100 books like Family Lexicon

By Natalia Ginzburg, Jenny McPhee (translator),

Here are 100 books that Family Lexicon fans have personally recommended if you like Family Lexicon. 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 The Italians

Dominic Smith Author Of Return to Valetto

From my list on armchair travel through Italy and Italian history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve just spent the last few years writing Return to Valetto, about a nearly abandoned village in Umbria and the last ten people who live there. In 2018, I received an NEA grant to conduct research in Italy and I visited about a dozen abandoned and nearly abandoned towns all across Italy. While I was traveling, I immersed myself in books about Italy—from history and biography to memoir and fiction. The books on my list were stepping stones in my education about all things Italian and I hope you find them as transporting as I did!

Dominic's book list on armchair travel through Italy and Italian history

Dominic Smith Why did Dominic love this book?

In many ways, this sort of book has gone out of style since it was published in the 1960s.

It’s an opinionated and ambitious portrayal of the Italian psyche and culture. Barzini looks at his fellow Italians with a dispassionate eye and a healthy sense of irreverence, uncovering their foibles, hidden beliefs, superstitions, and great strengths as a culture.

For me, Italy is an eternal paradox. Just when you think you’ve worked it out, something happens that makes you do a double-take. This book helps you understand that paradox has been part of Italy’s identity since the very beginning.

By Luigi Barzini,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this consummate portrait of the Italian people, bestselling author, publisher, journalist, and politician Luigi Barzini delves deeply into the Italian national character, discovering both its great qualities and its imperfections.

Barzini is startlingly frank as he examines “the two Italies”: the one that created and nurtured such luminaries as Dante Alighieri, St. Thomas of Aquino, and Leonardo da Vinci; the other, feeble and prone to catastrophe, backward in political action if not in thought, “invaded, ravaged, sacked, and humiliated in every century.” Deeply ambivalent, Barzini approaches his task with a combination of love, hate, disillusion, and affectionate paternalism, resulting…


Book cover of Sea and Sardinia

Tim Parks Author Of An Italian Education: The Further Adventures of an Expatriate in Verona

From my list on understanding the Italian mindset.

Why am I passionate about this?

Tim Parks moved to Italy in 1981 and is still there today. He has written five bestselling books about the country, brought up three splendid Italian children and translated some of the country’s best-loved authors. There cannot be many foreigners more familiar with the country, its literature, its history and its people.

Tim's book list on understanding the Italian mindset

Tim Parks Why did Tim love this book?

“COMES over one an absolute necessity to move.” Has there ever been a more appropriate opening line to any travel book? D H Lawrence moved to Sicily right after the First World War and from there got the itch to board a ship and visit Sardinia to the north with his wife Frida. He was hoping to find a primitive, pre-modern society, where men were men and women were women. He did indeed find them and was appalled. But delighted too. It’s hard to think of a book with more fun in it, more self-mockery, more pathos, and more poetry. Not to mention the descriptions of Sardinia. To die for.

By D.H. Lawrence,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sea and Sardinia By D. H. Lawrence


Book cover of Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year

Helene Stapinski Author Of Murder In Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy

From my list on why your family left Southern Italy a century ago.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent a decade researching my own dramatic family story in Southern Italy – a story of murder and passion – so I took a deep dive to learn about a hidden culture my relatives left behind when they came here to America in steerage. As a fellow at the New York Public Library, I literally read hundreds of books, articles, and papers over those ten years to try and educate myself about the world I was entering for my own search. These are the books that touched me the most deeply – and continue to – not just with their own intense research but with their emotion and gorgeous prose.

Helene's book list on why your family left Southern Italy a century ago

Helene Stapinski Why did Helene love this book?

This was the first book I read about Basilicata, and it is essential for anyone interested in Southern Italian roots. Written in staggeringly poetic language, it offers a sad but beautiful introduction to the culture and history of the region, which is hardly ever written about and barely even visited, even by Italians.

During WWII, Levi was sent as a prisoner to Basilicata as punishment, to work as a doctor among the peasants there. The book taught me about the feudal farm system still in place there well into the 20th century, about its inhospitable landscape, and its isolated, poverty-stricken population – my ancestors.

It set the bar high for me to write my own memoir and continues to inspire me. The title refers to the fact that the train line only went as far as Eboli – that Christianity and civilization stopped short of Basilicata.

By Carlo Levi, Frances Frenaye (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Christ Stopped at Eboli as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'There should be a history of this Italy, a history outside the framework of time, confining itself to that which is changeless and eternal, in other words, a mythology. This Italy has gone its way in darkness and silence, like the earth, in a sequence of recurrent seasons and recurrent misadventures. Every outside influence has broken over it like a wave, without leaving a trace.'

So wrote Carlo Levi - doctor, painter, philosopher, and man of conscience - in describing the land and the people of Lucania, where he was banished in 1935, at the start of the Ethiopian war,…


Book cover of The Prince

Keith Grint Author Of Leadership: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on understanding why we get the leaders we do.

Why am I passionate about this?

There’s something about leadership that intrigues me. I was an army child and that might help explain why I was expelled from school and had a rather unorthodox pre-academic career: I had fourteen jobs in nine years between leaving school and starting university, and several of those involved significant leadership roles that clashed with managerial authority. Both my undergraduate degrees and my doctorate were focused on trying to understand how authority worked, so it was almost inevitable that I ended up as a leadership scholar. But my greatest achievements have been co-founding the journal Leadership in 2005 and its related International Studying Leadership Conference, now in its 20th year.

Keith's book list on understanding why we get the leaders we do

Keith Grint Why did Keith love this book?

Machiavelli is often despised as the man who promoted both authoritarian leaders and the notion that the ends justify the means, but this is to misunderstand the importance of the context within which he was writing: 16th century Florence – which was besieged by enemies on every side who proclaimed adherence to the Christian faith but acted as monsters. Machiavelli’s writing made two things clear to me. First, leaders and leadership cannot be understood if you abstract them from their context – when political morality is a contradiction in terms then leaders must be wary of sacrificing their followers for the sake of that same fallacious morality. Second, he lays out how dictators obtain and retain power – and in doing so establishes what we need to do to stop them or remove them. 

By Niccolò Machiavelli, Tim Parks (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Here is the world's most famous master plan for seizing and holding power.  Astonishing in its candor The Prince even today remains a disturbingly realistic and prophetic work on what it takes to be a prince . . . a king . . . a president.  When, in 1512, Machiavelli was removed from his post in his beloved Florence, he resolved to set down a treatise on leadership that was practical, not idealistic.  In The Prince he envisioned would be unencumbered by ordinary ethical and moral values; his prince would be man and beast, fox and lion.  Today, this small…


Book cover of The Day of Battle

Glyn Harper Author Of The Battle for North Africa: El Alamein and the Turning Point for World War II

From my list on Great WW2 books published after 2000.

Why am I passionate about this?

Glyn Harper has been researching and writing military history for over forty years. He is the author of numerous best-selling books on military history and is also an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. A former army officer, Glyn is New Zealand’s only Professor of War Studies.

Glyn's book list on Great WW2 books published after 2000

Glyn Harper Why did Glyn love this book?

The Day of Battle was Volume Two of Rick Atkinson’s acclaimed Liberation Trilogy. While all three volumes of this series are well worth reading, Atkinson was at his best in the second volume which deals with the much-neglected campaigns of Sicily and Italy. The doyen of British military history and a veteran of the Italian campaign, the late Sir Michael Howard wrote that The Day of Battle was ‘one of the truly outstanding records of the Second World War’. I think it is too.

By Rick Atkinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In An Army at Dawn - winner of the Pulitzer Prize - Rick Atkinson provided a dramatic and authoritative history of the Allied triumph in North Africa. Now, in The Day of the Battle, he follows the strengthening American and British armies as they invade Sicily in July 1943 and then, mile by bloody mile, fight their way north. The Italian campaign's outcome was never certain; in fact, Roosevelt, Churchill and their military advisors engaged in heated debate about whether an invasion of the so-called soft underbelly of Europe was even a good idea. But once underway, the commitment to…


Book cover of A Bell for Adano

Joseph Guzzo Author Of Mousetrap, Inc.

From my list on inspired me to become a writer and my son a reader.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first job upon graduating from college was working for an invention-marketing firm. This wasn’t my intention; armed with a degree in journalism, I was ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, the country was enduring a recession, and after six months of unemployment, I was happy to be offered a copywriting position. So often during the two years I spent there, I would think to myself, “This could make such a great novel.” It took me a while—and with more than a few rejections along the way—but inspired by the writers and books I’ve included in my collection, I finally got around to penning my own tale.

Joseph's book list on inspired me to become a writer and my son a reader

Joseph Guzzo Why did Joseph love this book?

I was a senior in high school, and my English teacher gave us customized reading recommendations. He thought I might like this book. He had no idea. Though often a serious work—it’s set in World War II Italythis novel exudes charm like nothing I’d ever read. There are books, TV shows, plays, and movies that you may like or even love, but when they charm you? You never forget them. Also, there’s a minor character in the book who shares my last name. I returned the favor in my novel by giving my protagonist the last name Adano.

By John Hersey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Bell for Adano as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This classic novel and winner of the Pulitzer Prize tells the story of an Italian-American major in World War II who wins the love and admiration of the local townspeople when he searches for a replacement for the 700-year-old town bell that had been melted down for bullets by the fascists. Although stituated during one of the most devastating experiences in human history, John Hersey's story speaks with unflinching patriotism and humanity.


Book cover of Under the Light of the Italian Moon

L.L. Abbott Author Of Our Forgotten Year

From my list on WWII historical fiction that will touch your heart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a multi-genre-inspired reader and writer. The story is what motivates my interest and captivates my attention. The connection I have to my love of WWII-inspired Historical Fiction is drawn from the sheer strength and perseverance that millions of people had to pull from in order to survive one of the darkest moments in humanity. As a writer, I wanted to bring stories to life – to entertain and inform.

L.L.'s book list on WWII historical fiction that will touch your heart

L.L. Abbott Why did L.L. love this book?

The bravery and sacrifice of women in the Second World War is repeated in several European countries as families struggle to fight back and survive simultaneously. The novel spans over two decades as the author brings to life a young woman’s fight to survive and protect everything she loves. Although trapped in a turbulent time, the importance that rural Italian midwives during unimaginable circumstances is revealed in a touching and emotional manner. Under the Light of the Italian Moon shines a light on bravery, sacrifice, and humanity.

By Jennifer Anton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Under the Light of the Italian Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

‘An enthralling, richly crafted story of bold women resisting destruction, death and fascism.’

- Robin Pickering-Iazzi, Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

A promise keeps them apart until WWII threatens to destroy their love forever

Fonzaso, Italy, between two wars

Nina Argenta doesn’t want the traditional life of a rural Italian woman. The daughter of a strong-willed midwife, she is determined to define her own destiny. But when her brother emigrates to America, she promises her mother to never leave. When childhood friend Pietro Pante briefly returns to their mountain town, passion between them ignites while Mussolini…


Book cover of The Path to the Spiders' Nests

Dominic Smith Author Of Return to Valetto

From my list on armchair travel through Italy and Italian history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve just spent the last few years writing Return to Valetto, about a nearly abandoned village in Umbria and the last ten people who live there. In 2018, I received an NEA grant to conduct research in Italy and I visited about a dozen abandoned and nearly abandoned towns all across Italy. While I was traveling, I immersed myself in books about Italy—from history and biography to memoir and fiction. The books on my list were stepping stones in my education about all things Italian and I hope you find them as transporting as I did!

Dominic's book list on armchair travel through Italy and Italian history

Dominic Smith Why did Dominic love this book?

This was Calvino’s first novel when he was just in his early twenties, and long before he became known for his explorations of fantasy, fable, and magical realism.

He tells the story of a cobbler’s apprentice in a Ligurian town who becomes involved with a band of partisans during WWII. This brotherhood, who take on assumed identities by day and fight for Italy’s freedom up in the mountains by night, provides a story of second family for the protagonist, Pin, as he comes of age during a tumultuous time.

I love how we see the flickerings of who Calvino will become as a writer with this early foray into realism.

By Italo Calvino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Path to the Spiders' Nests as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Italo Calvino was only twenty-three when he first published this bold and imaginative novel. It tells the story of Pin, a cobbler's apprentice in a town on the Ligurian coast during World War II. He lives with his sister, a prostitute, and spends as much time as he can at a seedy bar where he amuses the adult patrons. After a mishap with a Nazi soldier, Pin becomes involved with a band of partisans. Calvino's portrayal of these characters, seen through the eyes of a child, is not only a revealing commentary on the Italian resistance but an insightful coming-of-age…


Book cover of The Venice Sketchbook

Lance Hawvermale Author Of The Beekeeper's Bullet

From my list on historical action and some occasional kissing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the son of a pacifist poet and a Marine veteran of Vietnam. Perhaps because of this contradiction, I’ve been unable to find any occupation satisfying outside of writing. I spent my formative years with imaginary friends I met in libraries. My love of faraway places, romance, and war continues to this day. I write stories of strangers meeting under bleak conditions and finding the strength in each other to win the day.

Lance's book list on historical action and some occasional kissing

Lance Hawvermale Why did Lance love this book?

If you like intrigue, then welcome to Venice in 1938. This novel features a likable heroine in search of the solution to a mystery contained in a sketchbook. It’s full of art—both real and metaphorical. Set against the backdrop of impending war, this one is full of courage and heart.

By Rhys Bowen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Rhys Bowen crafts a propulsive, unexpected plot with characters who come vibrantly alive on the page." -Mark Sullivan, author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels.

Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper...Venice. Caroline's quest: to scatter Juliet "Lettie" Browning's ashes in the…


Book cover of The Road to San Giovanni

Barney Norris Author Of Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain

From my list on collage novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first novel Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain was a collage novel; an interweaving of several voices in order to create a composite portrait of the city of Salisbury, which told several stories as a way of revealing more of the life of that place. Since then I’ve written three more novels, all of them interested in the effects of using different voices to tell different parts of the story. I think that polyphony makes for great books, and these are four examples of that—different ways of weaving multiple tales together.

Barney's book list on collage novels

Barney Norris Why did Barney love this book?

Calvino, like Perec, was an experimental novelist, interested in imposing games and rules on what he created. Here, he took the convention of the short story collection and used it to dramatise the arrival of the twentieth century into rural Italy—the machine age, but also the fascist age, and the consuming fires of the Second World War. The incremental tension that comes from time passing is a powerful reading experience.

By Italo Calvino, Tim Parks (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Road to San Giovanni as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In five elegant autobiographical meditations Calvino delves into his past, remembering awkward childhood walks with his father, a lifelong obsession with the cinema and fighting in the Italian Resistance against the Fascists. He also muses on the social contracts, language and sensations associated with emptying the kitchen rubbish and the shape he would, if asked, consider the world. These reflections on the nature of memory itself are engaging, witty, and lit through with Calvino's alchemical brilliance.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Italy, presidential biography, and World War 1?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Italy, presidential biography, and World War 1.

Italy Explore 384 books about Italy
Presidential Biography Explore 19 books about presidential biography
World War 1 Explore 886 books about World War 1