Book Review: Off the Bookshelf

Anne Fadiman

Off the Bookshelf

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

by Anne Fadiman

Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 162 pp., $10 (paper)

For those whose appetite for the written word has them reading the backs of shampoo bottles and cereal boxes for a fix, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, a humorous field guide to the culture and compulsion of reading, is a reassuring arrival. Elaborating on the capitulations and compromises inherent in blending book collections with a loved one, Fadiman, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner and editor of The American Scholar, also makes a case for books as "shims, doorstoppers, gluing weights and rug-flatteners" or, particularly among hungry children, as snacks. Essentially, Ex Libris praises the consumption of books and all their intellect-inducing capabilities, and Fadiman easily persuades those who can't understand the lovely tangibility of a weathered paperback or the value of a neglected series about Arctic exploration. But, for the rest of us whose beds are moguled by half-finished novels and earmarked memoirs, who buy extra copies for loaning and can't bear a book-less flight, we recognize Ex Libris as the celebration it is.

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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman

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