Ex Libris

Last night i finished Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman. It is a wonderful little book of essays about books and reading.

The essays were originally written over a few years and published in book form in 1998. My favorite may very well be the first one, "Marrying Libraries", which is about Fadiman and her husband finally combining their books after several years of marriage. B and I still haven't unpacked the books. We wandered the apartment this morning looking for one he couldn't remember if he had or not. Most of the boxes i popped open and went "nope, these are mine" or "I might have put a book in this box, let's see" but we never did find it.

Other essays that i responded to were "The Literary Glutton", about words as nourishment, and "Second hand Prose", about the joys of used books. Fadiman and i have some of the same attitudes towards books and reading so perhaps that's why i enjoyed these essays so much. I have had this same experience she mentions in "My Ancestral Castles", even without having kids:
when i walk into an apartment with books on the shelves, books on the bedside tables, books on the floor, and books on the toilet tank, then I know what I would see if I opened the door that says PRIVATE-GROWNUPS KEEP OUT: a child sprawled on the bed, reading.
maybe it is just me but i found her essays beautiful and also melancholy. Most gave me tears in my eyes at the very end. a 7. Go read it.


  1. Hahaha, I can't tell you how many times I've thought about moving in with someone and how much it terrifies me to have to put my books on the same shelf as that person :p Because I don't know if I could have two shelves :p I'm so OCD that they'd probably have to be all on one shelf and alphabetized. I really need to read this book!!

  2. Wonderful!!! This is one of my favorite essay collections, followed ever so closely by her next collection, At Small, At Large. You MUST read that one. I've put both books on my Christmas wish list. If Santa doesn't pull through for me, I'll be tracking them down on my own. I've read both through twice and want to own my very own copies.

    Is this the one that has the essay on her Odd Shelf? I love that one. I think about it often and wonder what my odd shelf category might be.

  3. Chris- well i am not at all OCD; all our books are still in boxes. We've kinda avoided that question yet as we just haven't unpacked them yet. My only personal organization thing is that unread is separate from read and graphic novels go together. but i am flexible on that.

    Carl- heh, this is the one with the Odd Shelf essay. Mine is probably philosophy, i love it and probably have 2 dozen books on the subject. i picked up At Small and At Large from the library today too!

  4. Glad to hear it, I expect you will enjoy it as well.


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