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Ex Libris
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About the Author

Anne Fadiman is editor of The American Scholar and an award-winning journalist. Her first book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down won the US National Book Critics Circle Award for Non-Fiction. She lives in New York City.

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The author of last year's NBCC-winning The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, has collected 18 essays about her relationships with books, reading, writing and words. Gathered from the "Common Reader" column Fadiman wrote for Civilization magazine, these essays are all inspired by interesting ideas‘how spouses merge their large libraries, the peculiar pleasures of reading mail-order catalogues, the joys of reading aloud, how people inscribe their books and why. Unfortunately, some of these fascinating ideas grow fussy. The minutiae of the shelving arrangements at the Fadiman household brings the reader to agree with the author's husband, who "seriously contemplated divorce" when she begged him to keep Shakespeare's plays in chronological order. The aggressive verbal games waged in Fadiman's (as in Clifton) family are similarly trying: They watched G.E. College Bowl, almost always beating the TV contestants; they compete to see who can find the most typos on restaurant menus; and adore obscure words such as "goetic" (pertaining to witchcraft). At least the author is self-aware: "I know what you may be thinking. What an obnoxious family! What a bunch of captious, carping, pettifogging little busybodies!" Well, yes, but Fadiman's writing, particularly in her briefer essays, is lively and sparkling with earthy little surprises: William Kunstler enjoyed writing (bad) sonnets, John Hersey plagiarized from Fadiman's mother. Books are madeleines for Fadiman, and like those pastries, these essays are best when just nibbled one or two at a time. (Oct.)

In this delightful collection of essays, Fadiman, the award-winning author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (LJ 9/1/97) and the new editor of The American Scholar, ponders on "how we maintain our connections with our old books, the ones we have lived with for years, the ones whose textures and colors and smells have become as familiar to us as our children's skin." Drawn from Fadiman's "Common Reader" column in Civilization magazine, these 18 pieces wittily explore her family's bibliomania. (Her father, Clifton Fadiman, was a founder of the Book of the Month Club.) From describing the trauma of marrying her personal library with her husband's ("my books and his books had become our books") to detailing the joy of browsing second-hand bookstores ("seven hours later, we emerged...carrying nineteen pounds of books"), Fadiman writes with an appealing warmth and humor. Highly recommended for bibliolaters and bibliophiles everywhere.‘Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"

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