things I love in books for no good reason
I love books that take place in Italy, because I love Italy.
I love books that are set on an island, because I similarly love islands. A book that takes place on Sicily ought to be ideal (an island and in Italy), but curiously, no.
I love books that have an artist as the protagonist, but you know that the artist is just a stand-in for the writer him or herself because he or she thinks they've been very clever. ( I know the grammar lapsed here, but I just couldn't stand another "he or she.") An example is Violet Clay, by Gail Godwin, which isn't the greatest book in the world (although it's not bad either), but which I've read at least 10 times.
I love archaeology or anthopology in a book, because I once thought I'd be an anthropologist and it makes me nostalgic. I like reading about digs--I never went on one, a great disappointment to me at the time, but I don't think I would have liked it. Meticulously brushing dirt from something that might be a bone doesn't sound like much fun, although all the partying I heard that happened on digs might have been.
I love books by Russian authors--a little gloom, characters that talk a lot and are humorously philosophical, the magic of the steppes--all good.
I love anything by Muriel Spark, because she is so smart and does such wonderful dialogue and is so supremely confident a writer that she doesn't bother to explain much of anything, but you accept it because she's so good at what she does. (Read The Comforters or Memento Mori, if you don't believe me.)
I love books with a great ending. I love the ending of The Great Gatsby, even though I don't like the rest of the book as well as I used to. I am pretty tired of Daisy, and why doesn't Nick get a life?