Review: Ex Libris

Most of you voted for Ex Libris in my poll, so here’s my review (finally!) 🙂 Great choice really, as it is the perfect book for bibliophiles. I’ve been exasperated with my library for not acquiring it or Fadiman’s other works. Luckily for me, Vishy is super nice and sent me Ex Libris. Thanks so much!

Now, Ex Libris is a collection of essays, in which Fadiman addresses all that is essential (to a book lover). Right from the beginning I was eyeing this slim volume with trepidation, why did it have to be so small!? If I had had an audience, they might have been fascinated by my mix of devouring and savouring this book. I did try to make this one last as long as possible but I’m not at all the savouring kind of reader, no discipline!

I suspect you all have read Fadiman’s works ages ago, I’m always the last to discover anything, but I completely loved this book! Fadiman writes about joining her library with that of her husband, sesquipedalians, odd shelves, dedications and inscriptions and much more. How do you join libraries? I think that really is the ultimate commitment for bibliophiles 😀 And I love that Fadiman loves sesquipedilians and shared some favorites in that essay. Bookworms are probably by default word people, or is that a prejudice? I know one of my most treasured books is one of English synonyms and antonyms and whenever I stumble upon a particularly great word I note it down in a journal (my favorite at the moment is tatterdemalion, that word has so much character!).

One of the most interesting essays was the one about odd shelves, Fadiman is keen on Arctic explorers. I’m not sure what mine is, what would others consider odd, what stands out from my other books? What is your odd shelf? Fadiman’s essay about compulsive editing was also great fun. If I didn’t have a thing about writing in books (see post on “Never do that to a Book?”), I would probably mark typos and mistakes with a red pen as well. Of course they happen, but more than two typos in one book set my teeth on edge and distract me from reading.

Fadiman writes about reading about places while you’re there which sounded great to me at first but now I realize that I don’t ever do that. I like to read about places I’ve been to or places I am going to soon, but never about the place I am at (except for travel guides). That might be because I want to really focus on experiencing the place for myself while I am there. Do you ever read while you’re there?

The essay about how everything has been said before and the resulting problem of plagiarism was especially fun, Fadiman shows that the only thing that makes footnotes even better is sarcasm! And this panic about not being able to say anything new reminded me of writing my first paper at uni 😀 We were lectured so severely about plagiarism that I thought the only way to avoid doing that would be by putting the complete paper into quotation marks.

Apart from these interesting topics Fadiman chose for her essays, what made this book so great was Fadiman herself. I was afraid I would find her condescending and come to resent her but her voice was so warm and likeable and not arrogant at all. I found I could enjoy reading about her bookish upbringing and family without thinking of them as a bunch of intellectual snobs but instead became fond of them and their games of guess this quote’s source. Luckily I have Fadiman’s other book, At Large and At Small on my shelf (thanks to the wonderful Vishy!) and will read it soon.


Other Thoughts:

My Books. My Life

Rose City Reader

Fleur Fisher

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!