The best books on how the Plague changed history

Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti Author Of Imprimatur
By Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti

Who are we?

We have always been fascinated by literary masterworks that stage the plague as a pivotal factor in the plot. We added the next ingredients: a whodunnit with a claustrophobic setting, the Baroque Age, a (real) financial thriller between Rome and London, and an unusual protagonist. Rita is a historian of religions, Francesco is a musicologist. After working as journalists, meeting in a newspaper bureau, and getting happily married, we started a writing career publishing 11 novels translated into 26 languages and 60 countries with more than 2 million copies sold. Our novels are a mix of literary creativity and meticulous research, characters and settings are strictly based on original documents and eyewitness accounts. 

We wrote...


By Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti, Peter Burnett Colquhoun (translator),

Book cover of Imprimatur

What is our book about?

September 11, 1683, Rome. In a tavern, the sudden death of an old traveller arouses suspicions. An outbreak of plague causes all the guests to be placed under quarantine. Among them is the mysterious Abbott Atto Melani, castrato and spy of the Sun King. Accompanied by the tavern’s young serving boy, Melani evades the quarantine at night to shed light on the murder case. His investigation brings to light a gigantic plot that involves the truth about a double-faced Pope and the destiny of the English Crown.

Based on original papers of the Vatican secret archives and first published in Italy to great controversy in 2002, Imprimatur became an international bestseller but soon disappeared from the Italian bookstores. Only in 2015 the novel was available again in original language.

The books we picked & why

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The Decameron

By Giovanni Boccaccio,

Book cover of The Decameron

Why this book?

A must for all of you, lovers (hopefully) of intelligence and humor. Avidly read and re-written by the superstars of English literature (Chaucer, Shakespeare), Boccaccio’s celebrated cycle of short stories, told by seven ladies and three gentlemen sheltered in the countryside near Florence during the Black Plague, is a timeless summa of wit, narrative pleasure, and literary sophistication. Even historians recycled Boccaccio’s juicy, gossipy accounts to feature (or slander) their characters. 

A Journal of the Plague Year

By Daniel Defoe,

Book cover of A Journal of the Plague Year

Why this book?

For fans of faction (facts + fiction) like us. Imaginary but extremely well-documented memoir of the plague epidemic of London in 1665, Defoe’s Journal contains a good deal of historical information, and it’s been disputed whether it’s based on an original (and now lost) historical document – more likely Defoe’s sources were Samuel Pepy’s Diary and other contemporary accounts. A must-read for all lovers of English history in the Baroque age. 

The Plague

By Albert Camus,

Book cover of The Plague

Why this book?

Dark, sweet, intense perfumes of North Africa emanate from the bitter-sweet semi-autobiographical story of doctor Rieux, monsieur Tarrou, and the rich constellation of characters involved in the tragic events, culminating in a deadly outbreak, set in post-war Algeria.

Glorified by the French liberal intelligentsia, today perhaps slightly passé but still vibrating and proud, Camus’ masterpiece is austere and overwhelming like a tango dancer.

The Plague of Athens

By Thomas Sprat,

Book cover of The Plague of Athens

Why this book?

Nobody can describe the plague better than... one who’s been infected. 430 BC: coming from Ethiopia through Egypt, a massive plague outbreak hits the overpopulated Athens, right in the middle of a bitter war against Sparta. Thucydides, the first Greek historian with a modern approach, witnesses the tragic days (doctors and authorities were totally unprepared) of the largest metropolis in the Mediterranean. The author himself is contaminated and later recounts his experience in this unforgettable section of his History of the Peloponnesian War.

The Betrothed

By Alessandro Manzoni, Count Daniel O'Mahony (translator),

Book cover of The Betrothed

Why this book?

This epic novel in Walter Scott’s good tradition, but with a plus of philosophical depth, taught us (and generations of authors) how to wave together love and hope, freedom and destiny, pride and courage. The plague’s tragic outcome around 1630 in northern Italy offered such a powerful literary palette that Manzoni had to spin off a chapter about the epidemic and publish it separately. Nevertheless, The Betrothed is still marked by death and devastation, the hysterical witch-hunt against the alleged “plague-spreaders” and the impressive scenes in the lazarettos.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in plagues, Italy, and Thucydides?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about plagues, Italy, and Thucydides.

Plagues Explore 26 books about plagues
Italy Explore 226 books about Italy
Thucydides Explore 15 books about Thucydides

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The History of the Peloponnesian War, The Hot Zone, and Natural History of Infectious Disease if you like this list.