Massimo Carlotto recommends the best Italian Crime Fiction

Journalists are no longer able to properly investigate organised crime in modern Italy — leaving it to crime fiction writers to pick up the slack, says the acclaimed Italian novelist, Massimo Carlotto. Here he chooses five noir novels that explore the reality of Italian corruption in highly original ways.

The best books on Venice, recommended by Matthew Rice

Venice once ruled an empire that stretched across the eastern Mediterranean, but by the early modern period was already evolving into a city whose greatest claim to fame was as a tourist destination. Here Matthew Rice, author and illustrator of Venice: A Sketchbook Guide, recommends books to read about Venice and its history and architecture, as well as a couple of crime thrillers to read while you’re there.

The Best Italian Novels, recommended by Tim Parks

In the decades following Italian unification, its authors started writing in the new common language: Italian. Italy-based novelist Tim Parks introduces us to some of the best novels by some of Italy's greatest writers.

The best books on Italy’s Risorgimento, recommended by Carlotta Ferrara degli Uberti

Italian unification was one of the great political dramas of 19th century Europe, transforming a patchwork of territories speaking different languages into the nation-state of Italy. Here, historian Carlotta Ferrara degli Uberti discusses the people and ideas that brought it about and how its disputed legacy continues to impact Italy today.

The Best Elena Ferrante Books, recommended by Sarah Chihaya and Merve Emre

From her early novellas to the Neapolitan quartet, the elusive Elena Ferrante has achieved deserved superstar status for the compulsively readable, addictive quality of her writing. Two of the authors of The Ferrante Letters, Sarah Chihaya and Merve Emre, introduce us to Ferrante and recommend what to read next after My Brilliant Friend.

The best books on Italian Political Philosophy, recommended by Guglielmo Verdirame

Italy has a rich tradition of political philosophy, producing a number of thinkers with both practical experience and a cosmopolitan outlook. Here Guglielmo Verdirame, Professor of International Law at King’s College London, talks us through the five most important Italian political philosophers, and the best books to read to understand their work.

The Best Books on the Mafia, recommended by John Dickie

The three biggest Italian mafias remain a powerful presence, with tentacles reaching deep inside Italian business and politics, but our understanding of them is marred by myths and misconceptions. Professor John Dickie of University College London, author of three books on the mafia, recommends what to read to get a better understanding of what the mafia really is.

The best books on The Venetian Empire, recommended by Georg Christ

The Venetian Republic was one of the mightiest empires of early modern Europe, with its Terraferma dominions on land and a maritime empire, the Stato da Màr,  that stretched across the Mediterranean. Its unique strength lay in long-distance trade and, as historian Georg Christ explains, in some ways, it resembled a company more than a state. Here, he recommends books to better understand the Venetian empire, what it was and how it grew.

The best books on Dante, recommended by Nick Havely

Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy has inspired countless thinkers and writers since it was first published almost 700 years ago. Here, Dante scholar and author Nick Havely picks the best five books on how one medieval poet had such a lasting impact on world literature, and how Dante’s vitality transmits into modern culture.

The best books on Leonardo da Vinci, recommended by Martin Kemp

Every generation has its own Leonardo, and for many he remains a man of mystery. Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor in Art History at Oxford and the author of the recently published Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting, helps us identify the non-mythical Leonardo. What might Leonardo be doing were he alive today, in our own digital age?

The best books on Galileo Galilei, recommended by Paula Findlen

The trial of Galileo by the Roman Inquisition was one of the most public confrontations between the new science emerging in the 17th century and the Catholic Church but, nearly 400 years later, there’s still a lot of scope to argue what it was about. Here historian of science Paula Findlen, a professor at Stanford University, explains the endless fascination of Galileo Galilei, the Renaissance man who turned a telescope to the sky and took the world by storm, and recommends the best books to start learning more about him.

The best books on Augustus, recommended by Peter Wiseman

Is it possible that Augustus was not the first Roman emperor, but the last of Rome’s great populist champions? That’s what classicist Peter Wiseman argues in his book, The House of Augustus: A Historical Detective Story. Drawing on a lifetime of research and writing on this period, the emeritus professor of classics and ancient history gives a brilliant overview of the Augustan age, and recommends what to read to better understand the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who found Rome in brick and left it in marble.