Books We’re Reading

Guide Books, Literature, and Trashy Novels

I want a place to keep track of what we’re reading during this year long adventure. George will mostly be responsible for the literature side of things, and I will make sure trashy novels get fair representation. I also want to provide you with places to leave recommendations for us, so please feel free to comment.

  1. Eva Luna by Isabelle Allende. This novel, set somewhere in South America, is magical and imaginative. It was in the apartment, so I picked it up and brought it into the bath with me (being very careful to keep it dry) and finished it in a few days time. Although it wasn’t about Italy, it felt very exotic and culturally different.
  2. Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire. This retelling of the Snow White story by the same author who gave us “Wicked” is set in Tuscany during the time of the Borgia papacy. It was recommended by my friend, Jed. I got half way through it before we left and am now looking for a used copy here in Florence so I can finish it.
  3. Juliet by Anne Fortier. This is a re-imagining of the Romeo and Juliet story set in Siena. It turns out that this is truly historical fiction – the original Romeo and Juliet story actually came from the town of Siena before it reached Shakespeare. The novel intertwines two stories: one of Julie from Virginia whose mother left her a key to a safe deposit box in Siena that will perhaps contain a treasure of some sort; and the other a tale of two lovers, Romeo and Giulietta, set in Siena in 1340. It is a grand adventure in both the past and the present. Every time I see Shakespeare’s play, I secretly hope it will all turn out differently this time. This book was a wonderful catharsis for me – a salve for my romantic soul.
  4. Playing for Pizza. George read this book on the plane on the way over here. It’s about a football player who gets kicked out of the NFL and reassigned to the football league in Italy. He’ll have to fill you in on the rest.
  5. The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen. Historical novel about a woman artist in the renaissance. She is a former student of Michaelangelo and now serving in the Spanish court as “drawing teacher” to the queen. I hoped it would go somewhere with the female artist aspect, but it seemed to kind of fizzle out. Too much description of too little plot, for my taste.
  6. Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This is the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. I really should be reading other books right now, but this one is captivating and provides me with plenty of plot twists and turns.
  7. Feast for Crows also by George R.R. Martin. Now that I’ve finished these two I really should turn to something else, but I really want to read the next one in this series to find out what is happening to the other characters.
  8. George has read two Donna Leon novels featuring the character Inspector Brunetti and set in Venice.
  9. A Dance with Dragons, 5th in the George R.R. Martin “Song of Ice and Fire” series. This is the last one he’s published, so I’m out for now. Enjoyed it. Looking forward to more.
  10. The Sky Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind. A young adult novel recommended to me by my friend, Katie. I liked it, but didn’t love it.
  11. No Country for Old Men. Excellent writing. Glad I didn’t see the movie because the violence would have been too much for me.
  12. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Fantasy story about a whole world below London where magical and crazy things happen. Great fun.
  13. La Divina Commedia. Dante’s masterpiece about hell, purgatory, and heaven. George is reading this, since he is in charge of serious literature. He seems to be loving it.
  14. Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer. I don’t often read non-fiction, but I loved this book about Mormonism and its sometimes violent past (and present). Some of the descriptions of the belief systems and practices of the Fundamentalist LDS church were harrowing. These are the groups that believe in plural marriage, and the men take wives as early as age 13 (usually men in their 40s or older.) I also appreciated learning the history of Joseph Smith and the early church. It has been pretty wild and crazy from the very beginning.
  15. Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi. George is reading this book about life in Southern Italy in the 1930s. Levi is a gifted writer. His descriptions of the poverty in this region prompted governmental intervention to raise the standard of living (at least in some cases.) I would like to finish this book sometime soon.
  16. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishigura. Distopian novel set in modern day England which tells the story of children conceived (more like created) and raised for the sole purpose of donating their vital organs as adults. Excellent book.
  17. Fifty Shades of Gray and Fifty Shades Darker – I joined the pop culture bandwagon and read these two novels (which I consider to be one story) of sex and learning to relate. I can see what all the fuss was about, although by the end I was skipping the sex scenes because I didn’t feel they needed to be on every other page. Trashy but educational and interesting.
  18. Several novels by Janet Evanovitch featuring bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum. Pure trashy summer reading.

9 thoughts on “Books We’re Reading

  1. Hi you two! I just finally read your blog…backwards from now to the beginning. Very entertaining! Plus I’ve never been to Italy so I’m glad to see what I’m missing through your eyes. I thought I’d suggest Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett if you haven’t already read it. It’s historical fiction, one of my favorite genres, taking place in the Middle Ages…much about cathedrals, Catholicism, and the politics of the time. It’s a good story with lots of details about the period, and you can follow it up if you like it with World Without End, the sequel. I hear it’s your birthday soon, Lois! Happy Birthday…go crazy with that limoncello! love, Ann

    • Hi Ann! Nice to hear from you. I’m about to put up another post about Carnivale celebrations here in Italy. There is SO much more to tell. Thanks so much for the reading recommendation. I’m really addicted to reading historical fiction while I’m in Italy. I’m about halfway through Juliet, a re-imagined Romeo and Juliet story set in Siena, interlaced with the quest of a young woman set in the present. It is fun. I’ll add Pillars of the Earth to my reading list and see if they have it in paper format at the “Paperback Exchange”, the local English-language new and used bookstore.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes, too. The first batch of limoncello is done and knocking our socks off. It is made with even stronger alcohol than we have in the states, so a little goes a long way. (Sipping as I type.) Thanks again for checking in. It means a lot to me.

  2. My friend Teresa recommended the book Miracles of Prato, a historical novel about artist Fra Filippo Lippi, set here in Florence. It’s next on my list.

  3. Hey there!!!!! Lois, it is 2 days passed, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I thought of you a good part of the day on March 2nd. It was 20 years–20 years–ago that I first celebrated your birthday. 20 years. Can you believe it? We are excruciatingly busy here, just finished a stack of History of God papers and now I have to begin scoring applications for George’s job. Well, not just George’s of course. The one full time philosophy position we are afforded. Lots of apps to read this week. So, here I am on your book page, so I’ll mention The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt. I don’t see it on your list. It is non-fiction, but told by a gifted story teller, and makes constant reference to 15th century Florence. It’s about the ex-papal scribe and secretary Poggio Bracciolini, who, unemployed by the recent incarceration of his papal employer, when a-book-hunting and rediscovered Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things which had a good deal, so the author argues, with sparking the Renaissance. If George doesn’t know this book, I think he should take a look at it. Very valuable. Anyhoo, more later. I love you. Greet George with a holy kiss. Rhonda says Hi. BTW: it looks like Carina is moving in with us (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). More later. Keep on keepin’ on!


  4. 20 years! Holy crap! That would have made Brittany 6 years old and Wyll was 8. Can that be true? And little Christopher only 3 or so. Were we ever so young?

    I love that you are grading History of God papers and looking for George’s replacement at the same time. Somehow I see a connection between those two. History of George and God’s replacement. That works just as well.

    Thank you for the book recommendation. I am within a few pages of finishing my last book, so I MUST go to the library tomorrow and see what they have in English. If I can’t find it there, I will order it from the Kindle store. It does sound academic and right up George’s alley, but if it has some good story telling, too, then I will give it a go. I should read something a little more high brow now and then. It’s character building.

    We had a fabulous birthday weekend. I dragged George away from his classes and prep and off to the Tuscan hills to stay in an agriturismo. It had spectacular views, old stone buildings, birds singing, a donkey braying now and then, beautiful starlit nights, and a gourmet chef. What more could I ask for? On Saturday we drove over to the Tuscan coast and walked by the sea. Finally the temperatures are very comfortable and we had a lovely time.

    Say hi to Rhonda for me. And WOW! Carina moving in. Gotta love all the twists and turns that come to a life. I’m happy for you all. I think. Mostly, I’m happy for Carina. Give Rhonda a squeeze for me. Love and hugs to you all!

  5. Hi Guys! Thanks for the reminder about your blog; life has been hectic and I had misplaced your url for it. Since we’re not coming to Italy with CRC [sob, whine] I’m sopping up your posts like an empty sponge. We loved Florence SO MUCH in 2005 (?) with OCC. So one of my all time favorite books is Ross King’s Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. It’s the whole story (history, politics, architecture) of building the dome on the duomo. Also, don’t miss the Duomo Museum, located right next door. There’s a scale model of the dome and a Della Robbia choir loft that you’ll love.

    And as for books, I’ve recently read two historical novels about Vivaldi and the time he spent in Venice, and your Carnivale pictures helped illuminate that time period even more.

    Keep posting!


    • Hi Julie, I’m so sorry to hear you won’t be here this year. Hopefully again soon. Thanks for the recommendation of Brunelleschi’s Dome. George read it when he was preparing for his classes back in 2009, but I haven’t read it. I’ll see if they have it at the used book store. This is our third trip to Florence and we FINALLY got to the duomo museum. I loved the choir lofts, both Della Robbia and Donatello’s versions. I thought of the choir the whole time I was sitting there looking at all those beautiful, joyful children singing and playing instruments. I even took a couple pictures, which I should include in this blog.

      I love historical fiction, so I will look for the books about Vivaldi in Venice. I just finished “Juliet” which is set in Siena, so I’m looking for another historical novel set in these parts. Thanks for the recommendations.

      All the best to you there in California. Love and hugs,

  6. The two Vivaldi novels are “Vivaldi’s Virgins” by Barbara Quick and “The Four Seasons” by Corona. Both are about the same time period; both very different; both enjoyable. Just googled “historical novels Italy” and came up with a website that looks intriguing. Are there libraries in Florence? (A question I’d never thought to ask!) And I’m sure it won’t be long until you can download every book available onto your computer. Ooo! Heresy from a publisher! Oh well.

    We’re insanely envious of your adventures! Keep on posting!

    • Thanks for the names of the books. I’ll look for them. I am headed to the library today, though anything I check out, I have to finish in 6 weeks. We also brought our kindle so we can carry a whole library in 8 ounces of packing space. That’s working out well. There is also a paperback exchange where I find a lot of good used books.
      I do have a long list of novels featuring Italy that are on my list to read, but the books about Vivaldi didn’t come up on my list, so I’m grateful for the recommendation.

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