100 books like Everyday Renaissances

By Sarah Gwyneth Ross,

Here are 100 books that Everyday Renaissances fans have personally recommended if you like Everyday Renaissances. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Mad Blood Stirring: Vendetta and Factions in Friuli During the Renaissance

Nicholas Scott Baker Author Of In Fortune's Theater: Financial Risk and the Future in Renaissance Italy

From my list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach the histories of early modern Europe and European worlds at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I developed a fascination for the period and, especially, for the Italian Renaissance as an undergraduate before going on to complete a PhD at Northwestern University in the United States. I love the contradictions and tensions of the period: a society and culture in transition from what we call medieval understandings and worldviews to what we see as more modern ones. These are some of the books that helped to fuel my passion for Renaissance Italian history and to answer some of my questions about what life was really like in Renaissance Italy.

Nicholas' book list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like

Nicholas Scott Baker Why did Nicholas love this book?

This was another book that really inspired my choice of profession. Located in the northeast corner of the Italian peninsula, Friuli emerges as something like the wild west of Renaissance Italy in this engrossing study.

Far removed from the urbane cities and courts and the worlds of art and literature commonly associated with the Renaissance, Edward Muir reveals the continuing binds of feudal obligation, family, vengeance, and honor, and the violence they provoked in the early sixteenth century. Incidentally, the history he tells also encounters the real-life origins of the story that would become Romeo and Juliet.

Like Trexler, Muir explores the power of ritual in Renaissance Italian life, but rather than rituals of community and government, he focuses in this book on the rituals of aversion and violence.

By Edward Muir,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mad Blood Stirring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nobles were slaughtered and their castles looted or destroyed, bodies were dismembered and corpses fed to animals-the Udine carnival massacre of 1511 was the most extensive and damaging popular revolt in Renaissance Italy (and the basis for the story of Romeo and Juliet). Mad Blood Stirring is a gripping account and analysis of this event, as well as the social structures and historical conflicts preceding it and the subtle shifts in the mentality of revenge it introduced. This new reader's edition offers students and general readers an abridged version of this classic work which shifts the focus from specialized scholarly…


Book cover of Public Life in Renaissance Florence

Nicholas Scott Baker Author Of In Fortune's Theater: Financial Risk and the Future in Renaissance Italy

From my list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach the histories of early modern Europe and European worlds at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I developed a fascination for the period and, especially, for the Italian Renaissance as an undergraduate before going on to complete a PhD at Northwestern University in the United States. I love the contradictions and tensions of the period: a society and culture in transition from what we call medieval understandings and worldviews to what we see as more modern ones. These are some of the books that helped to fuel my passion for Renaissance Italian history and to answer some of my questions about what life was really like in Renaissance Italy.

Nicholas' book list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like

Nicholas Scott Baker Why did Nicholas love this book?

This book, more than any other, inspired me to become a historian of Renaissance Italy.

Richard Trexler reveals that, far from being secular minded, the inhabitants of Florence relied on religion, ritual behavior, and charisma to create and maintain urban life, social values, and civic order.

By turns anthropological as well as historical, Trexler uncovers the ritual behaviors and practices that tied the city together from the level of the cosmos to the everyday relations between friends, neighbors, and family members. The central purpose of all public ritual in Florence served to overcome the inherent weakness of a republican government in a world of gods and kings. 

By Richard C. Trexler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Public Life in Renaissance Florence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Covering the history of Renaissance Florence from the fourteenth century to the beginnings of the Medici duchy, Richard C. Trexler traces collective ritual behavior in all its forms, from a simple greeting to the most elaborate community festival. He examines three kinds of social relationships: those between individual Florentines, those between Florentines and foreigners, and those between Florentines and God and His saints. He maintains that ritual brought life to the public world and, when necessary, reformed public life.


Book cover of The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro De' Medici

Nicholas Scott Baker Author Of In Fortune's Theater: Financial Risk and the Future in Renaissance Italy

From my list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach the histories of early modern Europe and European worlds at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I developed a fascination for the period and, especially, for the Italian Renaissance as an undergraduate before going on to complete a PhD at Northwestern University in the United States. I love the contradictions and tensions of the period: a society and culture in transition from what we call medieval understandings and worldviews to what we see as more modern ones. These are some of the books that helped to fuel my passion for Renaissance Italian history and to answer some of my questions about what life was really like in Renaissance Italy.

Nicholas' book list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like

Nicholas Scott Baker Why did Nicholas love this book?

Alessandro de’ Medici was the first member of his famous family to rule the city of Florence as a titled prince. He was also, possibly, the first person of African descent to rule a European state.

Illegitimately born, his father was a Medici duke, and his mother may have been an enslaved African. In this highly readable book, Catherine Fletcher uses meticulous archival research to present the most detailed account of the life of Alessandro yet produced.

The book examines the glittering excesses of court life in sixteenth-century Florence and Rome, and the intrigues and jealousies behind this façade, while recovering the life of a previously obscure figure. Examining a time and place I know well, I found this an engaging story, well told.

By Catherine Fletcher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Nothing in sixteenth-century history is more astonishing than the career of Alessandro de' Medici' (Hilary Mantel).

*Selected as a Book of the Year 2016 in The Evening Standard*

In The Black Prince of Florence, a dramatic tale of assassination, spies and betrayal, the first retelling of Alessandro's life in two-hundred years opens a window onto the opulent, cut-throat world of Renaissance Italy.

The year is 1531. After years of brutal war and political intrigue, the bastard son of a Medici Duke and a `half-negro' maidservant rides into Florence. Within a year, he rules the city as its Prince. Backed by…


Book cover of Love and Death in Renaissance Italy

Nicholas Scott Baker Author Of In Fortune's Theater: Financial Risk and the Future in Renaissance Italy

From my list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach the histories of early modern Europe and European worlds at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I developed a fascination for the period and, especially, for the Italian Renaissance as an undergraduate before going on to complete a PhD at Northwestern University in the United States. I love the contradictions and tensions of the period: a society and culture in transition from what we call medieval understandings and worldviews to what we see as more modern ones. These are some of the books that helped to fuel my passion for Renaissance Italian history and to answer some of my questions about what life was really like in Renaissance Italy.

Nicholas' book list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like

Nicholas Scott Baker Why did Nicholas love this book?

This book presents six vignettes of sex and violence plucked by Thomas Cohen from the archives of the papal governor of sixteenth-century Rome.

I love Cohen’s passion for telling a good story without losing sight of its broader historical significance. Examining the everyday lives of people in the streets, Cohen reveals how a clash between the contradictory currents of Italian Renaissance society fueled much of its conflicts and discontents.

On the one hand, Christian religion preached mercy, forgiveness, and community, on the other the compelling codes of honor, familial loyalty, and unwritten social rules promoted violence and vengeance.

The book also reveals how women and other socially marginalized figures could navigate and manipulate these codes to find space and freedom in a world dominated by powerful men. 

By Thomas V. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love and Death in Renaissance Italy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gratuitous sex. Graphic violence. Lies, revenge, and murder. Before there was digital cable or reality television, there was Renaissance Italy and the courts in which Italian magistrates meted out justice to the vicious and the villainous, the scabrous and the scandalous. As dramatic and as moving as the television show The Borgias, and a lot more true to life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy retells six piquant episodes from the Italian court just after 1550, as the Renaissance gave way to an era of Catholic reformation. Each of the chapters in this history chronicles a domestic drama around which…


Book cover of Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From my list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

This accessible academic work brings to life the inner workings – and breakdowns – of marriages at a time when annulment was the only option. Through court and ecclesiastical proceedings and petitions written by both sexes, the lives of ordinary women – including sexual relations, domestic abuse, cheating, and financial problems are made even more real by the voices of friends, neighbors, and in-laws.

By Joanne M. Ferraro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on a fascinating body of previously unexamined archival material, this book brings to life the lost voices of ordinary Venetians during the age of Catholic revival. Looking at scripts that were brought to the city's ecclesiastical courts by spouses seeking to annul their marriage vows, this book opens up the emotional world of intimacy and conflict, sexuality, and living arrangments that did not fit normative models of marriage.


Book cover of The Gondola Maker

C. P. Lesley Author Of The Golden Lynx

From my list on the 16th century that don’t involve Tudors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Russian history as a college sophomore, when I realized the place was like a movie series, all drama and extremes. I completed a doctorate at Stanford in early modern Russia and later published The Domostroi: Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible. Because so few people in the West know about the contemporaries of the Tudors and Borgias, I set out to write a set of novels, published under a pseudonym, aimed at a general audience, and set in sixteenth-century Russia. I interview authors for the New Books Network, where I favor well-written books set in unfamiliar times and places.

C. P.'s book list on the 16th century that don’t involve Tudors

C. P. Lesley Why did C. P. love this book?

This novel, set in sixteenth-century Venice, reminds us that the Italian Renaissance was a great time to be a devotee of the pictorial arts. And it does so without getting caught up in the scandals surrounding the Borgias, who are almost as overdone as the Tudors. Luca Vianello is the heir to Venice’s premier gondola maker, until tragedy sends him off on a journey through poverty and hard work that ends when he becomes the personal boatman of the painter Trevisan. Morelli, who trained as an art historian, is intimately acquainted with the former Italian city-states, and like the other novels on my list, hers immerses you in Renaissance everyday life at a very personal level.

By Laura Morelli,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Award-winning historical fiction set in 16th-century Venice
Benjamin Franklin Digital Award
IPPY Award for Best Adult Fiction E-book
National Indie Excellence Award Finalist
Eric Hoffer Award Finalist
Shortlisted for the da Vinci Eye Prize

From the author of Made in Italy comes a tale of artisanal tradition and family bonds set in one of the world's most magnificent settings: Renaissance Venice.

Venetian gondola-maker Luca Vianello considers his whole life arranged. His father charted a course for his eldest son from the day he was born, and Luca is positioned to inherit one of the city's most esteemed boatyards. But when…


Book cover of Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

Loretta Graziano Breuning Author Of Status Games: Why We Play and How to Stop

From my list on status anxiety.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up around a lot of suffering over status. I didn’t want to suffer, so I kept trying to understand why everyone plays a game that they insist they don’t want to play. I found my answer when I studied evolutionary psychology. This answer really hit home when I watched David Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries. I saw the social rivalry among our mammalian ancestors, and it motivated me to research the biology behind it. I took early retirement from a career as a Professor of Management and started writing books about the brain chemistry we share with earlier mammals. I’m so glad I found my power over my inner mammal!

Loretta's book list on status anxiety

Loretta Graziano Breuning Why did Loretta love this book?

Bourgeois Bohemians sneer at expensive cars, but they spend much more renovating their bathrooms. They are eager to make a statement against consumerism, but they are also eager to let you know how successful they are. I grew up around this thinking, so I love to hear the forbidden thoughts expressed publicly.

Brooks explains the inner conflict of bobos. They feel guilty about their success, so they call attention to their solidarity with the common man. They want to keep achieving, but don’t want to appear that way.

Brooks misses the deeper engine of this inner conflict: all mammals seek status in their herd or pack or troop because it promotes “reproductive success.” Natural selection built a brain that rewards you with serotonin when you raise your status.

By David Brooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bobos in Paradise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It used to be pretty easy to distinguish between the bourgeois world of capitalism and the bohemian counterculture. The bourgeois worked for corporations, wore grey, and went to church. The bohemians were the artists and intellectuals. Bohemians championed the values of the radical 1960's; bourgeois were the enterprising yuppies of the 1980's. Now the 'bo's' are all mixed up and it is impossible to tell an expresso sipping artist from a cappuccino-gulping banker. In attitudes toward sex, morality, leisure time and work, it is hard to separate the renegade from the company man. The new establishment has combined the countercultural…


Book cover of Ciao, Carpaccio! An Infatuation

Gina Buonaguro Author Of The Virgins of Venice

From my list on women in Renaissance Venice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My goal as a writer is to revive lost women’s stories through historical fiction. After co-authoring several historical novels, our last mystery set in Renaissance Rome, we decided to set the sequel in Venice. When we decided to split amicably before finishing that novel, I had spent so much time researching Renaissance Venice that I instantly knew I wanted to set my first solo novel there and focus on girls and women whose stories are so frequently lost to history. So began a quest to learn everything I could about the females of 15th and 16th-century Venice, leading me toward both academic and fictional works of the era.

Gina's book list on women in Renaissance Venice

Gina Buonaguro Why did Gina love this book?

A beautiful little book that showcases the paintings of early Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, we see many women in his works. Some of saints, some bordering on the fantastical, a few quite realistic – all the women in Carpaccio’s art would have been inspired by real women living and working in Venice in the late 1400s and early 1500s.

By Jan Morris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ciao, Carpaccio! An Infatuation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the course of writing Venice, her 1961 classic, Jan Morris became fascinated by the historical presence of a sometimes-overlooked Venetian painter. Nowadays the name of Vittore Carpaccio (1460-1520) suggests raw beef, but to Morris it conveyed far more profound meanings. Thus began a lifelong infatuation, reaching across the centuries, between a renowned Welsh writer and a great and delightfully entertaining artist of the early Renaissance. Handsomely designed with more than seventy photographs throughout, Ciao,Carpaccio! is a happy caprice of affection. In illuminating the life of the artist and his paintings, Morris throws in digressions about Venetian animals, courtesans, babies,…


Book cover of Family

Janet Hulstrand Author Of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

From my list on literary memoirs from the Midwest.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Minnesota, and although I have not lived there for most of my adult life, it will always be home for me. I miss the prairie, the lakes, and the wide open skies; I even miss the winters. So I love reading good books set in the Midwest. To me these five books exemplify all that is best about Midwesterners: their honesty, their modesty, their connection to the land; their belief in themselves, and in the interesting and good people in this part of the country. Each of these writers shows that sometimes you can go home again: and that it can be worth it to do so. 

Janet's book list on literary memoirs from the Midwest

Janet Hulstrand Why did Janet love this book?

Ian Frazier’s exploration of his own family’s history takes the reader on a fascinating deep (and broad) dive into American history.

What begins as a chance discovery of letters written between his parents as a young couple leads him inexorably back into the far-reaching branches of his family tree, and a unique perspective on American life from the eighteenth century to the twentieth.

David McCullough called this book a ”remarkable history of an unremarkable family.” The author’s keen curiosity, masterful storytelling, and elegant prose kept me spellbound. I read this book when it first came out, and it was one of those books that for a while I couldn’t stop telling everyone to read.

I’ve never forgotten it, and now I think I’m about to read it again.

By Ian Frazier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Family tells the story of Ian Frazier's family in America from the early colonial days to the present. Using letters and other family documents, he reconstructs two hundred years of middle class life, visiting small towns his ancestors lived in, reading books they read, and discovering the larger forces of history that affected them.


Book cover of I Am a Cat (Bilingual)

Gwen Cooper Author Of Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat

From my list on with cats as characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

Gwen Cooper is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoirs Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat, as well as the novel Love Saves the Day (narrated from a rescue cat's perspective) and The Book of PAWSOME: Head Bonks, Raspy Tongues, and 101 Reasons Why Cats Make Us So, So Happy--among numerous other titles. The first book in her forthcoming "Homer Whodunit" Cozy Mystery Series, You Only Live Nine Times, will be released in Summer 2022. Gwen's work has been published in more than two-dozen languages, and she is a frequent speaker at shelter fundraisers across the U.S. and Europe.

Gwen's book list on with cats as characters

Gwen Cooper Why did Gwen love this book?

The original, and still unsurpassed! First published in Japan in 1906, this gleeful skewering of the foibles of Japan’s upper-middle-class during the Meiji era—told in first-person narration from the perspective of an eminently observant and sardonic housecat—manages to feel fresh and modern more than 100 years later and reads like something that could have been published last week. When I first set about writing my own novel from a cat’s perspective, Love Saves the Day, this was the first book I turned to for inspiration. It was so good, it almost left me too intimidated to write mine. Almost.

By Soseki Natsume,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am a Cat (Bilingual) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A nonchalant string of anecdotes and wisecracks, told by a fellow who doesn't have a name, and has never caught a mouse, and isn't much good for anything except watching human beings in action..." -The New Yorker

Written from 1904 through 1906, Soseki Natsume's comic masterpiece, I Am a Cat, satirizes the foolishness of upper-middle-class Japanese society during the Meiji era. With acerbic wit and sardonic perspective, it follows the whimsical adventures of a world-weary stray kitten who comments on the follies and foibles of the people around him.

A classic of Japanese literature, I Am a Cat is one…


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