The best books about Italy

Who picked these books? Meet our 352 experts.

352 authors created a book list connected to Italy, and here are their favorite Italy books.
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Little Fortress

By Laisha Rosnau,

Book cover of Little Fortress

Karen Hofmann Author Of What Is Going to Happen Next

From the list on families and growing up in rural British Columbia.

Who am I?

I grew up in a rural community and have lived most of my adult life in a small city in the Southern Interior of British Columbia. I’m fascinated with West Coast culture, particularly the Canadian version of it, which is connected to the environment and outdoors, shaped by more recent immigration and its sense of distance and disconnect from the country’s capital and economic and social centres, and informed by a more gentle climate. Rural west coast culture is especially rich in iconoclasts, those who live outside the norm, and I’ve explored these sorts of characters in all four of my novels and my short story collection.

Karen's book list on families and growing up in rural British Columbia

Discover why each book is one of Karen's favorite books.

Why did Karen love this book?

Laisha Rosnau is a prize-winning poet, and her literary skills shine in this novel about a noble Italian family, the Caetanis, who immigrate from Italy to Vernon, BC to escape the rise of fascism. Based on a true story, this intricate novel explores the bonds of family and friendship, the contrasts in class and changing times, and the hardships and beauties of life in a rural area through the lives of three women. I was captivated by the characters and the gorgeous, insightful writing. Ofelia and Sveva Caetani and their personal secretary, Miss Juul, will stay with you forever as women creating home and family in the face of exile, loss, and sweeping change.

By Laisha Rosnau,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on the true story of the Caetanis, Italian nobility driven into exile by the rise of fascism, the long-awaited second novel by award-winning author Laisha Rosnau follows this once glittering family to British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. When Ofelia Caetani takes her daughter, Sveva, into seclusion after the death of the duke, they are cared for by their personal secretary, Miss Jüül, who brings her own secrets to their twenty-five-year retreat from the world. As the stories of these three remarkable women unfurl in unexpected and often tragic ways, Little Fortress is revealed as a graceful and intricate tale of…

Report to Greco

By Nikos Kazantzakis,

Book cover of Report to Greco

Odie Hawkins Author Of Shackles Across Time

From the list on understanding the human condition.

Who am I?

I am a great African-American writer because I have not spent eons in jail (taught writing classes there), never been shot by the police (yet), and I have a number of interesting books for sale ranging from Urban, Erotic, Science-Fiction, Fiction and Pan-African Occult. My books have been used in writing classes in colleges, universities, and prisons. I was one of the panelists for Professor Justin Gifford's presentation at the Modern Language Association Conference at the Hilton, LA Live. Also, I participated in a California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) event, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the “Watts Rebellion”. I have agreed to let this university archive my works.

Odie's book list on understanding the human condition

Discover why each book is one of Odie's favorite books.

Why did Odie love this book?

This Cretan writer, who is most often identified as a Greek, asks us to probe our deepest identity, to be honest with ourselves. I think that that should be the first premise of an honest writer…an honest person. When you are born you are told early what to believe. Why you should believe. Who you and what you should believe or not believe in. At some point in your own life, you must resolve what you yourself accept for your own belief system. You should determine what is or is not important to you. Only then can you live YOUR LIFE.

By Nikos Kazantzakis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Report to Greco as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kazantzakis's autobiographical novel Report to Greco was one of the last things he wrote before he died. It paints a vivid picture of his childhood in Crete, still occupied by the Turks, and then steadily grows into a spiritual quest that takes him to Italy, Jerusalem, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Russia and the Caucasus, and finally back to Crete again. At different times Nietzshe, Bergson, Buddha, Homer and Christ dominate as his spiritual masters.

The Postcard from Italy

By Angela Petch,

Book cover of The Postcard from Italy

Anna Valencia Author Of The Chestnut House

From the list on transporting you to the magic of Italy.

Who am I?

I may be English by birth, but my soul has always felt Italian! I have lived and worked in Italy for many years, first in Rome, then Milan, and finally Tuscany when we fell in love with an abandoned farmhouse. I wrote The Chestnut House while we were living in the mountains of the Garfagnana in northern Tuscany, inspired by the wartime stories our neighbours shared with us. For me Italy is the perfect country—great weather, food, wine, language, and culture! I love both reading about it, and writing about it. I hope you enjoy the books on my list as much as I have!

Anna's book list on transporting you to the magic of Italy

Discover why each book is one of Anna's favorite books.

Why did Anna love this book?

I have read several of Angela Petch’s excellent novels, all set in Tuscany. I lived in Tuscany for two years, and her descriptions not only of the countryside but also the characters that inhabit this special part of the world are spot on. This novel kept my interest, was well-plotted, and a real pleasure to read. Her research into the wartime period is well done, and I love the details about how people lived back then. It really is another world. How our modern world integrates with it, and what we can learn from it, is something I feel she explores really well, by introducing the past to the present through her characters. 

By Angela Petch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Italy, 1945. ‘Where am I?’ The young man wakes, bewildered. He sees olive trees against a bright blue sky. A soft voice soothes him. ‘We saw you fall from your plane. The parachute saved you.’ He remembers nothing of his life, or the war that has torn the world apart… but where does he belong?

England, present day. Antique-shop-owner Susannah wipes away a tear as she tidies her grandmother’s belongings. Elsie’s memories are fading, and every day Susannah feels further away from her only remaining family. But everything changes when she stumbles across a yellowed postcard of a beautiful Italian…

Such a Good Boy

By Marianna Coppo,

Book cover of Such a Good Boy

Davide Calì Author Of Where the World Ends: A Zip, Trik, and Flip Adventure

From the list on starring characters with four paws.

Who am I?

I’m a children's books author and a cartoonist. I’ve published more than 160 books, most of them are picture books but I’ve also published comics and novels. I work for many French magazines, writing comics and short tales. I usually travel the world to see kids at school or give lessons. I’m also an art director for a literary factory based in London. I play the electric guitar and sometimes I write songs.

Davide's book list on starring characters with four paws

Discover why each book is one of Davide's favorite books.

Why did Davide love this book?

I love Marianna’s work. She has been one of my students and since she left school she’s doing great! Buz is a lucky dog. He lives in a luxury house, he got someone taking care of him and he got good and healthy food. Buz is a good dog, but sometimes, he would like to be free of running wild and rolling in the mud.

By Marianna Coppo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Such a Good Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The ultimate kids' book about dogs, being good, being bad, and being yourself!

From the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of Petra.

Meet Buzz the dog.

He's such a good boy.

Buzz seems to have a perfect life .. .

and a lot of very well-behaved friends.

Buzz would never dream of being anything other than good.

Right, Buzz?
Buzz . . . ?

For anyone who has ever felt pressure to be "good" at the expense of their own self-expression, and for anyone who has ever owned and loved a dog, this beautifully illustrated picture book from author-illustrator Marianna Coppo…

Politics of the Sword

By Steven C. Hughes,

Book cover of Politics of the Sword: Dueling, Honor, and Masculinity in Modern Italy

David S. Parker Author Of The Pen, the Sword, and the Law: Dueling and Democracy in Uruguay

From the list on dueling that explain why people fought duels.

Who am I?

I am a social and legal historian of late 19th and early 20th Century Latin America, and the majority of my work is about the emergence of the middle class. I first got interested in researching dueling because I had the idea that the duel probably played a role in creating and enforcing a social dividing line between the upper elite and the middle class. But once I got immersed in the historical documents I realized how wrong my initial hypothesis had been, how little dueling had to do with social class, and how much it was about maintaining—or sometimes gaming for advantage—the norms of decorum in politics and the press.

David's book list on dueling that explain why people fought duels

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

This study of Italian dueling from 1860s unification to 1930s Fascism makes a convincing case that the duel was not some holdover from an aristocratic past, but a modern phenomenon that arose out of liberal politics and a free press. The book covers Italy’s long and active debate about how to curb a practice that clearly violated the law but was rarely ever punished in practice. When I first read this book I was in the middle of my own research, and Hughes was the first writer who seemed to get everything right, or at least to have discovered for Italy the same things that I was finding for South America. A great window into dueling and an even better window into liberal Italy and its politics.

By Steven C. Hughes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Politics of the Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Following its creation as a country in 1861, Italy experienced a wave of dueling that led commentators to bemoan a national “duellomania” evidenced by the sad spectacle of a duel a day. Pamphlets with titles like “Down with the Duel” and “The Shame of the Duel” all communicated the passion of those who could not believe that a people supposedly just returned to the path of progress and civilization had wholeheartedly embraced such a “barbaric” custom. Yet these critics were consistently countered by sober-minded men of rank and influence who felt that the duel was necessary for the very health…

Aretino's Dialogues

By Pietro Aretino,

Book cover of Aretino's Dialogues

Peter Elbling Author Of The Food Taster

From the list on the brilliance of the Italian Renaissance.

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Peter's favorite books.

Why did Peter love this book?

I highly recommend the works of Pietro Aretino. I love satire, and Aretino was a satirist for the ages. I admired his raw courage, for he spared no one—including kings and popes—on his way to earning the title “Scourge of Princes.” He died in his early sixties, reportedly from “laughing too much.” I cannot imagine an epitaph I would rather have engraved on my headstone.

By Pietro Aretino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Aretino's Dialogues as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

tales from Counter-Renaissance Rome

The Light in the Ruins

By Chris Bohjalian,

Book cover of The Light in the Ruins

Karla M. Jay Author Of When We Were Brave

From the list on WWII with stories we haven’t heard before.

Who am I?

I love to write stories of historical injustice, so this is mainly the genre I read. In recent years, many new novels merely rehashed the same theme, such as the horror show known as Auschwitz or the other camps. Although those are worthy of the people who died there, I’m always on the hunt for a fresh story that has never been told about those tragic years. 

Karla's book list on WWII with stories we haven’t heard before

Discover why each book is one of Karla's favorite books.

Why did Karla love this book?

I loved learning about what happened in Italy when the Germans occupied it. In this story, a wealthy Italian family becomes too close to the Germans by inviting them to search the secret ruins behind their villa for antiquities. This relationship has deadly consequences years later as members of the family are killed. The book goes back and forth between 1943 and 1955 until we learn why someone is seeking revenge.  

By Chris Bohjalian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls comes a spellbinding novel of love, despair, and revenge—set in war-ravaged Tuscany.

1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa…

Book cover of The Castle of Crossed Destinies

Tania Pryputniewicz Author Of Heart's Compass Tarot

From the list on tarot improvisation for writers and artists.

Who am I?

I’m a poet, tarot muse, and artist whose childhood experiences with vivid night-time dreams and a handful of years on a commune in the cornfields ignited my passion for exploring inner imagery. I read voraciously from science fiction to fairytales to channelings. I discovered tarot in my twenties, using it to read for others, mend my broken heart, and get squared away enough to apply to graduate school for poetry in the heartland at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Ever since, tarot is my favorite mirror for self-reflection. Author of two poetry collections, I wrote a workbook to help others apply the tarot in joyful, healing ways through writing and art.

Tania's book list on tarot improvisation for writers and artists

Discover why each book is one of Tania's favorite books.

Why did Tania love this book?

As a lover of fairytales, I love the premise of The Castle of Crossed Destinies and that tarot cards appear visually down the margins of the pages. Novelist Italo Calvino places us in two settings: a castle, and a tavern. Guests traveling through the woods arrive to discover they have lost their ability to speak so they use tarot cards to “show” their stories. The narrator translates those cards (reliably or unreliably—you decide). A tarot card grid appears for the stories in the Tavern of Crossed Destinies section of the book that lays out plot possibilities. I love the visual “chess” concept and that you can use tarot card layouts to plot tales, novels, or a series of poems. 

By Italo Calvino,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A group of travellers chance to meet, first in a castle, then a tavern. Their powers of speech are magically taken from them and instead they have only tarot cards with which to tell their stories. What follows is an exquisite interlinking of narratives, and a fantastic, surreal and chaotic history of all human consciousness.

Next Ship Home

By Heather Webb,

Book cover of Next Ship Home: A Novel of Ellis Island

Kathleen Boston McCune Author Of Assignment Love: The Writer and Her Agent

From the list on when needing excitement or the comfort of a caress.

Who am I?

I'm a woman of four and seventy years who thankfully doesn’t yet resemble that person to those who haven’t met me. I'm a mother of two who both have their own businesses in the fields of their natural talents, I've been Deputy Treasurer to the State of Kansas, written 22 books but think younger than I did at 20, and am enjoying the best sex life to date! Life is precious and should not be limited to us based on our age, but on our interests, knowledge, and what we have to offer. Writing about that which I've experienced and the recorded history of family are my passions and hopefully for my readers as well.

Kathleen's book list on when needing excitement or the comfort of a caress

Discover why each book is one of Kathleen's favorite books.

Why did Kathleen love this book?

I personally enjoyed this book for the courage found by the Heroine in a world where women were considered 2nd class citizens, but she, through strength of character and love of a sister she loses due to illness and no monies to save her, gives her that impetus to forge ahead through unconventional, but effective ways and new friends of wealth in America. It could be called a Cinderella story with illegal immigrants as heroines.

A book of 1902, about a young woman who had been abused by her father to the point that a nun suggested she find refuge elsewhere. From Italy, she proceeds to save enough money to book passage with a ship for both herself and her younger sister who is already ill from similar abuse. She looks forward to Ellis Island, knowing she then will be on the safe harbor of America, until she learns that…

By Heather Webb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Next Ship Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ellis Island, 1902: Two women band together to hold America to its promise: "Give me your tired, your poor ... your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."
A young Italian woman arrives on the shores of America, her sights set on a better life. That same day, a young American woman reports to her first day of work at the immigration center. But Ellis Island isn't a refuge for Francesca or Alma, not when ships depart every day with those who are refused entry to the country and when corruption ripples through every corridor. While Francesca resorts to desperate measures…

Death of an Englishman

By Magdalen Nabb,

Book cover of Death of an Englishman

Margo Sorenson Author Of Secrets in Translation

From the list on to take you to enchanting Italy.

Who am I?

I spent my first seven years in Spain and Italy, devouring books and Italian food and still speak (or try!) my childhood languages. The Italian language and culture are precious to me—an integral part of my life. Our visits back to Italy, speaking Italian with friends, cooking Italian meals, writing for the Italian Language Foundation's website, and enjoying our community's Italian movie nights maintain my Italian experience. Sadly, I can't be in Italy all the time, but have found some fabulous books that take me right back! Il cuore e italiano—my heart is Italian.

Margo's book list on to take you to enchanting Italy

Discover why each book is one of Margo's favorite books.

Why did Margo love this book?

This delightful mystery set in Florence not only intrigues the reader with its clever, twist-filled plot but also with its insights into daily life and culture in Italy. The characters are enjoyable and show many humorous and unique facts of Italian life. Nabb knows her Florence and her Italians, and her ability to describe both make a reader wish to accompany her on her next trip!

By Magdalen Nabb,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Death of an Englishman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Introducing Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia of the Florentine carabinieri, a Sicilian stationed far from home. He wants to go south for Christmas to spend the holiday with his family, but he is laid up with the 'flu. At this awkward moment, the death of a retired Englishman is reported. A most inconvenient time for a murder case. Who has shot Mr Langley-Smythe in the back? And why has Scotland Yard felt it appropriate to send two detectives, one of whom speaks no Italian, to 'help' the marshal and his colleagues with their investigation? Most importantly for the marshal, ever the Italian,…

Still Life

By Sarah Winman,

Book cover of Still Life

Sally Page Author Of The Keeper of Stories

From the list on losing yourself in on a rainy day.

Who am I?

I am a writer who will never give you a sad ending! I love books that reflect on life (the good and the bad) but that look for the positive in people. My experience has taught me that there is so much good to find—and as I explore in my debut novel, The Keeper of Stories, everyone has a story to tell. My first novel was published when I was 60, so I am also a believer that you should never underestimate anyone. And I love to see that reflected in books.

Sally's book list on losing yourself in on a rainy day

Discover why each book is one of Sally's favorite books.

Why did Sally love this book?

Still Life is a glorious book set in London and Florence, giving a fascinating insight into the worlds of History of Art and globe making. Reading it is like eating wonderful food, you will want to savour every mouthful. The characters are extraordinary and yet believable – I fell in love with every one of them.

By Sarah Winman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Good Morning America Book Club Pick
A Veranda Magazine Book Club Pick

A captivating, bighearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood, and the ghost of E. M. Forster, by the celebrated author of Tin Man.

Tuscany, 1944: As Allied troops advance and bombs fall around deserted villages, a young English soldier, Ulysses Temper, finds himself in the wine cellar of a deserted villa. There, he has a chance encounter with Evelyn Skinner, a middle-aged art historian who has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and recall long-forgotten memories of her…

Book cover of Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante

Tinney Sue Heath Author Of A Thing Done

From the list on medieval Florence.

Who am I?

I write historical fiction set in medieval Italy, in that lesser-known territory somewhere between ancient Rome and the Renaissance. I’m fascinated by the period before the Medici, before Michelangelo, sometimes even before Dante. The seeds of the Renaissance are hidden in that turbulent time, and I love to hunt for them. I also like to write about marginalized people—the obscure, unfamous, forgotten folk plucked from the footnotes. I’m happy to introduce some of the excellent history books that help me do that. These five books are specific to Florence, the city of my heart.

Tinney's book list on medieval Florence

Discover why each book is one of Tinney's favorite books.

Why did Tinney love this book?

To know medieval Florence, you have to have a sense of the enormous role the Church played in people’s lives. Here, Dameron concentrates on the 50-year period 1265-1321 (Dante’s lifetime), during which Florence went from something of a backwater to one of the wealthiest and most influential cities in all of Europe. Separation of church and state was simply not a thing back then; the concept would have bewildered medieval Florentines. All aspects of the city, from the legal system to charity efforts, were affected by religious institutions. This knowledgeable account will give you a rich, full picture of that aspect of medieval Florentine society.

By George W. Dameron,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By the early fourteenth century, the city of Florence had emerged as an economic power in Tuscany, surpassing even Siena, which had previously been the banking center of the region. In the space of fifty years, during the lifetime of Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321, Florence had transformed itself from a political and economic backwater-scarcely keeping pace with its Tuscan neighbors-to one of the richest and most influential places on the continent. While many historians have focused on the role of the city's bankers and merchants in achieving these rapid transformations, in Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante, George…

Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day

By Jamie Lee Curtis, Laura Cornell (illustrator),

Book cover of Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day

Gail Reichlin Author Of The Pocket Parent

From the list on motivate kids to manage their own behaviors and feelings.

Who am I?

As an internationally respected discipline expert, I guide parents in how to get more compliance than defiance from their little ones. I coined the phrase “The Dance of Non-Compliance” between parent and child. In order to change the dance, the parent will usually have to change his/her dance step first. It is often impossible during the heat of the moment, to teach ‘the lesson’ to the child due to the agitated emotional state of both parent and child. A well-executed picture book, appropriately written and illustrated for young children's developmental thinking ability, can open the door for a meaningful discussion regarding their misbehavior and feelings.

Gail's book list on motivate kids to manage their own behaviors and feelings

Discover why each book is one of Gail's favorite books.

Why did Gail love this book?

This book shows that everyone has moods that can change each day, or within the same day...from silly to angry to sad, etc. The zany, touching verse and the fun mood-wheel that lets the children change a character’s facial expressions will help a parent and child identify and discuss both good and bad feelings and how to manage them. A wonderful book to start a discussion of revisiting misbehavior and deciding what s/he could do next time in a similar situation.

By Jamie Lee Curtis, Laura Cornell (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the #1 New York Times bestselling team of Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell, authors of I’m Gonna Like Me and Where Do Balloons Go?, Today I Feel Silly helps children understand and appreciate their shifting moods.

Jamie Lee Curtis's zany and touching verse, paired with Laura Cornell's whimsical and original illustrations, helps kids explore, identify, and, even have fun with their ever-changing moods.

Silly, cranky, excited, or sad—everyone has moods that can change each day. And that’s okay! Follow the boisterous, bouncing protagonist as she explores her moods and how they change from day to day.


Abortion in Early Modern Italy

By John Christopoulos,

Book cover of Abortion in Early Modern Italy

Julie Hardwick Author Of Sex in an Old Regime City: Young Workers and Intimacy in France, 1660-1789

From the list on the history of sex.

Who am I?

Like most people, I find the history of sex and everything associated with it fascinating! It’s often been difficult to document and interpret the complexities about heterosexuality, gender identity, and same-sex desire as well as women’s reproductive health which is intimately (although not exclusively of course) linked to sex. We are in a golden age of fantastic work on so many aspects of the history of sex. Apart from the intrinsic interest of these books, I think they provide such an important context for our very lively and often very intense contemporary legal, political, and cultural debates over sex in all its forms.

Julie's book list on the history of sex

Discover why each book is one of Julie's favorite books.

Why did Julie love this book?

Who would have thought Catholic Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries would have tolerated widespread abortion? John Christopoulos brilliantly shows that, despite the moral proscription and legal prohibition of abortion from church and state leadership, women across the social spectrum from elites to peasants practiced abortion with the tacit or explicit support of key people in their communities. Compelling mini-narratives about individual women’s abortion stories are interwoven with an expert analysis of the legal, religious, and scientific knowledge and attitudes.

By John Christopoulos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Abortion in Early Modern Italy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A comprehensive history of abortion in Renaissance Italy.

In this authoritative history, John Christopoulos provides a provocative and far-reaching account of abortion in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy. His poignant portraits of women who terminated or were forced to terminate pregnancies offer a corrective to longstanding views: he finds that Italians maintained a fundamental ambivalence about abortion. Italians from all levels of society sought, had, and participated in abortions. Early modern Italy was not an absolute anti-abortion culture, an exemplary Catholic society centered on the "traditional family." Rather, Christopoulos shows, Italians held many views on abortion, and their responses to its…

Book cover of Cosimo De' Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: The Patron's Oeuvre

Francesca Fiorani Author Of The Shadow Drawing: How Science Taught Leonardo How to Paint

From the list on the art and culture of Renaissance Florence.

Who am I?

I am an art historian from Rome and a professor at the University of Virginia, where I also served as associate dean for the arts and humanities and chair of the art department. Ever since as an undergraduate I heard a lecture from a professor on how important science was for Renaissance artists, I have been fascinated with this topic. I look at scientific images, such as maps and diagrams, as works of art, and interpret famous paintings, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, as scientific experiments. Among my books are The Marvel of Maps: Art, Cartography and Politics in the Renaissance, The Shadow Drawing. How Science Taught Leonardo How to Paint, and the digital publication Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting.

Francesca's book list on the art and culture of Renaissance Florence

Discover why each book is one of Francesca's favorite books.

Why did Francesca love this book?

Most art in the Renaissance was commissioned by specific patrons and this book superbly illustrates the complex interaction among patron, artist, and society by focusing on the greatest patron of art and architecture in fifteenth-century Florence. Cosimo de’ Medici was the most powerful figure in the city’s political and economic life, a fabulously wealthy banker, a devout Christian, but he had also an impeccable nose for great art. With the help of about 200 images, the book examines the religious, personal, and dynastic motivations behind Cosimo’s artistic patronage, both his direct commissions for the Medici palaces, villas, and chapels as well as his active involvement in the works officially commissioned by the republic. What you’ll get out of this book is a profound understanding of how art was commissioned, created, and viewed in Renaissance Florence.

By Dale Kent,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cosimo De' Medici and the Florentine Renaissance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cosimo de' Medici (1389-1464), the fabulously wealthy banker who became the leading citizen of Florence in the fifteenth century, spent lavishly as the city's most important patron of art and literature. This remarkable book is the first comprehensive examination of the whole body of works of art and architecture commissioned by Cosimo and his sons. By looking closely at this spectacular group of commissions, we gain an entirely new picture of their patron and of the patron's point of view. Recurrent themes in the commissions-from Fra Angelico's San Marco altarpiece to the Medici Palace-indicate the main interests to which Cosimo's…

My Brilliant Friend

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (translator),

Book cover of My Brilliant Friend

Genevieve Scott Author Of The Damages

From the list on featuring complex female friendships.

Who am I?

I love to read and write about complex characters and particularly the “unlikeable” female character. Many readers connect with my characters because they are flawed—they don’t always think or do what we want them to, or what we think they should do, which is often (frustratingly) the case with the real-life people we love and care about. Real, complex people exist in real, complex relationships, including friendships that don’t always serve them—or that do serve them, but in unconventional or superficially unclear ways. I think that reading about contradictory, inconsistent, and confused characters in relationships helps us to be kinder and more empathetic people—and, quite possibly, better friends. 

Genevieve's book list on featuring complex female friendships

Discover why each book is one of Genevieve's favorite books.

Why did Genevieve love this book?

I held out on Ferrante for a while, put off by the complicated neighborhood tree at the beginning of the book. When I finally dug in, I was so riveted by Elena and Lila that I stopped caring about all those other characters.

This book really nails the loyalty that can build out of rivalry in a friendship. Elena and Lila meet as schoolgirls in a violent, working-class neighborhood in post-war Naples. They are both smart, but Lila, the more fiery and precocious of the two, is forced to drop out of school to work. Elena, with a kind of survivor’s guilt, carries on with her education.

As tension bubbles in their friendship, so does an enduring respect and interdependence. The smartest girls in the room need each other, especially in this hard-scrabbling neighborhood where two heads are better than one.

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (translator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked My Brilliant Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?









Now in B-format Paperback

From one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, comes this ravishing and generous-hearted novel about a friendship that lasts a lifetime. The story of Elena and Lila begins in the 1950s in a poor but…

Galileo's Daughter

By Dava Sobel,

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

Steven Gimbel Author Of Einstein's Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion

From the list on biographies of mathematicians and scientists.

Who am I?

As a professor, I see students fascinated by science, but petrified to take a science class. This is in part because we have dehumanized science, removed the story, edited out the human, deleted the parts that allow people to connect with it. Science does not get delivered by gods, but is created by people: smart, quirky, sometimes immoral people. As a writer, my hope is to be able to reinsert life into readers’ understanding of our greatest advances. As a reader myself, I am deeply appreciative when other authors do it too.

Steven's book list on biographies of mathematicians and scientists

Discover why each book is one of Steven's favorite books.

Why did Steven love this book?

We all know the cartoon version of the story of Galileo. He used one of the first telescopes to show that the earth was not the center of the universe and the Catholic Church condemned him for it. But the real story is much more intricate and much more interesting. Dava Sobel is a master storyteller who not only explains the science, but gives us a fully human Galileo living a very complicated life.

By Dava Sobel,

Why should I read it?

3 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."


Lucrezia Borgia

By Sarah Bradford,

Book cover of Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy

Tracy Adams Author Of The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria

From the list on vilified European queens and noblewomen.

Who am I?

After working on the writings of the 15th-century French writer Christine de Pizan for a while I turned to researching the queen of France whom Christine addresses in some of her works. As I read the primary sources, it quickly became clear to me that poor Isabeau of Bavaria’s terrible reputation had been produced by misogynistic and nationalistic nineteenth-century French historians who promulgated images of political women as promiscuous harridans. I was astounded. How could it be that we were still circulating simplistic old narratives of incompetence and debauchery without critically examining what people of the times had to say? I have been studying the afterlives of infamous noblewomen ever since.

Tracy's book list on vilified European queens and noblewomen

Discover why each book is one of Tracy's favorite books.

Why did Tracy love this book?

My first three picks are scholarly studies. This book is more popular history in the sense that it lays out Lucrezia’s family and cultural contexts in detail for non-specialists. Bradford brings the period to life and shows the extent to which Lucrezia’s reputation was the inevitable product of the intrigues that surrounded her. She was nothing like the promiscuous, depraved, monstrous creature she is supposed to have been. The contrast that Bradford gives us between the bloodthirsty legend and the cultured and intelligent human being is so stunning that you will never take anything you read about an infamous woman at face value again.

By Sarah Bradford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sarah Bradford's Lucrezia Bogia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy is the first biography of Lucrezia Borgia for over sixty years

.Lucrezia Borgia - an infamous murderess or simply the victim of bad press? Lucrezia Borgia's name has echoed through history as a byword for evil - a poisoner who committed incest with her natural father, Pope Alexander VI, and with her brother, Cesare Borgia. Long considered the most ruthless of Italian Renaissance noblewomen, her tarnished reputation has prevailed long since her own lifetime. In this definitive biography, a work of huge scholarship and erudition, Sarah Bradford gives a…

The Woman Watching

By Paola Capriolo,

Book cover of The Woman Watching

Theresa Griffin Kennedy Author Of Talionic Night in Portland: A Love Story

From the list on to help you discover what makes people tick.

Who am I?

When I think of who I am, as a writer and a human being, I remember the words of prolific Portland poet Dan Rapheal, who wrote the foreword to my book of poetry, Blue Reverie in Smoke: “...the reader must look carefully to get a full picture of the poet herself—tender, no nonsense, quietly observing and juggernauting to make things as she thinks they should be.” I’ve never forgotten Dan’s astute appraisal of me, and it surprised me. It seems that's how I’ve always beensomeone who quietly observes, never unmoved by what I see, just trying to make sense of it, sometimes successful in that endeavor, and oftentimes, not successful at all. 

Theresa's book list on to help you discover what makes people tick

Discover why each book is one of Theresa's favorite books.

Why did Theresa love this book?

How do we decipher mundane truth from sophisticated deception? Who holds the gaze and who is the protagonist if they’re not readily revealed? Vulpius, a popular actor in a dubious era, develops an obsession with an unknown spectator, who he believes comes only to see him. The reader watches his life slowly unravel because Vulpius can never seem to capture the woman watching. Capriolo draws the reader into the insanity and narcissism of obsession, revealing how it can make perfect sense to the afflicted. I loved this book because of the strangeness of the extreme passive voice, probably because it's translated from Italian to English. Also, there is a complete lack of dialogue. I loved Capriolo’s masterful teasing of the reader, revealing just enough to keep you coming back, wondering just what’s going to happen to Vulpius. Will he survive, or will he destroy himself in the end? 

By Paola Capriolo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What is the nature of the actor's mask? At what point do performer and performance merge? Vulpius, a much admired young actor in a provincial rep company, develops an obssession with an unknown spectator whose gaze seems only for him, at first kindling fresh fervour in his mastery of each role, then leaving him a slave to artistic perfection. With philosophical elegance and black macabre sense of comedy, Paola Capriolo draws the reader deep into obssession, exploring the most compelling recesses of the theatrical experience where ritual and stylisation run rampant. Dark questions emerge about the power of representation and…

This Is Rome

By Miroslav Sasek,

Book cover of This Is Rome

Nancy McConnell Author Of Into the Lion's Mouth

From the list on kids traveling to Italy.

Who am I?

I fell in love with Italy when I traveled there with my family in 2013. While touring through this fascinating country, I felt inspired to write about it. When I came home, I threw myself into research. That research spawned my debut novel, Into the Lion’s Mouth, which is set in Renaissance Venice. I am always on the lookout for all things Italian, podcasts, TV shows, and definitely books. Since middle grade is my sweet spot, I am a sucker for a middle grade book set in Italy. Here are some of my favorites that will have you browsing airplane tickets to Italy and beyond.

Nancy's book list on kids traveling to Italy

Discover why each book is one of Nancy's favorite books.

Why did Nancy love this book?

This last book is a classic and part of a series that would be helpful for other travel adventures. It’s the only non-fiction book on the list. But it’s a great introduction for kids wanting to know more about the place they are travelling. While originally published in 1960 the book was updated in 2007. This is a great overall introduction to Rome and its history and a good place to start piquing a young traveler’s interest. 

By Miroslav Sasek,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Is Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Like the other Sasek classics, this is a facsimile edition of the original book. The brilliant, vibrant illustrations have been meticulously preserved, remaining true to his vision more than 40 years later. Facts have been updated for the 21st-century, appearing on a "This is . . . Today" page at the back of the book. These charming illustrations, coupled with Sasek's witty, playful narrative, make for a perfect souvenir that will delight both children and their parents, many of whom will remember the series from their own childhoods. This is Rome, first published in 1960, traces the history of Roman…