82 books like The Decameron

By Giovanni Boccaccio,

Here are 82 books that The Decameron fans have personally recommended if you like The Decameron. 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 A Journal of the Plague Year

Alexander Fisher Author Of Delirium

From my list on where a catastrophe makes society fall apart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the strangeness of human character when tested to the limit by overwhelming catastrophe. I’ve always wanted to write a story that brings into stark relief the courage, fear, ambition, tragedy, absurdity, and the ecstatic. In other words, a disaster. And if character is destiny, then an apocalypse maybe the best way to show us who we really are and where we’re going. My debut novel, Delirium focuses on these extremes of character. And after writing it I reached one indelible conclusion: that the human being is the most disturbed creature, but also the most hopeful.

Alexander's book list on where a catastrophe makes society fall apart

Alexander Fisher Why did Alexander love this book?

I enjoyed reading this book both as a historical artefact of the 17th century but also because Defoe’s plain, matter-of-fact style makes all the chaos, the shrieking, the death carts, families locked in their houses, health certificates, the delirium, the fear of coming too close, the paranoia, the panic and the madness that surrounds the narrator all the more disturbing.

He is a witness whose curiosity far outweighs his fear. But there’s also the Defoe-like sense of adventure when for instance a group of three escape London and shift for themselves in a countryside whose towns and villages are hostile to strangers. Instructive, disquieting, gripping, indelible.

This retained its curiosity value even on a second reading. A great little book.

By Daniel Defoe,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked A Journal of the Plague Year as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The haunting cry of "Bring out your dead!" by a bell-ringing collector of 17th-century plague victims has filled readers across the centuries with cold terror. The chilling cry survives in historical consciousness largely as a result of this classic 1722 account of the epidemic of bubonic plague — known as the Black Death — that ravaged England in 1664–1665.
Actually written nearly 60 years later by Daniel Defoe, the Journal is narrated by a Londoner named "H. F.," who allegedly lived through the devastating effects of the pestilence and produced this eye witness account. Drawing on his considerable talents as…


Book cover of Rats, Lice and History

Charles Kenny Author Of The Plague Cycle: The Unending War Between Humanity and Infectious Disease

From my list on plague outbreaks.

Why am I passionate about this?

Charles Kenny is a writer-researcher at the Center for Global Development and has worked on policy reforms in global health as well as UN peacekeeping and combating international financial corruption. Previously, he spent fifteen years as an economist at the World Bank, travelling the planet from Baghdad and Kabul to Brasilia and Beijing. He earned a history degree at Cambridge and has graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins, the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and Cambridge. 

Charles' book list on plague outbreaks

Charles Kenny Why did Charles love this book?

Unlike the other four books in this list, Zinsser’s is an overall history of disease (if focused on typhus) not the story of a particular outbreak. But Zinsser was actively involved in the history he retells at the end of his book as a researcher on a typhus vaccine. Published in 1935, it remains a fascinating and hugely enjoyable primer of the role of infection in history.

By Hans Zinsser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Rats, Lice and History appeared in 1935, Hans Zinsser was a highly regarded Harvard biologist who had never written about historical events. Although he had published under a pseudonym, virtually all of his previous writings had dealt with infections and immunity and had appeared either in medical and scientific journals or in book format. Today he is best remembered as the author of Rats, Lice, and History, which gone through multiple editions and remains a masterpiece of science writing for a general readership.

To Zinsser, scientific research was high adventure and the investigation of infectious disease, a field of…


Book cover of The Hot Zone

MJ Howson Author Of Dawn of Eve

From my list on scaring and thrilling you without bathing you in blood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up reading Stephen King and Michael Crichton. That combination of horror and techno-thriller greatly impacted my writing style and genre. I love a page-turner and chapters that end with a cliffhanger. I love that creepy feeling of dread that washes over you when engrossed in a scary scene. I love when you put a book down for the night, turn off the light, and then wince when you hear a strange noise in the other room. I love a story that's so believable that you can't help but wonder, "Could this happen...maybe even to me?" If you do, too, you may enjoy my books.

MJ's book list on scaring and thrilling you without bathing you in blood

MJ Howson Why did MJ love this book?

A friend insisted I borrow The Hot Zone from him. I explained I wasn't fond of nonfiction books, but he told me to trust him and that the book read like a real-life thriller. I gave it a try and couldn't put the story down.

I read this 25 years before Covid. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I remember thinking, "Oh my God, the Hot Zone has gone global." With every turn of the page, I kept telling myself, "This can't be real." Not only was it all true, but it was exciting. And terrifying. That icky feeling stuck with me.

When I write, I do my best to use the five senses to create the perfect atmosphere.

By Richard Preston,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Hot Zone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus.

Now a mini-series drama starring Julianna Margulies, Topher Grace, Liam Cunningham, James D'Arcy, and Noah Emmerich on National Geographic.

A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic "hot" virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of…


Book cover of Natural History of Infectious Disease

John M. Barry Author Of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

From my list on disease and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

John M. Barry was the only non-scientist ever to give the National Academies of Sciences Abel Wolman Distinguished Lecture, and he advised the Bush and Obama White Houses on pandemic preparedness and response. He is an award-winning and #1 New York Times best-selling author whose books have also involved him in policy making. The National Academies of Science named The Great Influenza the year’s outstanding book on science or medicine.

John's book list on disease and society

John M. Barry Why did John love this book?

This provides the reader with the background to understand what happens when a pathogen invades both an individual and a society. It’s an absolutely brilliant book by a Nobel laureate scientist, one of my all-time favorites on any subject.

By David O. White, Macfarlane Burnet,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Natural History of Infectious Disease as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Provides a biological inquiry into the causes and spread of infectious disease and its impact on human survival


Book cover of A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

Charlotte Gray Author Of Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons: The Lives of Jennie Jerome Churchill and Sara Delano Roosevelt

From my list on history books by women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I recall my younger self looking at the reading lists on Oxford University history courses, and asking, “Where are all the women?” I have always wanted to know what it was like to be there, in any century up to the present. How did families form and pass on their values, what did people wear and eat, when (and if) children learned to read, and what were people’s daily routines? Political, military, and economic history is important, but I have flourished in the social history trenches. I discovered women writers and historians have more acute antennae for the details I wanted, even when writing about wars and dynasties.

Charlotte's book list on history books by women

Charlotte Gray Why did Charlotte love this book?

Who knew that an account of a disappeared medieval world could be so gripping?

I’ve always regarded history as a literary and intellectual exercise, and Pulitzer-winning Barbara Tuchman has been my model ever since I picked up this absorbing history of a Europe riven by war, climate catastrophes, plague, and religious schisms.

Academic historians might denigrate Tuchman’s approach, but through pen-portraits and narrative momentum, Tuchman immersed me in a world that had subtle echoes of today.

By Barbara W. Tuchman,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Distant Mirror as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fourteenth century was a time of fabled crusades and chivalry, glittering cathedrals and grand castles. It was also a time of ferocity and spiritual agony, a world of chaos and the plague.

Here, Barbara Tuchman masterfully reveals the two contradictory images of the age, examining the great rhythms of history and the grain and texture of domestic life as it was lived: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes and war dominated the lives of serf, noble and clergy alike.

Granting her subjects their loyalties, treacheries and guilty passions, Tuchman recreates the lives of proud cardinals,…


Book cover of The Plague

Alexander Fisher Author Of Delirium

From my list on where a catastrophe makes society fall apart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the strangeness of human character when tested to the limit by overwhelming catastrophe. I’ve always wanted to write a story that brings into stark relief the courage, fear, ambition, tragedy, absurdity, and the ecstatic. In other words, a disaster. And if character is destiny, then an apocalypse maybe the best way to show us who we really are and where we’re going. My debut novel, Delirium focuses on these extremes of character. And after writing it I reached one indelible conclusion: that the human being is the most disturbed creature, but also the most hopeful.

Alexander's book list on where a catastrophe makes society fall apart

Alexander Fisher Why did Alexander love this book?

Camus’ Stranger brought me to this book and I was once more pulled in by the same direct prose, the same detachment and the same philosophical inquisitiveness.

There’s a feeling that plagues are inevitable, that they will come no matter what we do, and that our efforts to stop them always degenerate into the absurd. But what struck me most was that this is not fatalism, because although the collective effort is largely useless, hope lies in the small acts of kindness between individuals.

By Albert Camus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Its relevance lashes you across the face.” —Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times • “A redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair.” —Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post 

A haunting tale of human resilience and hope in the face of unrelieved horror, Albert Camus' iconic novel about an epidemic ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century literature. 

The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they…


Book cover of Death at La Fenice

Mark Frutkin Author Of The Artist and the Assassin

From my list on historical fiction and mysteries set in Italy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always had a strong, long-lived interest in all things Italian (including Italian food and wine). I spent my third year of university at a campus in Rome and travelled all over Italy during my year there. I’ve been back to Italy as a tourist and researcher numerous times, as five of my ten award-winning novels are set there (in Venice, Rome, Cremona, etc.). I have many Italian friends and my most recent novel, The Artist and the Assassin, is being translated into Italian and will be published by Les Flaneurs Edizioni, an Italian publisher in Bari, Italy. 

Mark's book list on historical fiction and mysteries set in Italy

Mark Frutkin Why did Mark love this book?

I recommend this book because Donna Leon takes us inside the fascinating world of Venice. Her fictional detective, Guido Brunetti, is not only brilliant at solving crime (in her many Venetian novels) but has a delightful family (wife and two teenage children). La Fenice is the famous opera house of Venice, so we get to go backstage there as well as backstage in the city of Venice.

By Donna Leon,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Death at La Fenice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A splendid series . . . with a backdrop of the city so vivid you can almost smell it.' The Sunday Telegraph

Winner of the Suntory Mystery Fiction Grand Prize
__________________________________

The twisted maze of Venice's canals has always been shrouded in mystery. Even the celebrated opera house, La Fenice, has seen its share of death ... but none so horrific and violent as that of world-famous conductor, Maestro Helmut Wellauer, who was poisoned during a performance of La Traviata. Even Commissario of Police, Guido Brunetti, used to the labyrinthine corruptions of the city, is shocked at the number of…


Book cover of Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

Dianne Hales Author Of La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World

From my list on italy and italian.

Why am I passionate about this?

Decades ago, I fell madly, gladly, and giddily in love with Italian. This passion inspired La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with the World’s Most Enchanting Language, which became a New York Times best-seller and won an Italian knighthood for my contributions to promoting Italy’s language. Intrigued by the world’s most famous portrait, I wrote Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, translated into seven languages. My most recent journeys through Italian culture are La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World and  ‘A’ Is for Amore, an e-book written during the pandemic and available free on my website.

Dianne's book list on italy and italian

Dianne Hales Why did Dianne love this book?

While researching Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, I rented an apartment a few blocks from a house where Galileo lived in Florence. I could stand outside its door every day, but this book transported me inside—not just a building but a family, a home, and an era. 

Dava Sobel’s meticulous research reveals not just new dimensions of Galileo’s life and work as an intrepid scientist but the often hidden realm inhabited by his daughter. Illegitimate and unmarriageable, she entered a convent at age 13 to live in poverty and simplicity. And yet, as her letters demonstrate, Sister Marie Celeste’s soul and spirit soared. The ending—which I dare not spoil—has haunted me since my first reading decades ago.

By Dava Sobel,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Galileo's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspired by a long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of his daughter Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun, Dava Sobel has crafted a biography that dramatically recolors the personality and accomplishments of a mythic figure whose early-seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion-the man Albert Einstein called "the father of modern physics-indeed of modern science altogether." It is also a stunning portrait of Galileo's daughter, a person hitherto lost to history, described by her father as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me."

Moving…


Book cover of The Divine Comedy

Dianne Hales Author Of La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World

From my list on italy and italian.

Why am I passionate about this?

Decades ago, I fell madly, gladly, and giddily in love with Italian. This passion inspired La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with the World’s Most Enchanting Language, which became a New York Times best-seller and won an Italian knighthood for my contributions to promoting Italy’s language. Intrigued by the world’s most famous portrait, I wrote Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, translated into seven languages. My most recent journeys through Italian culture are La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World and  ‘A’ Is for Amore, an e-book written during the pandemic and available free on my website.

Dianne's book list on italy and italian

Dianne Hales Why did Dianne love this book?

Long after I began studying Italian, I resisted reading Italy’s greatest poet. His classic book seemed too daunting, too distant, too dull. Then, an Italian teacher gave me the first adaptation of the La Divina Commedia that she had read as a girl: a vintage Italian Walt Disney comic book featuring Mickey Mouse (Topolino in Italian) as Dante with Minnie Mouse as his adored Beatrice.   

I was so intrigued that I bought an English translation of the Divine Comedy—several, although I’m partial to John Ciardi’s. My unanticipated reaction: Wow! Like modern readers ensnared by the wizardly world of Harry Potter, I skidded into a fully imagined alternate world. An action-packed, high-adrenalin, breath-taking, rip-roaring yarn leaped off the pages into vivid, writhing, pulsating life. If you love action-packed tales and also seek insights into the Italian soul, read The Inferno. Purgatorio and Paradiso are optional. 

By Dante Alighieri, C.H. Sisson (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Described variously as the greatest poem of the European Middle Ages and, because of the author's evangelical purpose, the `fifth Gospel', the Divine Comedy is central to the culture of the west. The poem is a spiritual autobiography in the form of a journey - the poet travels from the dark circles of the Inferno, up the mountain of Purgatory, where Virgil, his guide leaves him to encounter Beatrice in the Earthly Paradise. Dante conceived the poem as the
new epic of Christendom, and he creates a world in which reason and faith have transformed moral and social chaos into…


Book cover of The Plague of Athens

Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti Author Of Imprimatur

From my list on how the Plague changed history.

Why are we passionate about this?

We have always been fascinated by literary masterworks that stage the plague as a pivotal factor in the plot. We added the next ingredients: a whodunnit with a claustrophobic setting, the Baroque Age, a (real) financial thriller between Rome and London, and an unusual protagonist. Rita is a historian of religions, Francesco is a musicologist. After working as journalists, meeting in a newspaper bureau, and getting happily married, we started a writing career publishing 11 novels translated into 26 languages and 60 countries with more than 2 million copies sold. Our novels are a mix of literary creativity and meticulous research, characters and settings are strictly based on original documents and eyewitness accounts. 

Rita's book list on how the Plague changed history

Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti Why did Rita love this book?

Nobody can describe the plague better than... one who’s been infected. 430 BC: coming from Ethiopia through Egypt, a massive plague outbreak hits the overpopulated Athens, right in the middle of a bitter war against Sparta. Thucydides, the first Greek historian with a modern approach, witnesses the tragic days (doctors and authorities were totally unprepared) of the largest metropolis in the Mediterranean. The author himself is contaminated and later recounts his experience in this unforgettable section of his History of the Peloponnesian War.

By Thomas Sprat,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 18th century was a wealth of knowledge, exploration and rapidly growing technology and expanding record-keeping made possible by advances in the printing press. In its determination to preserve the century of revolution, Gale initiated a revolution of its own: digitization of epic proportions to preserve these invaluable works in the largest archive of its kind. Now for the first time these high-quality digital copies of original 18th century manuscripts are available in print, making them highly accessible to libraries, undergraduate students, and independent scholars.
Western literary study flows out of eighteenth-century works by Alexander Pope, Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in plagues, Europe, and storytelling?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about plagues, Europe, and storytelling.

Plagues Explore 49 books about plagues
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Storytelling Explore 112 books about storytelling