I have always been attracted to books about books and reading. There is something that makes me feel connected to such books as a reader. There is always this sense of camaraderie that strikes within the first few pages and continues, perhaps for a lifetime. Writers are readers first, no matter what one says. I have always believed that they have this special relationship with books and reading and it is true. Authors who write about books and the experience of reading hold a very special in my heart, from Manguel to Borges to Fadiman. I always revisit “Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader” at least once a year and this time it had to come to me again.
“Ex-Libris” is a light, heart-warming, witty book of essays on the reader and what she goes through with a book and her experiences – from the past and the present. This book is a small gem – which you will cherish as a reader and go back to it again and again. The opening essay, “Marrying Libraries” always manages to leave that much needed smile on my face. In this one she speaks of her husband and her finally marrying their libraries after years of togetherness. It is stunningly heart-warming. Then there is another one called, “Never Do That To A Book” which had me in splits. She speaks of the reader who cannot bear a broken spine, though according to her, it is all about reading a book over and over again, the wear and tear that conveys your love to it.
Fadiman takes the reader through various phases of her life and at every phase she can only remember books and reading, more so for the kind of book this one is. From her odd shelf to the way she and her brother read, it is personal and yet the reader can connect with every turn of the page.
Anne Fadiman’s writing is not intimidating. She doesn’t speak of books and reading like an academician. She connects with her readers and that is most needed, because she is a reader first. It is almost infusing ourselves into the novels we love and have loved over a period of time. It is about reconnecting with your bookshelves, to pick up the books you have loved and cherish them all over again.
Here are some lovely quotes from the book:
“If you truly love a book, you should sleep with it, write in it, read aloud from it, and fill its pages with muffin crumbs.”
“I have never been able to resist a book about books.”
“Books wrote our life story, and as they accumulated on our shelves (and on our windowsills, and underneath our sofa, and on top of our refrigerator), they became chapters in it themselves.”
“In my view, nineteen pounds of old books are at least nineteen times as delicious as one pound of fresh caviar.”