile Image for Eveline Chao.
Author 3 books67 followers
October 4, 2012
I went into this expecting that I was going to LOVE it. After all, it's a woman who loves books writing about her love of books, and, hey, I love books too. But, I ended up not really connecting with it. Every once in a while there would be a sentence here or a passage there that I loved, but for the most part I felt alienated by this woman's relationship to books, which felt SO different from mine and, honestly, a little bit elite. I guess it just felt like she was addressing an audience of people just like her, who come from very educated families, grew up having intellectual conversations around the dinner table, & inherited their love of books from their family. Whereas the emotional relationship I have with books, and which frankly I actually feel way more people have with books, is that the love first came about because books provided an escape from some of the more unpleasant aspects of life, whether it be arguing parents, bullying at school, generally feeling like you don't fit in, or even just plain old boredom with wherever you grew up. I mean, I think there's a reason that the classic children's book trope is a bookish child going through a bad home life or who doesn't fit in at school.

The way this woman talked about books felt like the way wine connosieurs talk about wine. Like you appreciate their passion, but you can't help feeling like their ability to have this relationship to wine comes from a fundamental place of privilege. And you might have come to love wine later in life too, but you had to come at it from a reeeeeally different angle.

All of that said, here's a random passage from the book that I really loved:

Who but an Englishman, Lieutenant William Edward Parry, would have decided, on reaching western Greenland, to wave a flag painted with an olive branch in order to ensure a peaceful first encounter with the polar Eskimos, who not only had never seen an olive branch but had never seen a tree? Who but an Englishman, the legendary Sir John Franklin, could have managed to die of starvation and scurvy along with all 129 of his men in a region of the Canadian Arctic whose game had supported an Eskimo colony for centuries? When the corpses of some of Franklin's officers and crew were later discovered, miles from their ships, the men were found to have left behind their guns but to have lugged such essentials as monogrammed silver cutlery, a backgammon board, a cigar case, a clothes brush, a tin of button polish, and a copy of The Vicar of Wakefield. These men may have been incompetent bunglers, but, by God, they were gentlemen.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,763 reviews1,218 followers
July 17, 2007
This is one of my favorite books. The daughter of Clifton Fadiman can write! These are wonderful essays about life, family, and most importantly, about books & reading. All are interesting & written beautifully, and they also have a lot of warmth & humor. This is a book worth owning to be able to reread certain essays every once in a while.

This book is a perfect gift for anyone who enjoys reading, books, and language.
Profile Image for Mohammad.
349 reviews297 followers
January 18, 2020
یک. عاشق کتاب‌هایی هستم که در مورد کتاب‌ها نوشته شده‌اند
دو. در نگاه اول فکر می‌کردم با نوشته‌های وبلاگی یک کتابخوان معمولی طرفم؛ اما با نویسنده‌ای مواجه شدم که یک کتابخوان بسیار حرفه‌ای و ریزبین و خوش‌صحبت است
سه. حسی که به کتاب داشتم آمیزه‌ای از همذات پنداری و حسرت بود
Profile Image for Tristan.
112 reviews233 followers
May 15, 2017
“Some friends of theirs had rented their house for several months to an interior decorator. When they returned, they discovered that their entire library had been reorganized by color and size. Shortly thereafter, the decorator met with a fatal automobile accident. I confess that when this story was told, everyone around the dinner table concurred that justice had been served.”

Books about books - or the reading experience in general - I am known to have mighty trouble saying no to. In fact, I gobble them up whenever and wherever I can find them. After all, isn't an addict bound to feel a lot less bad about himself if he can point to others who share his compulsion? Of this “genre”, Anne Fadiman’s 'Ex Libris - Confessions of a Common Reader' regularly enters the conversation, and indeed came highly recommended to me from sources I tend to respect and trust (I still do, no worries).

Oh, how I wish I enjoyed this more than I ultimately did. It is quite odd, since I can't seriously fault Fadiman's work in any major way. Especially in terms of her prose - elegant and a pleasure to read - I find her to be rather excellent. It's me, not you, Anne.

For while this collection is quite charming, witty and definitely relatable enough in those passages in which the obsessive nature of the reading life are detailed, it didn’t enthrall me the whole way through. I found there was a tad too much of a focus on Fadiman's personal life and other subjects not strictly book-related, which frankly didn't do much for me. Undoubtedly, this might be a case of me having had wrong expectations.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that I can’t quite relate to Fadiman's situation as she places nearly everything in that context of her personal life events (most of it involving her longtime husband and children). Nothing wrong with that of course, though I suspect that individuals who have actually gone through these major life phases, would connect more with it. I, for now at least, do not, though I appreciate the sentiment.

I'm thinking back on Henry Miller’s The Books in My Life, which has a radically different approach to be sure, but eloquently evangelizes this most gentle of mania’s from the perspective of someone not classically educated, like Fadiman was. The two make for a marked, yet intriguing contrast, since they are both talking about the same subject: the all-consuming passion for literature.

The French saying 'Des goûts et des couleurs, on ne discute pas', I just realize, is applicable here. Cheerleaders, of whatever stripe, for this passion, must always be welcomed, for they are truly doing God's work (or at least the closest thing to it).
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,612 reviews2,582 followers
February 17, 2021
Like many a bibliophile, I have a soft spot for books about books. However, I’m also a real stickler about them, because all too often they make common mistakes: they’re too generic or too obscure in their points of reference, they slip into plot summary and include spoilers, or they alienate the reader by presenting the author as being on another echelon. Fadiman, though, is a very relatable narrator in these expanded versions of 18 essays originally written for publication in Civilization, the Library of Congress magazine that ran from 1994 to 2000. (Can you imagine, your own bookish column in which you could write whatever you like?!) Her father was the well-known intellectual Clifton Fadiman. Theirs was a family of book-obsessed, vocabulary-loving, trivia-spouting readers, and she was also crafting her own with her husband and two young children.

I saw my family – especially my mother and myself – in a number of these pieces: in “The Joy of Sesquipedalians,” about the love of obscure words and word games played on a board or along with the television (I was a spelling bee champion and we’re all Scrabble fiends to a greater or lesser extent), in “Insert a Caret [Inset a Carrot],” about compulsive proofreading, “The Catalogical Imperative,” about a build-up of print catalogues and the different selves one can imagine using the products therein, and “Secondhand Prose,” about collecting used books.

There’s one respect in which I differ from the Fadiman family, though. Tom Mole’s The Secret Life of Books had reminded me of Fadiman’s division of readers into “courtly” and “carnal” lovers of books: the courtly ones like myself keep a book pristine, while the carnal ones use and abuse them however they wish. She introduces this piece with an episode from a family trip to Copenhagen when she was a teenager. Her brother had left a book open, facedown, on the bedside table at their hotel and the next day they found that the chambermaid had carefully put a marker at the right page, closed the book, and set a note on top reading, “Sir, you must never do that to a book.” I wholeheartedly agree. While I always say “your books, your rules” to other readers, I would have to suppress a cringe at dog-earing, reading in the bath, cracking the spine, tearing out pages, doodling in the margins, etc.

What I can get on board with, though, is the love of books as both narratives and physical objects. In the former camp, you get essays on books about polar exploration, sonnets, outdated guides to femininity, food literature, and reading aloud. On the latter, you’ll hear about her New York City apartment groaning with books absorbed from her husband’s and father’s collections, the good and bad of inscriptions, and Prime Minister William Gladstone’s tips for storing books. Two essays have not aged well: one on a beloved pen (though she acknowledges this was already multiply outdated by that time, by the typewriter and then by the computer she now uses for composition) and especially one on the quandary of gender-neutral pronouns (as opposed to “every man for himself” types of constructions) – nowadays we have no qualms about employing “them” for the unknown and the nonbinary.

My favorite essay overall was “You Are There,” about the special joy of reading on location. Additional irony points for Joe Biden being mentioned in the piece on plagiarism! I’d read this from a library before, perhaps in 2008 or so, and ordered a secondhand copy from Awesomebooks.com as a treat to self early this year. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around and certain essays will reward additional future rereadings, too.
Profile Image for Elahe.
195 reviews60 followers
February 7, 2019
من عاشق خوندن کتاب‌هاییم که درباره کتاب و کتابخوانی نوشته شدن.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,308 reviews758 followers
December 17, 2015
Yet another case of had I read this book a mere few years ago, four stars would have been a guarantee, five if I was feeling especially forlorn due to few real life acquaintances even liking the concept of a book, let alone sharing my fervent devotion for the written word in bound and paged form. Alas, while I added this book more than two years ago, I didn't get around to a finally acquired copy till now, and the three stars would need a great deal of this way or that motion to raise or lower it to any noticeable extent.

It's not as if any of the contained essays diverge from the wide range of topics allotted by literary pursuits intertwining with a single life. Long words, odd choices in reading, writing utensils, secondhand books, and so much more; all familiar, especially the feminist section regarding the rampant word usage devoted to the 'everyman' and all the thought patterns spawned from it. Recognizable, yes, but as a reference, a greeting card, a moment of equal experience in terms of the letter but as the spirit, well. Every essay reached the pinnacle of polite 'Ah yes, I know what you mean' and ultimately shied away from the ecstatic 'Oh my god you understand me.' As the latter is what I set out in search for with every piece of writing, my flattered sensibilities did not prevent me from being disappointed.

The worst part of the disappointment is the faceted aspect of it, as with every essay it was always something different that niggled and nagged and refused to let me enjoy this book about books, a genre that seems perfectly tailored for me but has proved itself as hit and miss as the rest. For summary purposes, I will put it in terms of disliking something based on not being able to empathize with the characters, a judgment that I usually don't hold by but am apparently substantially affected by when it comes to more autobiographical works. As said before, I'm easily distracted from such things by beautiful prose/powerful themes/etc etc, but here, the word of the day is 'cute', riddled too often with worms of 'trite'.

Of course, I'm well aware that I take books far too seriously, viewing them as more as life-changing receptacles of glorious potential than anything else, and am easily tired by nitpicking such as anal proofreading, worries over grammatical feminism interfering with the 'heedless grace' of language (methinks this one needs more critical theory regarding ideologies and the rest), and woebegone nostalgia for the paper and pen and/or typewriter, to name but a few. If my usage of a laptop for all my compositions makes all of said works 'prolix' (aka self-indulgent and a whole host of popularly imposed no-no's, unwritten but heavily implied), so be it. It's a silly thing to be bothered about, I know, but warm familiarity is chilled ever so quickly by gate-keeping, no matter how subtle or unintentional.

Besides, with my reading habits I rarely get the chance to be easily annoyed to a superficial extent in my reviews, so I will gladly sacrifice this flitting tome for the sake of the classics and all the rest. For all those admirers of my 'prolix' prose, that one's for you.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,234 reviews169 followers
March 28, 2022
“Books wrote our life story, and as they accumulated on our shelves (and on our windowsills, and underneath our sofa, and on top of our refrigerator), they became chapters in it themselves.”

The vagaries of finding books that speak to you. This one came my way when I read an article in the Slightly Foxed quarterly about the author’s memoir about her father, told through his love of wine. A mention was also made of these essays... Well, my interest was definitely piqued.

I absolutely loved this little collection, recognising many aspects of the author’s love of books and literature, quirks I share. Many made me smile and even laugh. Fadiman’s family life was also such a fascinating one, one steeped in literature, and felt as alien as can be to me. I'm the only voracious bookworm in a family of non readers - yep, a cuckoo - and no, my husband is not a reader either, and I don’t hold it against him (no library merging, thank heavens).

Unsurprisingly, I shall be getting that memoir now (The Wine Lover's Daughter: A Memoir).
August 28, 2021
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4.5 stars

“Books wrote our life story, and as they accumulated on our shelves (and on our windowsills, arid underneath our sofa, and on. top of our refrigerator), they became chapters in it themselves. How could it be otherwise?”

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is a delightful and uplifting ode to bibliophiles.
Anne Fadiman's collection of charmingly written essays examine the way in which much of her life was (and is still) shaped by books.
Fadiman pays attention to the physical spaces they occupy. For example, in her first essay,“Marrying Libraries”, she tells us of how she and her husband became truly married when they almost reluctantly 'merged' their collections). In “Never Do That to a Book” she presents us with the many ways books are and can be handled (there are those who *ahem* like me *ahem* are somewhat strict about 'correct' book handling....and there are the scribblers and benders of spines, such as Fadiman's brother and father, who will happily leave their books laying open or facedown). Fadiman also details the seemingly invisible ways in which books can influence us, our worldview, our sense of self, and the relationships we have with other people (books play a dominant role in Fadiman's marriage and family) becoming something akin to a language or a means of communication.

This love letter to books is written in a diverting prose. Fadiman's style is amusingly anachronistic, and offers a wide range of humour that can swiftly switch from cheerful to ironic.
Fadiman’s witty observations combined with her knowledge and enthusiasm for her subjects (books, bibliophilia, grammar), make for a very interesting book on books, one that I would happily read again.

“This model of readers as consumers—one I have abetted in many a book review myself—neatly omits what I consider the heart of reading: not whether we wish to purchase a new book but how we maintain our connections with our old books, the ones we have lived with for years, the ones whose textures and colors and smells have become as familiar to us as our children’s skin.”

Profile Image for Nariman.
165 reviews76 followers
December 31, 2019
این کتاب مجموعهٔ شرح‌وبسط‌یافتهٔ چندین مقاله است دربارهٔ کتاب، لذت کتاب‌خوانی و برخی جنبه‌های همزیستی با حجم انبوهی کتاب؛ از لذت بلندخوانی برای دیگران بگیر تا دغدغه‌های چگونه چیدن کتاب، از چرخ زدن در دست‌ دوم فروشی و یافتن تصادفی کتابی نادر تا مسئله جنسیت در نگارش انگلیسی.

جالبه که ویلیام گلداستون، نخست‌وزیر قرن ۱۹ بریتانیا، اونقدر وقت داشته که رساله‌ای در باب چگونه منظم‌کردن کتاب‌ها نوشته و سیستم رف‌چینی‌ای پیشنهاد داده که مردم در خانه‌هاشون نصب کنند. چرا؟ «تا در چند قرن آینده، کتابخانه‌های عظیمِ اهالی بریتانیا، جمعیتش را به دریاهای پیرامون نریزد.» حیف که دنیا کلا در مسیر عکس حرکت کرده.

اکثر نوشته‌ها فرح‌بخش بودند و به‌شدت ملموس. هرکسی که به عشق کتاب مبتلا باشه، این کتاب کوتاه رو احتمالا باب طبعش خواهد یافت.
به کتاب‌های زیادی اشاره میشه، خصوصا ادبیات قرن ۱۷ تا ۱۹ انگلیس که امیدوارم به‌مرور سراغشون برم
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,738 reviews1,468 followers
January 20, 2015
This book is primarily a book of humor. There are 18 essays, all of which are related to books and you and me, the people who read them. It is a book about us! Of course some essays are better than others. The majority had me laughing, but not all. How do you organize your library? Are you a courtly book-lover or a carnal one? I am carnal, meaning that I write in my books and don't hesitate one second to use then for other purposes. They follow me around, get dirty, squished in bags, are taken to the beach. It is their content not their matter that interests me!

It IS hard to sit down and listen to one funny essay after another; one even tires of laughing. If you can read one-a-day, that might be a better alternative. I prefer long books where you meet people and get to know them well. Here you only learn a teeny bit about the author's family, but very, very little and not enough to create a personal interest in them.

I am really turning into an audiobook maniac. I prefer these over paper books since I can take my Ipod with me anywhere. This one has excellent narration by Suzanne Toren. Please note that she fact reads the lists, mail-order catalogs and footnotes. This is all part of the book's content, and the intent is humorous. Some catalogs read as poetry. They really do, at least if you have a sense of humor! Do you read post-order catalogs? I don't, but I know for a fact that others in my family do!

3 stars, a fun quick read, but not remarkable literature.
Profile Image for Daniela.
167 reviews90 followers
January 15, 2019
Like many books of essays this one was hit and miss. There were great essays and others that were more on the average side. However, overall, it's a very enjoyable read especially for the glimpses that Anne Fadiman give us of what it is to be born into a literary family, and how benefitial it is to surround oneself with books since childhood. I'll definitely be looking for other books by Ms. Fadiman, especially the recently published memoir about her relationship with her father, the intellectual Clifton Fadiman.
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