100 books like The Road to San Giovanni

By Italo Calvino, Tim Parks (translator),

Here are 100 books that The Road to San Giovanni fans have personally recommended if you like The Road to San Giovanni. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Olive Kitteridge

Ruth F. Stevens Author Of My Year of Casual Acquaintances

From my list on smart, quirky women facing personal struggles.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the time I was a girl, I’ve loved stories that put a lump in my throat even as I’m laughing. As a fiction writer, that funny-sad tone is the one I go for in my own work. I gravitate toward female protagonists of all ages who break the mold—women who are intelligent and strong but who also have unconventional, quirky personalities. Women who can be hilarious, infuriating, and heartbreaking—sometimes all at once. Because they are complex and unique, these women tend to struggle with life’s challenges more than their contemporaries. That’s what makes their stories so interesting, and why I have chosen the books on this list. 

Ruth's book list on smart, quirky women facing personal struggles

Ruth F. Stevens Why did Ruth love this book?

If I looked up “curmudgeon” in the dictionary, I’d half expect to find Olive’s picture. Perpetually grumpy and disappointed that the people around her don’t live up to her expectations (something I can relate to!), Olive is difficult, demanding, and often outrageous.

Yet her quirky charm has caused millions of readers—including me—to fall under her spell. I followed Olive’s journey with interest, hoping she’d find peace if not happiness.

The highly original, unconventional structure of this book has also made it one of my favorites. I love how Strout weaves Olive in and out of the action in this novel of connected stories, sometimes as a minor character and sometimes as the star.

By Elizabeth Strout,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Olive Kitteridge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • The beloved first novel featuring Olive Kitteridge, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah’s Book Club pick Olive, Again
 
“Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge. . . . You’ll never forget her.”—USA Today
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post Book World • USA Today • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Seattle Post-Intelligencer • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Christian Science Monitor • The Plain Dealer • The Atlantic • Rocky Mountain News • Library Journal
 
At times stern, at…


Book cover of Life A User's Manual

Richard Hernaman Allen Author Of The Waterguard

From my list on which you may have never heard anything.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve gone to France often during my life. I always buy books that look interesting while I’m there, mainly to keep my French in good shape. I tend to pick authors and subjects which catch my eye. Some get discarded, but most give a fascinating and often very different perspective on life than I find in English novels and essays. 

Richard's book list on which you may have never heard anything

Richard Hernaman Allen Why did Richard love this book?

This is a complex and overwhelming book. It covers the detailed contents and history of the rooms and characters in a large apartment block in Paris. Some of the rooms and characters interact in a complex, sometimes dark way. It is a long book, but I found it enthralling all the way through. If you like a detailed, complex, baroque book where you have to read carefully and make connections, this is for you.

By Georges Perec, David Bellos (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Life A User's Manual as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this ingenious book Perec creates an entire microcosm in a Paris apartment block. Serge Valene wants to make an elaborate painting of the building he has made his home for the last sixty years. As he plans his picture, he contemplates the lives of all the people he has ever known there. Chapter by chapter, the narrative moves around the building revealing a marvellously diverse cast of characters in a series of every more unlikely tales, which range from an avenging murderer to an eccentric English millionaire who has devised the ultimate pastime...


Book cover of Let the Great World Spin

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?

Let The Great World Spin orbits around Philip Petit’s high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in New York in 1974; an amazing feat that has, of course, only become more charged and potent with time. The novel creates a kaleidoscope of lives touched by that breathtaking act, as well as capturing, in heartstopping prose, the magnitude of the act itself.

By Colum McCann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let the Great World Spin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • Colum McCann’s beloved novel inspired by Philippe Petit’s daring high-wire stunt, which is also depicted in the film The Walk starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt

In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.

Let…


Book cover of Cannery Row

Connie Kronlokken Author Of So Are You to My Thoughts

From my list on deepening your understanding of California history.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a transplant to California, albeit more than 50 years ago, I am still fascinated by what makes this place at the edge of the Pacific so unique. It has accepted so many people, from so many places over a fairly recent period. I always feel I can deduce more history from well rendered characters set in specific times and places. Their wholeness and their meaning, as well as that of their culture, are to be found in literature.

Connie's book list on deepening your understanding of California history

Connie Kronlokken Why did Connie love this book?

A street at the edge of the Pacific in Monterey where sardines are brought in to be canned, is the setting for a collection of colorful characters Steinbeck knew.

Chief among them is Doc, based on Steinbeck’s friend Ed Ricketts, who operated a lab that collected and prepared aquatic specimens for schools and museums. The lab is still there, next to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The canneries closed by the 1970’s and today Cannery Row is a thumping tourist trap. But I loved the book because of Doc, a gentleman, and a scholar if there ever was one.

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Cannery Row as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the din and stink that is Cannery Row a colourful blend of misfits - gamblers, whores, drunks, bums and artists - survive side by side in a jumble of adventure and mischief. Lee Chong, the astute owner of the well-stocked grocery store, is also the proprietor of the Palace Flophouse that Mack and his troupe of good-natured 'boys' call home. Dora runs the brothel with clockwork efficiency and a generous heart, and Doc is the fount of all wisdom. Packed with invention and joie de vivre CANNERY ROW is Steinbeck's high-spirited tribute to his native California.


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 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 Rossano – Valley in Flames: An Adventure of the Italian Resistance

Brian Lett Author Of Ian Fleming and SOE’s Operation Postmaster

From my list on history about real secret agents.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started writing military history out of anger—a national newspaper had published an obituary of one of our SAS heroes, and it had wrongly defamed a deceased Italian partisan as a traitor. The newspaper published my letter of correction, but only on its website. It mattered to me that the record should be put straight, and therefore I wrote my first book. In researching that book, I discovered links that led me to Operation Postmaster, and after that, I caught the researcher's bug. As an experienced criminal lawyer, evaluating evidence has always been one of my skills, and sometimes "building" a book is very similar to building a case for the defence or prosecution.  

Brian's book list on history about real secret agents

Brian Lett Why did Brian love this book?

An SOE agent with a difference - of particular relevance, perhaps, to the present war in Ukraine. Major Gordon Lett escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy in 1943 and became a partisan leader behind enemy lines there. He was recruited by SOE in 1944 when already leading a resistance band in the mountains above La Spezia. This book tells of the difficulties of fighting a partisan war, something that we understand is going on today behind Russian lines in Ukraine. It tells the story of civilian courage and sacrifice, and of guerrilla warfare in the face of a brutal enemy.

By Gordon Lett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rossano – Valley in Flames as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In July 1942, Major Gordon Lett was taken prisoner at the fall of Tobruk. After fourteen months in the notorious prison camps at Bari and Chieti, he escaped at the Armistice of September 1943 from the camp at Veano and took to the mountains above the Cisa Pass. Rather than return to England, he founded and led an entirely non-political band of highly-successful partisans, the Battaglione Internazionale. The group fought and harassed the Brigate Nere and the Germans along the Magra valley from North of Pontremoli to La Spezia for 18 months. They were so influential to the success of…


Book cover of The Longest Echo

JuliAnne Sisung Author Of Curse of the Damselfly

From my list on unconventional, courageous women.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a child, my mother and I shared and discussed Zane Grey books. I loved his portrayal of the past and read every one. My obsession with historical fiction grew, and I wrote my first draft of Elephant in the Room at age sixteen. I’m stuck in the period between 1875 and 1940 because of the simplicity driving life as well as the complexity of larger events changing the world. Wilder, Steinbeck, Twain, all picked me off my feet and set me down in their shoes. I’m not able to remove them. I write about courageous women because we are, whether it’s expressed or is in waiting.  

JuliAnne's book list on unconventional, courageous women

JuliAnne Sisung Why did JuliAnne love this book?

Set in Italy during WWII, Liliana Nicoletti becomes involved in the partisan cause to save her country from the Germans. When her family encounters an escaped POW, she learns what it means to fight the Fascists who are destroying her community and joins the resistance.  

Her mother and sisters shot, mud and blood streaming over her face, she picks up the rifle she hadn’t used in years and vows to find her father. Realistic and horrific, the first half of the tale paints a picture of courage beyond what we imagine possible and of relationships formed from the tangled threads of love and need. After the war, angst mixes with hope as Liliana and James search for the men who slaughtered innocent people. Is justice or revenge driving her?

The author drew me into the story with vivid details and kept me on the edge of my seat with twists and turns. I cared…

By Eoin Dempsey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Against the backdrop of WWII-ravaged Italy comes a powerful and emotional novel of love, survival, justice, and second chances by the bestselling author of White Rose, Black Forest.

Occupied Italy, 1944. In the mountain regions south of Bologna, Liliana Nicoletti's family finds escaped POW James Foley behind German lines. Committed to the anti-Fascist cause, they deliver him to a powerful band of local partisans. But when the SS launches a brutal attack against the Resistance, Liliana's peaceful community is destroyed. Alone and thrown together by tragedy, James and Liliana fight together as Monte Sole burns. Forging an unbreakable bond, they…


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 Family Lexicon

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?

Among the greatest family memoirs of all time. Novelist, Natalia Ginzburg (née Levi) grew up in a big family in Turin between the wars. Her Jewish father was a famous and famously irascible scientist, her mother a charmer from the well-to-do bourgeoisie. The last of five, Natalia gives a sparkling picture of the loves, friendships and conflicts between her older brothers and sisters as Fascist Italy drifted toward war. Impossible not to laugh and cry, while at the same time getting a sense of the deeper forces driving Italian life.

By Natalia Ginzburg, Jenny McPhee (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A masterpiece of European literature that blends family memoir and fiction

An Italian family, sizable, with its routines and rituals, crazes, pet phrases, and stories, doubtful, comical, indispensable, comes to life in the pages of Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon. Giuseppe Levi, the father, is a scientist, consumed by his work and a mania for hiking—when he isn’t provoked into angry remonstration by someone misspeaking or misbehaving or wearing the wrong thing. Giuseppe is Jewish, married to Lidia, a Catholic, though neither is religious; they live in the industrial city of Turin where, as the years pass, their children find ways…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Italy, fascism, and presidential biography?

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