Looking for a great book to read or give as a gift in 2021? Below is a selection of books that I think fellow Italophiles will love.
For more book ideas, see last year’s book recommendations, my list of coffee table books, and the book and literary travel category. As I cannot write about every cool book that I find, I have created some handy lists on Amazon and on Bookshop.
Coffee Table Books
Luxury coffee table book publisher Assouline follows up their gorgeous Amalfi Coast and Capri books (see below) with this beautiful volume focused on Tuscany. Curated and written by Italian tastemaker Cesare Cunaccia (who also wrote Assouline’s Capri book), Tuscany Marvel transports you to Medici villas, cypress-dotted landscapes, generations-old vineyards, artisan workshops, and rustic kitchens. A fantastic book for anyone who dreams of a Tuscan escape.
The Monocle Book of Italy
Just like its namesake periodical, The Monocle Book of Italy is chock full of dazzling photographs and informational sidebars on everything from history to design, food to fashion. A great addition to the coffee table stack for the most discerning Italophiles.
Cipullo: Making Jewelry Modern
Aldo Cipullo was one of Italy’s most sought-after jewelry designers before he moved to New York City in 1960. There he worked for Tiffany & Co., then Cartier, before striking out on his own. His legacy includes the Love bracelet and the Nail collection, both for Cartier, and so many more designs that look modern more than half a century later.
The Torlonia Marbles: Collecting Masterpieces
The pieces in this landmark, privately-owned collection were last published in a 19th-century catalog and had not been seen by the public since the 1940s. This volume, a companion guide to the Torlonia Marbles exhibition in Rome, contains images of and essays about these classical sculptures.
Sicily: The Wine Route
Take a visual journey through the vineyards of Sicily. Get close to the volcanic soil and follow your guide into island coves and through rustic farmhouses as you learn more about the wines and wineries on the largest island in the Mediterranean. (For more about Sicilian wines, pick up this book: New Wines of Mt. Etna.)
Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern
Following up on her hugely successful book SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, Mary Beard explores “how images of Roman autocrats have influenced art, culture, and the representation of power for more than 2,000 years.”
A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome
A fun, dark, and informative read, this book by Emma Southon will appeal to True Crime aficionados and ancient history buffs. The author details all the weird and gruesome ways that the Romans carried out capital punishment, from leopard maulings in the Colosseum to stabbings in the Forum to man-eating eels.
The Bookseller of Florence
My interest in Italy blossomed about the same time that Ross King began writing books about its artistic history. I devoured Brunelleschi’s Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling. So I am eager to read his latest deep dive into the world of illuminated manuscripts.
Princes of the Renaissance
If you, like me, are fresh off a binge of the Netflix series on The Medici, this may be an ideal book for you. “Princes of the Renaissance” looks at the “hidden power behind an artistic revolution” that ranged from Florence to Urbino to other seats of power. Written by Mary Hollingsworth, who also wrote a well-regarded, “warts-and-all” biography of The Family Medici, this book will help you understand the connections between the powerful clans of 15th-century Italy and how they shaped the history of art.
As time marches on and veterans pass away, the stories of World War II start to fade from memory. This beautifully illustrated book, appropriate for elementary school children, hopes to inspire and educate a new generation of readers as it tells the story of Italian cyclist and Italian Resistance hero Gino Bartali.
Ultra: The Underworld of Italian Football
I love Italian football. But I also know that it is rotten, no thanks to the ultras, those die-hard fans whose racism and criminality mar the sport. Written by Parma-based English football writer Tobias Jones, “Ultra” is the paperback release of the 2020 winner of the Telegraph’s Sports Book Awards.
The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed
The much-anticipated film adaptation of The House of Gucci (published in 2001) will be released in November 2021 and will star Lady Gaga and Adam Driver. Read the true, engrossing, sensational story before the film arrives. This is sure to be a book club favorite.
Cookbooks, Food & Wine
Taste: My Life Through Food
Fresh on the heels of his wildly popular travel show Searching for Italy, Stanley Tucci has published a food memoir that discusses his childhood influences, his work with food on film, and other culinary adventures.
An A-Z of Pasta: Stories, Shapes, Sauces, Recipes
Italian food expert Rachel Roddy brings us a cookbook that every Italophile will want in his/her kitchen. Roddy’s A to Z of Pasta “condenses everything [Roddy] has learned about Italy’s favorite food in a practical, easy-to-use, and mouth-watering collection of 100 essential pasta and pasta sauce recipes.” The book also explains how to match pasta shapes with sauces, an essential detail that many pasta cookbooks lack.
Liguria: The Cookbook
This book goes beyond pesto and focaccia to present the full menu of Liguria. This is a beautifully photographed cookbook full of recipes from Genoa, the Cinque Terre, and beyond.
The Italian Deli Cookbook
I have been excited about this book ever since I spotted its retro cover. Written by Theo Randall, one of Britain’s best chefs of Italian cuisine, the Italian Deli Cookbook is a collection of about 100 family recipes from the Italian diaspora from Sydney to Brooklyn. Its genius is that it uses common deli ingredients — cured meats, jarred vegetables, smoked fish, vinegars, olives, and cheese — to create meals that are simple but elevated.
The New Cucina Italiana
From Laura Lazzaroni, the Editor-in-Chief of the Italian version of Food & Wine, comes this beautiful cookbook that highlights the Italian cuisine of today. The book “covers 32 chefs and restaurateurs who are reinterpreting the ‘greatest hits’ of Italian dining,” ranging from pop-ups to pizzerie to the finest restaurants.
Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence
This is an updated version of Emiko Davies’ popular first cookbook on the food of Florence. The 2021 book features new recipes, photos, and itineraries for the neighborhoods of Florence and nearby towns.
For more book ideas, visit my book lists on Amazon and Bookshop.
Featured photo of Biblioteca Palatina in Parma, which is the Italian Capital of Culture for 2021. Photo © Beata Schwendimann