The Sections of a Bookstore

atkins-bookshelf-literaturePublished in 1979, If on a winter’s night a traveler, is an inventive novel by Italo Calvino that alternates between a narrator and ten different writers, weaving a rich tapestry about the interconnectedness of reading and writing, the relationship of beginning and continuing. Each of the numbered chapters (1-12) is written by a narrator, writing in the second person, describing what is happening to the novel’s reader (you). The chapter that immediately follows is the beginning of ten different novels (from different genres, including a mystery, a lover story, a mock biography, a political satire) written in the first person.

In 2009, The Telegraph, ranked Calvino’s novel 69th in their list of “100 Novels Everyone Should Read.” The book is a favorite among bibliophiles for obvious reasons; however one of the most popular passages comes from Chapter One, where the narrator describes how you navigate through the different sections of a bookstore: “In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which are frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you…” In total, Calvino identifies 22 different sections in a bookstore. So next time, dear reader, when you are in a bookstore, see if you can identify all of these:

Books You Haven’t Read

Books You Needn’t Read

Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading

Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written

Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered

Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First

Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered

Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback

Books You Can Borrow From Somebody

Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too.

Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages

Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success

Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment

Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case

Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer

Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves

Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read

Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them

New Books Whose Author Or Subjects Appeals To You

New Books by Authors Or On Subjects Not New

New Books by Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown

Read related posts: I Am What Libraries Have Made Me
If You Love a Book, Set it Free
The Library without Books
The Power of Literature 

For further reading: If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino (translated by William Weaver), Knopf (1993) 


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