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on 17 January 2009
This lovely little volume is a collection of essays about books and reading - not just generalisations but deeply personal habits and experiences, such as reading with her partner by the Grand Canyon and merging libraries with him when they moved in together. I bought it after finding it frequently quoted from in `The Book Addict's Treasury' (by Julie Rugg and Lynda Murphy); I found it very enjoyable and once again I recognised myself in much of it, but it is very obviously American and sometimes slips into exaggerated self-righteousness and almost religious fervour and enthusiasm, which is quite offputting.

All kinds of bookish behaviour is documented and explored within the eighteen essays. Some explore the various ways of shelving loved books - chronologically, alphabetically, by genre or some other method. Should your partner's books be merged with yours, and if so, when and how? Others look at the joy to be found in words - new words, magical words, complicated words. One discusses those books that just don't fit anywhere; one explores poetry; one entire essays explores the sinful habit of spread-eagling open books on a table instead of using a bookmark. One reflects on an ancient guide to womanhood and motherhood, hopelessly and terrifyingly out of date for a mother today. Some reflect on spelling, grammar, editing and storage. My favourite discusses the inscriptions made on the flyleaf of a book - and I have put extra thought into my own ever since! Recommended for book lovers everywhere.
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on 16 June 2004
This is far too short for such a delicious book. Now that I've finished reading it, I feel like an elephant who's been fed a small bowl of strawberries. Here are eighteen essays about loving books and the ostensibly eccentric behaviour of the book-besotted book-lover. I imagine anyone who would read this sort of book would probably identify with a fair number of the thoughts, feelings and activities Anne Fadiman confesses to in these essays. I confess to sharing some and aspiring to others. Also, I confess to envying the writer her wonderful, understanding, affectionate, bookish family. It took me about three weeks to read this small book, because I decided to ration myself to one essay per day, before going to work. It put me in a cheerful and contented state of mind and set me up for the day. Now I'm going to have to start it again.
I recommend this delightful and beautifully written book to anyone who loves books. You might like to have a good dictionary beside you when reading it. My vocabulary wasn't up to the job but my dictionary was on hand and now my vocabulary is a little bulkier than it was when I started.
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on 7 March 2017
one of the best and most thought provoking books I've ever read. this was bought for me as a present and I've bought it for countless people since. A brilliant little pressie for all 'readers' in your life. they will thank you. buy this.
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on 26 April 2017
Loved it.
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on 3 December 2009
Anne Fadiman is a journalist and writer who comes from strong literary genes. Her father Clifton Fadiman is a literary critic and personality, her mother is an author. She is even married to an author (the first essay in this collection is a funny piece about the merging or marrying of two peoples book collections as it appears they are both book hoarders - I liked them instantly) so she is definitely about the books and about words. Ex Libris is a collection of essays which mingle memories and book thoughts from her life in the past and current perspective.

When I know a book is meant to be a book about books, I want it to be just that. Plain and simply I want book thoughts, book thoughts and more book thoughts. This doesn't quite happen as much as you would think with this novel. In fact I would say the book is more a celebration of words both written and writing. There's an essay on sonnets, some feminist essays and a few on writing, grammar and words. The thing is though I didn't mind these slightly of the book subject essays because through her words I liked Anne Fadiman so much and wanted to read more about her. There are some great essays on books inside such as the marrying of books I mentioned before. She looks at reading in the places books are set, second-hand book buying joy (I am all for that) and you do leave with a list of books you want to read so all in all job accomplished.
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on 10 April 2001
As a rival publisher, it galls me to have to admit that this is a superb book - one that I would have loved to have published myself! For anyone remotely interested in books and reading, this is a must. Anne Fadiman writes warmly and wittily, and quite exquisitely, about her and her family's love of the written word. Definitely a book to keep by your bedside and one which you'll turn to again and again.
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on 24 January 2004
This short volume is ideal reading for any bibliophile. It contains eighteen essays, each six to eight pages in length – perfect for filling an otherwise idle ten minutes or so. Each one is unfailingly well written, funny and learned, and Fadiman is a lucid and likeable writer.
The essays are about the buying, collecting, organizing and reading of books – particularly engaging examples concern Fadiman and her husband finally deciding to combine their separate libraries; the various ways of marking a page (do you mark it with an object – and if so, what type of object? – or do you simply leave the book face down at the page?); the ‘Odd Shelf’ in one’s personal library (Fadiman describes the ‘Odd Shelf’ as ‘a small, mysterious corpus of volumes whose subject matter is completely unrelated to the rest of the library, yet which, upon closer inspection, reveals a good deal about its owner’); and the revealing nature of book inscriptions.
An especially attractive feature of the essays is how they reveal Fadiman’s bibliophilia not as a replacement for other emotional attachments (not an unknown characteristic of bibliophiles), but as highlighting the strength of her relationships with her husband, children, parents and friends. Ex Libris is an intensely human book about a relationship with objects.
Very enjoyable.
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VINE VOICEon 11 August 2007
This fabulous little book is a gift for anyone who has ever felt the slightest bit compulsive about books or their collection. The subject matter of Fadiman's essays runs a delightful gamut from fly-leaf inscriptions via plagiarism to her 'odd shelf', the section of books in a library which seem out of place with the rest of the collection, but in fact reveal much about their owner. She inspires many cries of "me too!" as well as genuine laughing out loud. I, too, believe that batteredness is a sign of love for a book, which leaves me terrified to borrow anything from my friend Jill, who, conversely, thinks that no punishment is bad enough for those who cause creases in paper spines. I learned that I am not the only person who corrects spellings on menus, nor am I the only person who longs to be systematic about the housing of her books (unfortunately, though, I am like Fadiman's husband George, and am pathologically incapable of keeping my books in any kind of order). I am supremely grateful, too, that I, like Fadiman, have a husband who appreciates that:

"In my view, nineteen pounds of old books are at least nineteen times as delicious as one pound of fresh caviar."

It would have been incredibly easy for this collection to become unbearably twee; Fadiman has ably avoided this, writing with such joy and kindness of her books and her people, it's impossible not to fall in love with this book. I shall be buying several copies as presents, and my copy is to receive the ultimate accolade of going to live in the bathroom.
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A book for book lovers. What could be better? Relax and enjoy the wit and wisdom of Ms Fadiman. Totally enjoyed this book and have brought a copy for my friends. One to share and to learn from. Plus, perhaps, learn the meaning of a few words you didn't know!
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on 17 February 2003
There is a certain type of person who will fill their house with books. A certain type of person who knows the smell of old, dusty books in a second-hand bookshop - the smell of old hardbacks, a slightly acid, starchy smell with a jint of dust and leather. There is a certain type of person who will read junk mail, catalogues or even the writing on a pack of candy rather than be left wordless. There is a type of person who loves the feel of words in the mouth. Anne Fadiman is one of those people, and everyone who loves books will feel a flicker of recognition with every one of the essays contained in this volume.
I bought my copy in the British Library, and read it in the cafe there, facing a wall of books that I was itching to be allowed to feel and finger. Her reminisces of the colour of books (Roald Dahl was always mauve, for instance) made me feel suddenly more aware of how books stir many more senses than you'd expect. Another essay on combining libraries with a lover is more like a poem on the nature of long-term love than an account of a dry process.
This volume is indeed slim, but every sentence is precious and every essay revealing. This book will inspire your own reading and make you realise things that you always knew about books and words ina beautiful way. Essential for all bibliophiles.
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