If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
by Italo Calvino
Back when I was in college this book had so much hype. Many of my fellow students and faculty members had nothing but the words of praise for this book and the author. As it happens when the book was so obviously praised and popular I had no desire to read it at the time. I let it slide into the background thinking I might give it a try someday. As it turns out I remembered this book when I was thinking about suggestions for my book club group that prefers more serious books. All I knew about it that it was praised in all the right circles to pass my book group standards and decided to moderate a meeting for this book.
This is in a sense a technical book so I feel I can explain something about the concept it was written in without spoiling much for the future readers. Firstly, it revolves about the main character named aptly Reader. Many trials and tribulations the Reader suffers trough in this book are already met by many passionate people who think of themselves as readers as well!
The book is written in twelve chapters about the Reader’s book adventures and after each chapter we are presented with one of ten first chapters of ten different novels. Each new novel chapter is what the Readers stumbles on while looking for a complete book he can finish reading.
What captured my attention right at the start were the categories the author has come up with to distinguish different types of books a Reader can personally get involved with. And these categories were what made our book club meeting a fun experience. We learned a lot about each others reading habits and quirks. There were even some intimate confessions involved!
At times one could feel the Reader’s frustration in his search to finish reading a story. What grated on me the hardest were new chapters that always left the Reader empty handed the moment things got most interesting!
Through the book there were some poignant and interesting quotes and thoughts that made this book worth of any passionate reader’s time.
I was not blown away by this book in general. There are some undeniable qualities in the form and art it was written in. What made me give it three stars instead of two I originally opted for was the great time I had while discussing the book on the book club meeting. Reading experience required a bit more concentration and involvement on my part than I prefer. I also noticed that i’m much harsher with the books I have to read for the book club…
“Reading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one yet knows what it will be.”
― Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler