Featured Readers

Each month we sit down for a chat with a ‘Featured Reader’, to find out about their favourite books of all time, their literary preferences, recommendations, revered authors, & the likes...

This Month

Jole Bortoli

Jole Bortoli

I have a collection of 18 different illustrated editions of 'Pinocchio' and still look for them in second hand bookshops and stalls.

Jole Bortoli

Jole, tell us a bit about yourself - where were you born? What memories do you have of your neighbourhood growing up?

I was born at home above the bar that my parents used to run, in a small village in Lombardy, Northern Italy, in 1952. Because of the bar we didn’t have a traditional family life, in a way it was very public. The only private place (apart from the bedrooms of course) was the kitchen, but it was small so our meals were consumed in the bar, where we also served food at lunchtime to working men. Both my parents cooked.

We were the first in the village to have a television so people came in to watch it in the evenings and as a consequence I knew most of the people. I have a good memory of that time and of some of the most interesting characters. If I try to visualise it, it looks a lot like the setting of a black and white Fellini’s movie of the 1950’s, La Strada.

What is your earliest memory of reading? Do you have a favourite book or author from childhood?

My parents worked from very early morning to late at night and had no time to read to me. There were very few books in the house anyway. When I learned to read in school I must have shown a strong interest in books because every Christmas there were always a couple of new books for my present. These had to last for the whole year, so I would read them several times, as well as re-reading the old ones.

As a very young reader, Pinocchio is the one book that has stayed with me to today. I have a collection of 18 different illustrated editions and still look for them in second hand bookshops and stalls.

Later, it was Little Women by L.M. Alcott that I loved. The story had all the elements needed to capture my vivid imagination: a loving household full of strong-minded, independent, caring and creative women. I particularly liked Jo, to whom at that time (I was possibly 9 or 10 when I read it first?) I felt a strong connection with. I wanted to grow up a Jo (and I think I did!).

Did you use your local library as a child ? Do you have a favourite library now or from your past?

There was no local library in my village or in the villages nearby. It was only when I went to secondary school in the city of Como that I entered a public library for the first time. I still remember the big rooms, the wooden shelves laden with books of all sorts. I thought I was in heaven.

Which of your books is battered and worn from using over and over again?

Il Talismano della Felicitá (The Talisman of Happiness), a classical Italian cookery book – a massive tome that I bought when I was a young woman. There are no pictures of photos, but it contains all you need to know about Italian cooking.

What are you reading right now?

I am reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I am reading an Italian translation of it that I found on my bookshelf while looking for something else. I’ve no memory of reading it in the past, so it feels new. I love the poor wretched monster!

I am also reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell which “tells the story of a group of working men who are joined one day by Owen, a journeyman-prophet with a vision of a just society.” I think it’s a brilliant book.

Is there a book you think every child should have on their shelf?

Pooh – The Complete Collection of Stories and Poems, which I only discovered when my daughter was small and would read to her. I love the illustrations by E. H. Shepard.

Is there a book that changed your perspective on something?

Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood. The best novel I ever read about bullying and misplaced childhood ‘female friendship’.

Which book do you feel depicts your own or another culture most vividly?

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. A book every Italian should read, so layered and rich for me to even try to explain my choice. Raw and tender at the same time.

What is your favourite book from an International writer?

The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse.I read it for the first time perhaps 10 years ago or more. The setting of the story is the boarding school of Waldzell, in the fictional province of Castalia in Central Europe. It is set in the future but, without futuristic technology, in fact it feels more medieval. The monastery-like atmosphere, the austerity and above all the pursuit of knowledge makes the story an irresistible read for me. I am so strongly attracted by the personality of the main character Joseph Knecht that I fear it might represent my alter ego.

I keep the book on my bedside table and reach for it every time I want to immerse myself in that atmosphere. It makes me feel content to imagine myself as a member of Waldzell. I dip in and out of it at random.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.

I like listening to the news in Irish although I don’t understand a single word of it. I just like the sound of the Irish language. It does something to me. I find it sexy.


The Books

We have been finding out about the books that matter to you, to grow this virtual bookshelf that represents the lives, families and culture of the people that call Dublin home. Here are a selection of some of the books that you have been telling us …

Share Your Favourites?

We want to hear about the books that matter to you. Tell us about your most cherished books, what you’re reading right now, your favourite book from your childhood, and the books that make up the story of your life. Share your recommended reads and take part here

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