The best books for sparking an obsession with Sicily

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a traveler and a dreamer ever since I was a little girl. I used to write to the tourism bureaus of different countries and tape pictures of faraway places onto the walls of my bedroom. It’s no surprise I ended up living in Europe, my home base for excursions all over the world. My historical fiction always features places that mean a lot to me, whether it’s Germany (where I live now), or Sicily – where my mother’s family came from. Digging into my Sicilian heritage and the culture and life of the island for my third novel was like discovering a new home.


I wrote...

Sinners of Starlight City

By Anika Scott,

Book cover of Sinners of Starlight City

What is my book about?

A “Godfather-esque” tale of revenge set at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, featuring a burlesque dancer on a quest to reunite her estranged family by recruiting them for a vendetta with roots in her childhood in fascist Sicily.  

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Leopard

Anika Scott Why did I love this book?

This is the novel to read if you want to submerge yourself in Sicily’s culture and history.

I read it during a visit to Italy, and was sucked right into this tale of an aristocratic Sicilian family decaying in the 19th century in the time of Garibaldi’s revolution. I really despised the patriarch Don Fabrizio, and was still fascinated by the choices he had to make to keep his family status in turbulent times.

Once you finish the book, check out the 1963 film starring Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon.

By Giuseppe Di Lampedusa,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Leopard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Leopard is a modern classic which tells the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution.

'There is a great feeling of opulence, decay, love and death about it' Rick Stein

In the spring of 1860, Fabrizio, the charismatic Prince of Salina, still rules over thousands of acres and hundreds of people, including his own numerous family, in mingled splendour and squalor. Then comes Garibaldi's landing in Sicily and the Prince must decide whether to resist the forces of change or come to terms with them.

'Every once in a…


Book cover of Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia

Anika Scott Why did I love this book?

I’m a fan of gangster books and movies, but there’s nothing quite like learning about the real brutality and power of the original Sicilian mafia.

Dickie’s book takes a historical view, showing why that kind of organization developed in Sicily of all places, and how the Sicilians have protected it, and fought against it. The anecdotes are sometimes funny and sometimes truly chilling.

If you’re as interested in the history of organized crime as I am, this is a must read.

By John Dickie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cosa Nostra as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed in Italy as the best book ever written about the mafia in any language, Cosa Nostra is a fascinating, violent, and darkly comic account that reads like fiction and takes us deep into the inner sanctum of this secret society where few have dared to tread.In this gripping history of the Sicilian mafia, John Dickie uses startling new research to reveal the inner workings of this secret society with a murderous record. He explains how the mafia began, how it responds to threats and challenges, and introduces us to the real-life characters that inspired the American imagination for generations,…


Book cover of Seeking Sicily: A Cultural Journey Through Myth and Reality in the Heart of the Mediterranean

Anika Scott Why did I love this book?

Sicily is part of my family’s heritage, and back when they emigrated to America, they left a lot of their language and culture behind or didn’t pass it down to the next generation.

Seeking Sicily fills in some of those blanks in my family’s cultural history. It does what I haven’t been able to do, roam around the island meeting many different people and asking about everything from food to religious rituals to life amid the ruins of old palaces and ancient monuments.

It’s a really intimate book that still gives a great overview of Sicilian life.

By John Keahey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Seeking Sicily as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sicily has a timeless allure, and much of what one sees there today has changed little over the centuries. With Sicily's literary greats as a guide, Keahey discerns what lies behind the soul of its inhabitants, touching on history, archaeology, food, art, and politics. He looks to contemporary Sicilians who have never shaken off the influences of their forbearers, who believed in the ancient gods & goddesses; and who have always come under the thumb of outsiders. Most importantly, he will explore the Mediterranean's largest and most mysterious island through the eyes of a visitor - making this book a…


Book cover of The Sicily Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from a Mediterranean Island

Anika Scott Why did I love this book?

Every time I’m in Sicily, I stuff my face.

The food is as sublime as the island itself. Imagine eating pasta alla norma (noodles with eggplant marinara) with a breathtaking view of Mt. Etna. There’s fried arancini filled with rice, there’s caponata, there’s orange cake... I could go on and on! The Sicily Cookbook has recipes for some of my favorite Sicilian foods plus stunning photos of the island.

It's food and travel combined!

By Cettina Vicenzino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sicily Cookbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Get a taste of the unique fusion of flavors that Sicilian food has to offer!

​Packed with more than 70 Sicilian recipes, all accompanied by evocative food photography from the island, this Italian cookbook will bring the Mediterranean sunshine into your kitchen.

Discover authentic Italian cooking at its finest with this Sicilian recipe book. Here’s what’s inside:

   • More than 70 Sicilian sweet and savory recipes, from Pasta Alla Norma, grilled octopus and Sicilian baked sausage to arancini with tuna, Jerusalem artichokes with black lentils and Sicilian orange bread
   • Recipes include appetizers, main courses, individual dishes, side dishes, desserts…


Book cover of The Shape of Water

Anika Scott Why did I love this book?

I have very romantic notions of Sicily, and I look to the Inspector Montalbano series of detective novels to show me the grit and corruption that Sicily is actually known for.

This is the first novel in the series and introduces Montalbano as an honest cop in a dishonest world, a Sicilian town where everyone hustles for work and murders are common. Even if everybody is corrupt in their own ways, they’re still very human, and Montalbano’s tolerance of human failings makes him one of the great detectives to read. 

By Andrea Camilleri, Stephen Sartarelli (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Shape of Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Shape of Water is the first in Andrea Camilleri's wry, brilliantly compelling Sicilian crime series, featuring Inspector Montalbano. This edition with a stunning redesigned cover.

The goats of Vigata once grazed on the trash-strewn site still known as the Pasture. Now local enterprise of a different sort flourishes: drug dealers and prostitutes of every flavour. But their discreet trade is upset when two employees of the Splendour Refuse Collection Company discover the body of engineer Silvio Luparello, one of the local movers and shakers, apparently deceased in flagrante at the Pasture. The coroner's verdict is death from natural causes…


You might also like...

Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

By Kathleen DuVal,

Book cover of Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

Kathleen DuVal Author Of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional historian and life-long lover of early American history. My fascination with the American Revolution began during the bicentennial in 1976, when my family traveled across the country for celebrations in Williamsburg and Philadelphia. That history, though, seemed disconnected to the place I grew up—Arkansas—so when I went to graduate school in history, I researched in French and Spanish archives to learn about their eighteenth-century interactions with Arkansas’s Native nations, the Osages and Quapaws. Now I teach early American history and Native American history at UNC-Chapel Hill and have written several books on how Native American, European, and African people interacted across North America.

Kathleen's book list on the American Revolution beyond the Founding Fathers

What is my book about?

A magisterial history of Indigenous North America that places the power of Native nations at its center, telling their story from the rise of ancient cities more than a thousand years ago to fights for sovereignty that continue today

Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

By Kathleen DuVal,

What is this book about?

Long before the colonization of North America, Indigenous Americans built diverse civilizations and adapted to a changing world in ways that reverberated globally. And, as award-winning historian Kathleen DuVal vividly recounts, when Europeans did arrive, no civilization came to a halt because of a few wandering explorers, even when the strangers came well armed.

A millennium ago, North American cities rivaled urban centers around the world in size. Then, following a period of climate change and instability, numerous smaller nations emerged, moving away from rather than toward urbanization. From this urban past, egalitarian government structures, diplomacy, and complex economies spread…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Sicily, Italy, and police?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Sicily, Italy, and police.

Sicily Explore 54 books about Sicily
Italy Explore 384 books about Italy
Police Explore 229 books about police