Matilda Reviews: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

exlibrisI love books about books.

I just can’t get enough. I love reading books about what other people love about books. I love knowing that there are other readers out there who love books as much as I do, who collect books as obsessively as I do, and whose houses are as packed with books as mine is. I love all of that.

(I also couldn’t help loving the title, as I have an “ex libris” tattoo.)

If you love that, too, then you will definitely enjoy Anne Fadiman’s collection of essays about her reading life.

Anne’s essays are funny, insightful looks into various aspects of book-loving. She discusses the difficulty she had in finally “marrying” her library with her husband’s. She  writes about growing up in a book-loving, vocabulary-expanding family; about the woes of being a compulsive proofreader; about the pleasures of long and sometimes archaic words; about the agony of penning the perfect inscription inside a book cover. Her essays are funny, clever, and peppered with interesting words. (I definitely expanded my vocabulary while reading.)


I feel a sort of kindred spirit in Anne. I kept seeing bits of myself in her—especially in the way she physically treats her books. To her, books are meant to be loved, and loved hard. They’re meant to be handled, cried over, eaten over, and written in.

The Fadiman family believed in carnal love. To us, a book’s words were holy, but the paper, cloth cardboard, glue, thread, and ink that contained them were a mere vessel, and it was no sacrilege to treat them as wantonly as desire and pragmatism dictated. Hard use was a sign not of disrespect but of intimacy.

To me, a sign of a good book is how close the cover is to falling off. I’ve never understood people who want to keep their books looking pristine, and I’ve always felt a little bit guilty about not being afraid to really manhandle my books. After reading Ex Libris, though, I feel affirmed.

This is a quick and very entertaining read for book lovers everywhere.


3 thoughts on “Matilda Reviews: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman”

  1. Isn’t it funny how all of us book lovers have different views on whether to keep the book looking new or not? I’m in the keep it looking like new camp although I don’t shun second-hand books with a little wear and tear 😉

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