Title: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (Goodreads)
Author: Anne Fadiman
Narrator: Suzanne Toren
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998
My Copy: Audiobook
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository, Kindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)
Anne Fadiman has often stated that she learned about sex from her father’s copy of Fanny Hill (correct title for this book is Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland. Ex Libris (which is Latin for ‘from books’) is a collection of essays that recounts her life and her love affair with books. This collection of personal essays documents her life and those small problems only a fellow book lover would truly understand. Like when Anne and her husband finally decided to merge libraries five years into their marriage in the essay “Marrying Libraries”.
I have to admit, I love Anne Fadiman; she is the embodiment of everything I want to be as a reader. She is smart, witty, a little wry and can talk about books with great passion and intelligence. She does come across as pretentious and throws in some quotes in French just to show off, however her writing is so beautiful and she talks about books, not just as a personal experience but also includes some literary criticism.
This collection recounts a lifelong love affair she had with books; exploring the joys and passion that comes with being a book lover. I love how she talks about books in the form of personal essays; it gives me a whole new concept about writing. I obviously knew about personal essays in the past but something about this book just opened my eyes and made me think “I should be doing this”. The way she talks about her reading journey in a collection of connecting essays is wonderful; it turns the book not into a linear progression but rather focuses each essay on an experience or book.
You might have noticed that when I review books I tend to put a bit of my personal life and journey into the blog post. The style suits me and because I want to think of my book blog as a personal journal into my reading life, I feel it fits that theme. Anne Fadiman has a similar idea but in the form of essays and she puts my writing to shame; I now aspire to write as elegantly as she does with wit and beauty within each essay. I am nowhere near where I want to be but practise makes perfect; right?
This is the kind of collection I plan to read over and over again. I obviously love books and Anne Fadiman has obviously set the bar high for future books. I started reading memoirs from bibliophiles because I wanted to learn different ways to talk about books. Ex Libris has taught me so much more about books and just reminds me how much I love books about books. I have a whole heap of other memoirs to read and to be honest reading about people’s reading life has given me an appreciation for memoirs in general. I want to read more styles; not just readers but writers and then progress to other types of creativity. I remember starting the year struggling through non-fiction but it looks like I am ending this year with a completely new attitude towards them.