I’d like to think I’m not particularly fussy when it comes to picking books to read. That I like to read widely and experimentally. And while this is broadly true, it’s also fair to say that I am a judgemental bitch who definitely makes snap decisions about books without sufficient evidence to back up said decisions. So, in the interests of calling me out on this terrible habit of mine, here are my top ten book turn-ons for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday: the things that will make me want to read a book straight away, laid bare.
This year, the world is going Shakespeare-mad. Or, at least, that’s what British tourism companies and theatre troupes the world over are hoping as we mark four hundred years since the Bard shuffled off this mortal coil, and about four hundred and fifteen years since he wrote the phrase “shuffled off this moral coil”. Last Saturday, the 23rd of April, was the official date, which by all accounts was met with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for football matches or the final episode of The Great British Bake-Off.
In Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company held a two-hour event to celebrate the work of Britain’s best-known playwright. As I settled in to watch a show which featured British theatre royalty (and, indeed, some actual royalty too), I began thinking about the way that Shakespeare has settled into our collective understanding of literature, culture, and art.
In the realm of experimental fiction, there are two kinds of books: Clever Books and Books That Are Too Clever For Their Own Good. And Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller comes very close to being a Book That Is Too Clever For Its Own Good.
I first decided I wanted to read this book when I read a quote from the novel in Umberto Eco’s The Infinity of Lists. It’s a fabulous description of a character entering a bookshop. In Calvino’s hands this simple action is transformed into a kind of military assault: