100 books like The Complete Cosmicomics

By Italo Calvino,

Here are 100 books that The Complete Cosmicomics fans have personally recommended if you like The Complete Cosmicomics. 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 Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories

G.G. Andrew Author Of Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish

From my list on Halloween romance books.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a lifelong fan of Halloween, from the time I visited my town’s haunted house as a young kid in the 1980s to watching horror movies as an adult. As a writer of romance and romantic women’s fiction, love stories are also my jam. Many people think horror and romance aren’t compatible, but I combined both in my novella series Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish, and the books in this list prove that Halloween and romance are meant to be.

G.G.'s book list on Halloween romance books

G.G. Andrew Why did G.G. love this book?

I return to this dark, sensual collection of Angela Carter stories most autumns, often through audio book. While these are not technically romance stories, they’re what I call romance-adjacent: fairy tales centered on love and passion—and their dangers—with gorgeous language and twists that subvert your expectations.

My favorite story here is “In the Company of Wolves,” but really that’s like choosing a favorite child.

By Angela Carter,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Bloody Chamber as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an introduction by Helen Simpson. From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires and werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.


Book cover of The Dedalus Book of Surrealism: The Identity of Things

Mike Russell Author Of Strange Medicine

From my list on strange, weird, surreal short story collections.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hello. My name is Mike Russell. I write books (novels, short story collections, and novellas) and make visual art (mostly paintings, occasionally sculptures). I love art and books that are surreal and magical because that is the way life seems to me, and I love art and books that are mind-expanding because we need to expand our minds to perceive just how surreal and magical life is. My books have been described as strange fiction, weird fiction, surrealism, magic realism, fantasy fiction… but I just like to call them Strange Books.

Mike's book list on strange, weird, surreal short story collections

Mike Russell Why did Mike love this book?

Some of the stories in this collection, like my own stories, use surreal metaphor, expressing poetic imagery in prose form; others are more about the thrill of absurdity. Though surrealism existed before the term or movement existed (in visual art and literature e.g. Lewis Carroll, Hieronymus Bosch, etc.), Andre Breton and his mates really went for it. Here you can read works by Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel, Louis Aragon, Leonora Carrington, and more. What I love about all of these artists is their obvious joy in discovering the surreal or poetic image, a joy I know well, and their absolute passion for the importance and potency of expressing such imagery. 

By Michael Richardson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Comprised of works by authors from 17 countries, these volumes provide the most extensive assemblage of surrealist writing, much of which is here translated into English for the first time. "The Identity of Things" introduces surrealism's reworking of the fairy tale and the Gothic novel, its essays in the myths, desires and mysteries underlying modern reality.

"I went to fetch my car, but my chauffeur, who has no sense at all, had just buried it', writes Leonora Carrington in this captivating collection of tales from 17 languages."
The Observer


Book cover of The Garden of Hermetic Dreams

Mike Russell Author Of Strange Medicine

From my list on strange, weird, surreal short story collections.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hello. My name is Mike Russell. I write books (novels, short story collections, and novellas) and make visual art (mostly paintings, occasionally sculptures). I love art and books that are surreal and magical because that is the way life seems to me, and I love art and books that are mind-expanding because we need to expand our minds to perceive just how surreal and magical life is. My books have been described as strange fiction, weird fiction, surrealism, magic realism, fantasy fiction… but I just like to call them Strange Books.

Mike's book list on strange, weird, surreal short story collections

Mike Russell Why did Mike love this book?

This is a wonderful selection of short stories and novel extracts by early authors of strange, weird, surreal fiction; writers whose subject is the so-called supernatural and who rail against the reduction of life to rational materialism. These works would broadly now be referred to as weird fiction. They are only as weird as the world. The book also contains an excellent introduction by the editor, speaking up for the strange, weird, and surreal.

By Gary Lachman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

' Lachman presents a generous anthology of literary texts inspired by the weird, the supernatural and the gothic. From Beckford's Vathek to Gustav Meyrink's The Golem, there is a successful balance of the well-known, the esoteric and the curious.' Stuart Kelly in Scotland on Sunday 'The first item, from William Beckford's Vathek, indicates the feverish imaginings gathered in this "occult reader". It encompasses drugs, sacrifice, a genii and an Indian who becomes irresistibly arousing by transforming himself into a ball. ETA Hoffman's The Golden Flower Pot shows how this writer's fertile imagination can animate even everyday objects, as in his…


Book cover of The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus

Mike Russell Author Of Strange Medicine

From my list on strange, weird, surreal short story collections.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hello. My name is Mike Russell. I write books (novels, short story collections, and novellas) and make visual art (mostly paintings, occasionally sculptures). I love art and books that are surreal and magical because that is the way life seems to me, and I love art and books that are mind-expanding because we need to expand our minds to perceive just how surreal and magical life is. My books have been described as strange fiction, weird fiction, surrealism, magic realism, fantasy fiction… but I just like to call them Strange Books.

Mike's book list on strange, weird, surreal short story collections

Mike Russell Why did Mike love this book?

This is the book I used to read with a torch under the bedcovers as a kid. It introduced me to many great science fiction writers. My copy had an excellent cover depicting an ice cream with an eyeball staring out of it. I loved entering the book’s different worlds. It inspired me to lie awake at night, speculating about the universe, only to awake the next morning wondering if this was the day when the school teacher would say, ‘OK enough of these spellings and sums, let’s talk about why life exists.’ I still don’t understand why it never happened.

Book cover of Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fascism

Martin M. Winkler Author Of Arminius the Liberator: Myth and Ideology

From my list on ideological and popular uses of ancient Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Professor of Classics at George Mason University. I learned about ancient Romans and Greeks in my native Germany, when I attended a humanist high school, possibly the oldest in the country. (It was founded during the reign of Charlemagne, as the eastern half of the Roman Empire was still flourishing.) My mother once informed me that I betrayed my passion for stories long before I could read because I enthusiastically used to tear pages out of books. In my teens I became fascinated with stories told in moving images. I have been a bibliophile and, em, cinemaniac ever since and have pursued both my obsessions in my publications.

Martin's book list on ideological and popular uses of ancient Rome

Martin M. Winkler Why did Martin love this book?

An American journalist, expelled from Italy in 1925, traces roots, rise, and rule of Il Duce in this 1935 book, which is as vivid as its title.

Mussolini appears as a cheap showman, who, “acting the Hero,” revived ancient Roman pomp and spectacles. He was also aware of the power of mass media, especially the cinema, “posing before men and moviemen.”

One of the virtues of Seldes’ book are the extensive quotations, which unmask Mussolini and others in their own words. Fascist documents, quoted at length, include “The Fascist Decalogue” (note its VIII. Commandment!) and the “Fascist Catechism,” which must be read to be (dis)believed.

Seldes’ book has become valuable again in the current age of assorted domestic and foreign media- and image-obsessed demagogues, autocrats, and dictators.

Book cover of Resurrecting Pompeii

Virginia Campbell Author Of The Tombs of Pompeii: Organization, Space, and Society

From my list on Pompeii and what we know about this Roman city.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first visited Pompeii on a school trip when I was 17. I have a clear memory of standing in the Forum and thinking it was the most amazing place I had ever been. Decades later, that feeling remains, and the sites destroyed by Vesuvius have become the focus of my research on ancient Rome. I have excavated in Pompeii, conducted epigraphic fieldwork in Herculaneum, and taught students at multiple universities around the UK about the cities, the people who lived there, and their destruction. I am fundamentally interested in the people, how they lived their lives, and have published widely on tombs, epigraphy, and politics in Pompeii.

Virginia's book list on Pompeii and what we know about this Roman city

Virginia Campbell Why did Virginia love this book?

More often than not, people forget that the Vesuvian sites are, as gruesome as it sounds, large mass burials – not just of the cities themselves, but of people. The human remains of Pompeii (and by extension, Herculaneum) have been ignored or treated like some kind of circus attraction for centuries. What Lazar does is open your eyes to just how much information there is to be found from the casts and skeletons, and the potential to learn so much more about people and life in the first century. Her work is groundbreaking.

By Estelle Lazer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Resurrecting Pompeii provides an in-depth study of a unique site from antiquity with information about a population who all died from the same known cause within a short period of time.

Pompeii has been continuously excavated and studied since 1748. Early scholars working in Pompeii and other sites associated with the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius were seduced by the wealth of artefacts and wall paintings yielded by the site. This meant that the less visually attractive evidence, such as human skeletal remains, were largely ignored.

Recognizing the important contribution of the human skeletal evidence to the archaeology of…


Book cover of The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy

Peter Elbling Author Of The Food Taster

From my list on the brilliance of the Italian Renaissance.

Why am I passionate about this?

Folk-singing was my first vocation, but I made a sudden left turn into comedy, becoming one-half of The Times Square Two. After a few years touring the world, I settled in Hollywood and became an actor, writer, and director. I was inspired to write The Food Taster by the maître d’ of a famous restaurant in Los Angeles. When I complained that my meal had made me ill, he smiled and said I should get myself a food taster.

Peter's book list on the brilliance of the Italian Renaissance

Peter Elbling Why did Peter love this book?

Burckhardt’s encyclopedia became my bible. Whatever I needed to know about the clothing, or the buildings, or the politics—or anything else about that period, I only had to open Burckhardt’s book, and it was all there for me. The information was easy to find and eminently readable; and while I am hardly a scholar of the Renaissance, after devouring his book a thousand times I believe I can now call myself an honorable student.

By Jacob Burckhardt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For nineteenth-century Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt, the Italian Renaissance was nothing less than the beginning of the modern world - a world in which flourishing individualism and the competition for fame radically transformed science, the arts, and politics. In this landmark work he depicts the Italian city-states of Florence, Venice and Rome as providing the seeds of a new form of society, and traces the rise of the creative individual, from Dante to Michelangelo. A fascinating description of an era of cultural transition, this nineteenth-century masterpiece was to become the most influential interpretation of the Italian Renaissance, and anticipated ideas…


Book cover of The Body Of Il Duce: Mussolini's Corpse And The Fortunes Of Italy

Daniel Kalder Author Of The Infernal Library

From my list on dictators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in the former Soviet Union for ten years, primarily in Moscow, the home of many a brutal tyrant. My obsession with dictator literature began after I discovered that Saddam Hussein had written a romance novel, following which I spent many years reading the literary output of all of the 20th century’s most terrible tyrants, from Mussolini to Stalin to the Ayatollah Khomeini. This monumental act of self-torture resulted in my critically acclaimed book The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, And Other Catastrophes of Literacy

Daniel's book list on dictators

Daniel Kalder Why did Daniel love this book?

Once a dictator dies, his statues might come down and his books might disappear from school curriculums, but his legacy can endure for generations. Mussolini was the man for whom the term “totalitarian” was coined, and he pioneered many of the techniques of domination that other dictators deployed later in the century. When it was all new, a lot of people thought he might be onto something and “Il Duce” even enjoyed the support of such famous figures such as Churchill and Gandhi. The sight of his bullet ridden corpse strung upside down outside an Esso gas station in Milan must have seemed like the ultimate fall from grace, an indelible image of his regime’s failure. But that was not the end of the story, and in this remarkable book, Luzzato explores what happened next — both to Mussolini’s corpse, and to his ideas, as they continued to linger on…

By Sergio Luzzatto,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Body Of Il Duce as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant young historian follows the odyssey of Mussolini's body in an original exploration of the history and legacy of Italian Fascism

Bullet-ridden, spat on, butchered bloody: this was the fate of Il Duce, strung up beside his dead mistress in a Milan square, as reviled in death as he was adored in life. With Italy's defeat in World War II, the cult of Benito Mussolini's physical self was brought to its grotesque denouement by a frenzied, jeering crowd of thousands-one eerily similar to the cheering throngs that had once roared their approval beneath Il Duce's balcony.

In this groundbreaking…


Book cover of The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo

Kimberly Nixon Author Of Rock Bottom, Tennessee

From my list on books based on a true story.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for the family story, and I have been blessed with a plethora of them. My mother grew up in Appalachia during the Great Depression and faced shame because her mother left the family to commit a felony. Her accounts of a childhood without and sleeping in an abandoned log cabin have been seared into my soul. My father, one of fourteen children during the Great Depression, worked on neighboring farms from the age of seven. History has two parts, the facts and details, but the telling of the story wrangles the purpose and sacrifice of those involved.

Kimberly's book list on books based on a true story

Kimberly Nixon Why did Kimberly love this book?

After a trip to Florence to see Michelangelo’s earlier works and then David, I struggled to understand the genius, his intense pursuit of excellence, and how his surroundings influenced his art.

The author set me in one of the most fascinating eras of history and made me feel as if I were an apprentice in Michelangelo’s shop. I wept to comprehend the artist and realized that perfection was not a choice for Michelangelo, but a non-negotiable burden.

As I now observe genius in a musician, a scientist, or a mother caring for an autistic child, I give credence to what I learned from Oliver Stone’s portrayal of Michelangelo.

By Irving Stone,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Agony and the Ecstasy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Irving Stone's classic biographical novel of Michelangelo-the #1 New York Times bestseller in which both the artist and the man are brought to vivid, captivating life.

His time-the turbulent Renaissance, the years of poisoning princes, warring Popes, and the all-powerful de'Medici family...

His loves-the frail and lovely daughter of Lorenzo de'Medici, the ardent mistress of Marco Aldovrandi, and his last love, his greatest love-the beautiful, unhappy Vittoria Colonna...

His genius-a God-driven fury from which he wrested brilliant work that made a grasp for heaven unmatched in half a millennium...

His name-Michelangelo Buonarroti. Creator of the David, painter of the ceiling…


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,…


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