Tuesday 3 July 2007

50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About

Thank you for all your comments yesterday, much appreciated! We're still all very chuffed here - oh, and do keep contributing your name to the BAFAB draw until the end of the week. Will probably do the draw on Sunday.

It's been quite a while since I added another book to the '50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About', which are listed down the left-hand column of this page - so today I'm going to add the eleventh. This one was a cert from the offset.

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman. This was the first book I ever bought new on impulse. That sound
s like I have admirable restraint in book purchasing, but I think you know me well enough to despute that allegation - rather, my impulse-purchases are almost always secondhand books. But this one I couldn't leave on the shelf.

The book is quite small, in length and height - a pocket book, if you will. The subtitle is 'Confessions of a Common Reader', and anyone who has manoeuvred themselves to a website with the words 'Stuck', 'in', 'a', and 'Book' in the title will be entranced. In bitesize chapters, just perfect for one-a-night-before-bed, Fadiman explores the foibles and activites of the book obsessed. You'll recognise the lot.

My favourite section is 'Never Do That To A Book':

'When I was elevn and my brother was thirteen, our parents took us to Europe. At the Hotel d'Angleterre in Copenhagen, as he had done virtually every night of his literate life, Kim left a book facedown on the bedside table. The next afternoon, he returned to find the book closed, a piece of paper inserted to mark the page, and the following note, signed by the chambermaid, resting on its cover:


Don't know ab
out you, but I'm cheering on the chambermaid. The chapter divides readers into 'Courtly Lovers' and 'Carnal Lovers'; the latter are happy to use their books as table-wedges, tennis rackets or surf-boards, the former wouldn't let a biro within ten metres. I'm definitely Courtly... how about you?

Ex Libris is a witty, warm collection of essay-anecdotes, a perfect gift for something bookish, but equally a perfect gift to yourself. Find out about The Odd Shelf, Literary Gluttony, and the Joy of Sesquipedalians, and scream in recognition at every page.


  1. I’m against it and I don’t see why tax payers should fund such nonsense anyway.

  2. Slightly confused by this comment...

  3. I am certainly a 'Courtly Lover' of books, and would not dream of maltreating them. My father, in his day an avid collector of books, once found a book in a second-hand shop which had a rasher of bacon in it - he assumed it was a book mark!

    Peter the flautist

  4. There is a passage in Ex Libris which says something about marriage being the conjoining of two libraries; that was certainly true for us!

  5. Excellent choice. I read this earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it! Definitely a book any book lover can appreciate.

  6. One of my favorite books - I felt she knew me and had probably been looking over my shoulder for years. :-)
    Anne Fadiman and her husband, George Howe Colt, live nearby (I'm in Amherst MA). I met them at one of the Univ.of Massachsetts Friends of the Library dinners. Authors (local or fairly nearby) speak and mingle with the guests. They're very nice people and friendly. You'd like her in person.
    I'm both a "courtly" and a "carnal" reader - depends on the book. There are some that I just have to mark certain things in. After many years of thinking I should never mark in a book, it was actually quite a liberating feeling to do it. It's mine! I can do it.

  7. Loved, loved, loved this book. Bennett's The Uncommon Reader gave me a similar groove.

  8. Funnily enough, I just wrote a blog about this chapter (albeit two years after this entry). I wonder if you will ever see this comment?

    I ADORE this book and reread it every few years.

    I was Googling the Persphone Book Club in Oxford and discovered you.


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