Ex Libris Confessions of a Common Reader

Anne Fadiman

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

176 Pages



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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 nineteen pounds of dusty books for her birthday, and who once found herself poring over a 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only written material in her apartment that she had not read at least twice.

Ex Libris recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language. For Fadiman, as for many 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 twenty-two-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who considered herself truly married only when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marry Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of flyleaf inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proofreading, the allure of long words, and the satisfaction of reading aloud. Perfectly balanced between humor and erudition, Ex Libris establishes Fadiman as one of our finest contemporary essayists.


Praise for Ex Libris

"A terrifically entertaining collection of personal essays about books . . . Heartening, tender, wise, and hilarious."—Patsy Baudoin, The Boston Book Review

"In the literary Eden that forms Anne Fadiman's life, the air remains pure allusion, the marginalia flows, and the only snake in the grass is a typo."—Renee Tursi, The New York Times Book Review

"Each essay is a model of clarity and lightly worn erudition, and speaks volumes about the author’s appreciation for people as well as books."—The New Yorker

"A smart little book that one can welcome into the family and allow to start growing old.”—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

"A lovely collection of essays on a family's love affair with books and words, a passion passed from her parents to her children."—Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

In the Press

Revisiting the Backlist: Marrying Libraries | Book Keeping
A few months ago, my husband and I decided to mix our books together. We had known each other for ten years, lived together for six, been married for five. Our mismatched coffee mugs cohabited amiably; we wore each other's T-shirts and, in a pinch, socks; and our record collection had long ago miscegenated without an incident.... But our libraries had remained separate.

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Anne Fadiman is the author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, an L.A. Times Book Prize, and a Salon Book Award. She is also the author of the essay collection At Large and At Small and the editor of Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love. Her essays and articles have appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, among other publications. She is the Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale.
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  • Anne Fadiman

  • Anne Fadiman is the editor of The American Scholar. Recipient of a National Book Critics Circle Award for her first book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, she has written for the The New Yorker, Civilization, Harper's, Life, and The New York Times, among other publications. She lives in Massachusetts.
  • Anne Fadiman Connie Miller