100 books like On Persephone's Island

By Mary Taylor Simeti,

Here are 100 books that On Persephone's Island fans have personally recommended if you like On Persephone's Island. 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 Under the Tuscan Sun

Susan Pohlman Author Of Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home

From my list on travel memoir for women on women (and men) who travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the transformational power of travel ever since my husband and I unexpectedly signed a lease to an apartment on the Italian Riviera instead of divorce papers. The power of that year abroad saved our marriage, united our family of four in a sacred way, and introduced us to the many cultures of Europe. I learned the crucial difference between taking a trip and embarking on a journey. Capturing a travel experience on the page for those who can’t journey to a destination themselves is a joy and a privilege I don’t take lightly. Publishing this memoir allowed me to pivot in my career to a full-time writer and writing coach/editor.

Susan's book list on travel memoir for women on women (and men) who travel

Susan Pohlman Why did Susan love this book?

I remember seeing this book for the first time on my mother’s bedside table.

As a mother of six children (five boys and a girl—me), I strongly suspect she dreamed of escape from time to time. A mother now myself, I understand feelings of overwhelm.

When I read this book back in the late ‘90s I saw a woman brave enough to step into her dreams and create a beautiful and sensuous life. It was bold, and it allowed me to dream of a bigger life. It made me curious if I could ever do such a thing.

Read the story of how she and her husband transformed an old villa as well as their lives!

By Frances Mayes,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Under the Tuscan Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover the New York Times bestseller that inspired the film. The perfect read for anyone seeking an escape to the Italian countryside.

When Frances Mayes - poet, gourmet cook and travel writer - buys an abandoned villa in Tuscany, she has no idea of the scale of the project she is embarking on.

In this enchanting memoir she takes the reader on a journey to restore a crumbling villa and build a new life in the Italian countryside, navigating hilarious cultural misunderstandings, legal frustrations and the challenges of renovating a house that seems determined to remain a ruin.

Filled with…


Book cover of The Neapolitan Novels Boxed Set

Susan Van Allen Author Of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

From my list on women who love Italy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am grateful to my maternal grandparents, immigrants from southern Italy, who instilled in me a love for the Bel Paese that has inspired me all my life. I began to travel to Italy 45 years ago, and after writing for television—on the staff of Everybody Loves Raymond—I turned to travel writing. I’ve written 4 books about Italian travel, along with many stories for magazines. I also design and host Golden Weeks in Italy: For Women Only tours, to give female travelers an insider’s experience of this extraordinary country.

Susan's book list on women who love Italy

Susan Van Allen Why did Susan love this book?

I have always loved visiting the city of Naples – for the great food, the rich history, and the warm locals who remind me of my southern Italian relatives. Ferrante’s novels go deep into the complexities of a female friendship that spans many decades, while also bringing to life a wide range of characters who I grew to love and truly care about, while devouring this extraordinary series.

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Neapolitan Novels Boxed Set as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The complete four-volume boxed set of the New York Times–bestselling epic about hardship and female friendship in postwar Naples that has sold over five million copies.

Beginning with My Brilliant Friend, the four Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante follow Elena and Lila, from their rough-edged upbringing in Naples, Italy, not long after WWII, through the many stages of their lives―and along paths that diverge wildly. Sometimes they are separated by jealousy or hostility or physical distance, but the bond between them is unbreakable, for better or for worse.

This volume includes all four novels: My Brilliant Friend; The Story of…


Book cover of Beautiful Ruins

Barbara Josselsohn Author Of Secrets of the Italian Island

From my list on set on an intriguing island or coastline.

Why am I passionate about this?

A native of New York’s Long Island, I’ve always been obsessed with the shoreline. My best early memories are of traveling with my family to the eastern edge of Long Island for our two-week summer vacation. My parents didn’t earn a lot of money, and we didn’t vacation often, so those two weeks in August were heavenly. As an adult, I gravitate to coastlines and islands. I’ve always been a fan of books with a strong sense of place, especially when that place is the shore. And I loved setting my current book on an island in the Mediterranean, delving into the qualities and characteristics that make a coastline so evocative and so appealing. 

Barbara's book list on set on an intriguing island or coastline

Barbara Josselsohn Why did Barbara love this book?

A friend of mine recommended this book before it became well-known—and the moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to own it!

Turquoise-blue water, a jagged Italian coastline, pastel-colored buildings set against a cliff, and oh—that typeface that screams late 1950s/early 1960s! Such enticing visuals! Of course, with such a setup, I might have been expecting too much—but the story didn’t disappoint me.

Its initial chapters are set in a small, down-on-its-luck hotel in a remote Italian village where a young starlet with a compelling secret comes to stay. Spanning time periods and continents, the novel has an epic feel.

But it’s that romantic setting that has stayed with me forever and fueled my ongoing love of the Italian coast! 

By Jess Walter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller—Jess Walter’s “absolute masterpiece” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author): the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 and resurfaces fifty years later in contemporary Hollywood.

The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962...and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later. 


Book cover of Sacred Hearts

Susan Van Allen Author Of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

From my list on women who love Italy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am grateful to my maternal grandparents, immigrants from southern Italy, who instilled in me a love for the Bel Paese that has inspired me all my life. I began to travel to Italy 45 years ago, and after writing for television—on the staff of Everybody Loves Raymond—I turned to travel writing. I’ve written 4 books about Italian travel, along with many stories for magazines. I also design and host Golden Weeks in Italy: For Women Only tours, to give female travelers an insider’s experience of this extraordinary country.

Susan's book list on women who love Italy

Susan Van Allen Why did Susan love this book?

I love all of Sarah Dunant’s historical fiction novels that take place in Italy. This one is a favorite, bringing me into the world of a 16th-century convent in Ferrara, centering around a rebellious teenager who has been sent there by her family. The relationships between the nuns, young and old, rituals of daily convent life, politics of the church during the days of the Counter-Reformation, and a rich love story blend to make this a fascinating read.

By Sarah Dunant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

1570 in the Italian city of Ferrara. Sixteen-year-old Serafina is fipped by her family from an illicit love affair and forced into the convent of Santa Caterina, renowned for its superb music. Serafina's one weapon is her glorious voice, but she refuses to sing. Madonna Chiara, an abbess as fluent in politics as she is in prayer, finds her new charge has unleased a power play - rebellion, ecstasies and hysterias - within the convent. However, watching over Serafina is Zuana, the sister in charge of the infirmary, who understands and might even challenge her incarceration.


Book cover of A Feast of Narrative: Volume 1

Joseph L. Cacibauda Author Of Not for Self: A Sicilian Life and Death in Marion

From my list on Sicilian Italian history and the people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in New Orleans around Cajun French and Italians. My father spoke Cajun French, English, and Sicilian. I grew up thinking his Sicilian was Italian mixed with Cajun French. We considered ourselves Italian, never aware that my grandparents, paternal and maternal, emigrated from Sicily and were born just after Sicily became part of Italy (1861). Knowing nothing of Sicily, including the Sicilian spelling of my own surname and my father’s Sicilian first name, I used the computer to contact distant relatives in Sicily, discover records online, and eventually visited Sicily to find actual documents. My research led to my passion and my first book, After Laughing Comes Crying.

Joseph's book list on Sicilian Italian history and the people

Joseph L. Cacibauda Why did Joseph love this book?

This is a three-volume anthology of Italian American writers recalling family dinners, holidays, funerals, weddings, Italian customs, and Italian relatives. These volumes depict Italians in their everyday life far removed from any mafioso dramas. Reading these stories helps Italians verify the meanings and pronunciations of Italian words and gestures, those things called “Italian” used long ago but since forgotten with the passing of our elders.

By Tiziano Thomas Dossena (editor), Dominic Anthony Campanile (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This collection of short stories, published by "Idea Press" is aimed at presenting the richness of styles and creativity of Italian American writers. It consists of two sections for a total of twenty-three short stories, eight of them nonfiction and fifteen of them fiction, and eighteen authors. The writers chosen by the editor to be included in this anthology are from a wide range of professional backgrounds, but ultimately most of them are published authors with an extensive experience on their curricula, as the reader may infer from their biographies.Altogether, the stories that appear in this anthology explore different topics,…


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

Anika Scott Author Of Sinners of Starlight City

From my list on 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.

Anika's book list on sparking an obsession with Sicily

Anika Scott Why did Anika 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 Author Of Sinners of Starlight City

From my list on 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.

Anika's book list on sparking an obsession with Sicily

Anika Scott Why did Anika 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 Margaret, Queen of Sicily

Louis Mendola Author Of The Kingdom of Sicily 1130-1860

From my list on insight into the history and society of southern Italy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Often, historians choose their field or specialty, but sometimes, the field chooses the historian. Being a historian of southern Italy, the land of my ancestors reflects far more than a merely academic interest. As a personal pursuit, it isn’t just what I am but who I am. I write the kind of books that I wish had existed when I wrote my first peer-reviewed article in 1984. This has come to include everything from general histories to specialised studies to translations of medieval chronicles. Through the website Best of Sicily, online since 1999, my work has reached a readership of millions over the course of two decades.

Louis' book list on insight into the history and society of southern Italy

Louis Mendola Why did Louis love this book?

The most powerful woman in Europe for at least five years, Margaret of Navarre, was all but ignored until this 512-page biography appeared. Reading a “secret” story drawn from original sources in Italy and Spain was part of the book’s appeal for me.

Born near Pamplona in 1135 to a descendant of El Cid, Margaret wed William I, son of Roger II, first King of Sicily. Following her husband’s death, she was queen regent for a young son, William II, for five eventful years. Ruling two million in a multicultural realm that encompassed Sicily and almost half of the Italian peninsula, she undertook all kinds of decisions, some with Roger’s widow and other women.

True feminism.

By Jacqueline Alio,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sometimes it takes just one strong woman to tame a pack of zealous men. Meet Margaret of Sicily.

For five years during the twelfth century, Margaret of Navarre, Queen of Sicily, was the most powerful woman in Europe and the Mediterranean. Her life and times make for the compelling story of a wife, sister, mother and leader. This landmark work is the first biography of the great-granddaughter of El Cid and friend of Thomas Becket who could govern a nation and inspire millions.

In Margaret's story sisterhood is just the beginning. The Basque princess who rose to confront unimagined adversity…


Book cover of The Muslims of Medieval Italy

Sarah Davis-Secord Author Of Where Three Worlds Met: Sicily in the Early Medieval Mediterranean

From my list on medieval Sicily.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like many travelers and writers, I was drawn to the Mediterranean Sea because of its vibrant cultures, sun-drenched landscapes, and delicious foods. As a medieval historian, I am attracted to stories of people and cultures in communication with each other across religious and cultural divides. I found the perfect combination in the history of Sicily, which in the Middle Ages had populations of Greek Christians, Latin Christians, Muslims, and Jews living together in both peace and conflict. I study the histories of travel, trade, and exchange in and around Sicily, which allows me to think about big questions of how medieval people related to each other even when they came from different religions or cultures.

Sarah's book list on medieval Sicily

Sarah Davis-Secord Why did Sarah love this book?

The thing that first drew me to medieval Sicily was its history of Muslim habitation.

I am deeply interested in questions of how Muslims, Christians, and Jews interacted with each other during a period of history in which religious identity was one of the most prominent public facts about a person and their community.

Alex Metcalfe is one of the leading scholars studying the Arabic texts that give us insight into the cultures of Muslims in Sicily and southern Italy and their legacies after the Norman conquest of an island that had been in Muslim hands for nearly two centuries. He has written several other works, but this is the one most accessible to a general audience, and the one that covers both Sicily and the southern parts of the mainland that were also strongly impacted by Muslim presence and culture.

By Alex Metcalfe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This significant new work focuses on the formation and fragmentation of an Arab-Muslim state and its society in Sicily and south Italy between 800 and 1300, which led to the formation of an enduring Muslim--Christian frontier during the age of the Crusades. It examines the long- and short-term impact of Muslim authority in regions that were to fall into the hands of European rulers, and explains how and why Muslim and Norman conquests imported radically different dynamics to the central Mediterranean. On the island of Sicily, a majority Muslim population came to be ruled by Christian kings who adopted and…


Book cover of The Godmother

Jacqueline Alio Author Of Queens of Sicily 1061-1266

From my list on Sicilian women and their lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

Very little has been written in English about Sicilian women. Most of the studies written in English about the women of southern Italy are the work of foreigners who discovered our region in adulthood. While some non-Italian colleagues have produced fine work, my books reflect the perspective of a scholar who, being Sicilian, has been familiar with the region and its people all her life. This is seen in my knowledge of the Sicilian language, from which I've translated texts, and even the medieval cuisine mentioned in my books. Viva la Sicilia!

Jacqueline's book list on Sicilian women and their lives

Jacqueline Alio Why did Jacqueline love this book?

This is a different story about a different kind of woman. And no, it's not about the Mafia; that's only a peripheral theme.

The typical novels written in English about Sicily by women are built around themes like a foreign girl going to Italy to find love. This one breaks that mould into a thousand pieces, dealing with familial history and tradition in the context of Sicilian and American society. It actually held my interest.

Leigh Esposito's complex story eclipses most of what came before.

By Leigh Esposito,

Why should I read it?

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


5 book lists we think you will like!

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