Rating: 5/5

Book cover

Anne Fadiman, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998).

I just finished reading the most wonderful book! It came up in one of the editing mailing lists I subscribe to. (I wish I could remember who recommended it!) It’s a series of essays by Anne Fadiman (someone I had never heard of before) that talks about her and her family’s obsession with words, books, and reading. I knew from the very first page this was going to be fun. Every single essay elicited much loud laughter; in at least one case it was uncontrollable. But it wasn’t just funny. There were some very poignant moments as well. From the act of merging libraries to her secret obsession with mail-order catalogues, from the proofreading gene to what is and is not allowed to be done to a book, these essays are delicious! My academic friends will particularly enjoy the essay on plagiarism, and my editor friends will no doubt love the essay “Inset a carrot.” If you enjoy books and reading, then you really must go out and get this book right away. (Yes, it made it into my purchase queue.) I just can’t say enough good about it. I’m simply not eloquent enough. Go. Now. Go get it!

P.S. Why not throw out her little word list from pages 12 and 13. How many of these twenty-two do you know without looking them up? (I only knew 3, and I could only remember encountering “in the wild” a total of 5.)

monophysite, mephitic, calineries, diapason, grimoire, adapertile, retromingent, perllan, cupellation, adytum, sepoy, subadar, paludal, apozemical, camorra, ithyphallic, alcalde, aspergill, agathodemon, kakodemon, goetic, opapanax