Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

There is only one thing I like more than reading books, and that’s hearing or reading about how much people love reading books. It’s fascinating to see inside the mind of a fellow reader, especially when it feels unexpected.

Anne Fadiman’s love of books isn’t unexpected, I learnt this after the first essay. I hadn’t heard of her before, and she very much reminds me of Helene Hanff. An intellectual, erudite woman who absolutely loves to read. Reading to her is breathing to most people, her need to read starts at books and carries on through to catalogues and manuals. If it can be read, it will be read.

el“This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language. For Fadiman, as for many passionate 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.”

It’s hard not to feel inferior to Fadiman’s – and her friend’s – expansive knowledge. There were many words I wish I had underlined to look over later. But, how could she possibly not be so learned when he father encouraged the memory of words – often making the learning into a game. Reading was important, it was encouraged.

My own inferiority complex aside, reading about someone who loves to read as much as (well, more than) me was joyous. It’s like a trip down the rabbit hole with a friend, who understands how the smell and ownership of books and the reading of words is like a drug you can’t quit.

I encourage any book lover to read it and become, for 100 pages or so, best friends with Fadiman.

13 thoughts on “Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

  1. I liked this book so much more than I expected to! Even when she was talking about the way she loves books, which is utterly different to the way I love mine (respectfully, I like to think of it!), she was just so funny and cogent and interesting. And I am not generally a fan of essay collections.


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