Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review of the Day: Ex Libris

Ex Libris is Anne Fadiman’s “Confessions of a Common Reader,” a collection of essays on books, reading, and related foibles. She writes about particular books, but most of the essays are more generally book related, on topics such as marginalia, home libraries, inscriptions, compulsive proofreading, plagiarism, and fountain pens.

Fadiman on books is not laugh out loud funny like Nick Hornby in his book column for the Believer. But she is smart and warm-hearted and many a passage will make bibliophiles smile. For instance, her “Marrying Libraries” essay will touch a cord with anyone who has tried to merge their book collections with a live-in love. And most readers will recognize something in themselves when Fadiman describes her collection of books on Arctic exploration as her “Odd Shelf,” explaining:

It has long been my belief that everyone's library contains an Odd Shelf. On this shelf rests 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.

These kinds of observations will keep book lovers flipping the pages and wishing Fadiman had included more essays in this short book.

This is one of the books I read for the Bibliophilic Books Challenge.

I was bowled over by Fadiman's first book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, an anthropological classic about the clash between an Hmong family whose little girl has epilepsy and the Western doctors who tried to treat her. I never reviewed it because it was so overwhelming to me, but I recommend it highly.

(If you would like your review listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)

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