“Viva Italia”: Reads for Italian American Heritage Month 2021

Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month (October) is celebrated by proclamation of the President and Congress in the United States to honor the achievements and contributions of Italian immigrants and their descendants living in the United States, particularly in the arts, science, and culture.

To commemorate this occasion, here is a selection of fiction and nonfiction by and about Italian Americans or set in Italy,  and of course, some mouth watering Italian cuisine cookbooks, all available in the Livingston Library collection.

Big Flavors from Italian America: Family-style Favorites from Coast to Coast

Dig into the best of Italian American cooking with recipes that would make any nonna proud. Bubbling lasagna and drop meatballs are hard to resist, but save room for Braciole and Chicken Scarpariello. Then go on the road to discover dishes from humble delis and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, like Philadelphia Pork Sandwiches, Eggplant Pecorino, and Utica Greens. Learn the tricks behind pizzas from Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis. Finally, bring home the bakery (and street fair) with garlic knots and zeppole. 

The Bitter Taste Of Murder by Camilla Trinchieri

Scandal and murder rock a rustic Italian town. Luckily, a Big Apple sleuth is there to set things right. In Trinchieri’s savory sequel to 2020’s Murder in Chianti, former Bronx homicide detective Nico Doyle, who has been living in his late wife’s hometown of Gravigna, Italy, for the past year, investigates the death of unpopular wine critic Michele Mantelli, who lost control of his car and plunged down a ravine.

The Bookseller Of Florence : The Story Of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance by Ross King

Art historian King delivers a richly detailed portrait of 15th-century Florence and the important role booksellers played in disseminating ancient Greek and Latin texts that were vital to the Renaissance. King focuses on Vespasiano da Bisticci, a renowned bookseller and “manuscript hunter” who produced gorgeously illustrated parchment copies of theological texts and works by Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers.

The Children’s Train : A Novel by Viola Ardone

Based on true events, a heartbreaking story of love, family, hope, and survival set in post-World War II Italy, about poor children from the south sent to live with families in the north to survive deprivation and the harsh winters.

The Complete Italian Cookbook : Over 200 Classic and Contemporary Italian Dishes Made For the Modern Kitchen

From silky bowls of noodles and inventive pizzas to decadent classics like lasagna and cannolis, you’ll soon be tossing out your takeout menus and enjoying your best meals at home — just as the masters in the Old Country intended.

Cooking with Nonna: Celebrate Food & Family with Over 100 Classic Recipes from Italian Grandmothers by Rossella Rago

Take a culinary journey through Italy with Rossella and her debut cookbook, featuring over 100 classic Italian recipes, along with advice and stories from 25 beloved Italian grandmothers. Learn to make fresh homemade pasta, handcrafted spaghetti with meatballs, and decadent four-cheese lasagna that will have everyone coming back for seconds!

Courage, My Love by Kristin Beck

When the Nazi occupation of Rome begins, two courageous young women join the Italian Resistance to fight for their freedom.  As Lucia and Francesca struggle against the Nazi occupation, they learn to resist alongside the partisans to drive the Germans from Rome. As winter sets in though, the occupation tightens its grip on the city, and the resistance is in constant danger. In the darkest days, Francesca and Lucia face their pasts, and find the courage to love and strive for a future that is finally free.

Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker’s Life by Michael Schumacher

This is the first complete picture of the flawed cinematic genius who directed the Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, and other distinctive films–some wildly successful, some disastrous. The entire story of his career is covered from his apprenticeship under Roger Corman to his winning a Director’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. Along the way, we learn how he turned a pulp Mafia novel into a cinematic classic, how he almost literally killed himself during the filming of Apocalypse Now, and how he confirmed Hollywood’s predictions about him, with various flops and follies along the way. 

The Fortunate Pilgrim by Mariio Puzo

Puzo’s classic story about the loves, crimes and struggles confronted by one family of New York City immigrants living in Hell’s Kitchen. Fresh from the farms in Italy, Lucia Santa (based on Puzo’s mother) struggles to hold her family together in a strange land. At turns poignant, comic and violent, this is Italian-American fiction at its very best.

The Godmothers : A Novel by Camille Aubray

Godmothers to one another’s children, four women who married into a prosperous Italian family must come together, despite secrets and betrayals, when their husbands are forced to leave them during World War II, pitting them against notorious gangsters who run the streets of New York City.

The Italian Americans: A History by Maria Laurino

This richly researched, beautifully illustrated volume illuminates an important, overlooked part of American history. From extensive archival materials and interviews with well-known Italian Americans, Laurino strips away stereotypes and nostalgia to tell the complicated, centuries-long story of the true Italian-American experience.

Laura in the Kitchen: Favorite Italian-American Recipes Made Easy by Laura Vitale

When Laura Vitale moved from Naples to the United States at age twelve, she cured her homesickness by cooking up endless pots of her nonna’s sauce. She went on to work in her father’s pizzeria, but when his restaurant suddenly closed, she knew she had to find her way back into the kitchen. Together with her husband, she launched her Internet cooking show, Laura in the Kitchen, where her enthusiasm, charm, and irresistible recipes have won her millions of fans. In her debut cookbook, Laura focuses on simple recipes that anyone can achieve–whether they have just a little time to spend in the kitchen or want to create an impressive feast.

Little Boy: a novel by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

From the famed publisher and poet, author of the million-copy-selling collection A Coney Island of the Mind, his literary last will and testament—part autobiography, part philosophical treatise, part Beat-inflected torrent of language and feeling Paying tribute to the classic writers whose careers Ferlinghetti championed, Little Boy is a magical font of literary lore, a final repository of hard-earned and durable wisdom, a compositional high-wire act without a net (or all that much punctuation), and just a gas and an inspiration to read.

Meeting in Positano by Goliarda Sapienza 

In this charming, deeply atmospheric novel set against the dazzling Amalfi Coast of the 1950s, two women form an intense and lasting friendship. Inspired by her own adventurous, unconventional life, actress and writer Goliarda Sapienza’s recently rediscovered novel takes the reader to the sun-drenched town of Positano in southern Italy.

Our Darkest Night : A Novel Of Italy And The Second World War by Jennifer Robson

In 1943, with German soldiers occupying much of Italy, Italian Jewish Antonina Mazin must flee Venice. But instead of risking a dangerous mountain crossing, she agrees to pose as the wife of Nico Gerardi, who cut short his seminary studies to return home to run the family farm. Unfortunately, their arrangement does not entirely persuade either the neighbors or the local Nazi official.

Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst

This novel follows three generations of women on a month long tour of Italy as they attempt to repair their troubled relationships. Filled with rich interactions between the women, as well as the lush Italian landscape, city descriptions, and culinary pleasures. 

Pelosi by Molly Ball

 How did an Italian grandmother in four-inch heels become the greatest legislator since LBJ? Ball’s nuanced, page-turning portrait takes readers inside the life and times of this historic and underappreciated figure. Based on exclusive interviews with the Speaker and deep background reporting, Ball shows Pelosi through a thoroughly modern lens to explain how this extraordinary woman has met her moment.

The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age by Gino Segrè and Bettina Hoerlin

This first major biography of Fermi (the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and one of the fathers of the atomic age),  in English, brings this scientific visionary to life. An examination of the human dramas that touched Fermi’s life as well as a thrilling history of scientific innovation in the twentieth century–including the birth of one of its most controversial disciplines, nuclear physics–this is the comprehensive biography that Fermi deserves.

Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived by Antonin Scalia

This definitive collection of beloved Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s finest speeches covers topics as varied as the law, faith, virtue, pastimes, and his heroes and friends. Featuring a foreword by longtime friend Ruth Bader Ginsburg and an intimate introduction by his youngest son, this volume includes dozens of speeches, some deeply personal, that have never before been published.

Sinatra: the Chairman by James Kaplan

The sequel to the New York Times best-selling Frank, here is the concluding volume of the definitive biography of “The Entertainer of the Century. It is the story of Frank Sinatra’s second act, riding high after an Oscar victory—and firmly reestablished as the top recording artist of his day. Following Sinatra from the mid-1950s to his death in 1998, Kaplan uncovers the man behind the myth, revealing by turns the peerless singer, the (sometimes) powerful actor, the business mogul, the tireless lover, and—of course—the close associate of the powerful and infamous.

These Tangled Vines : A Novel by Julianne MacLean

Fiona travels to Italy, where the family is shocked to learn of her existence and desperate to contest her share of the will. While the mystery of her mother’s affair is slowly unraveled, Fiona must navigate through tricky family relationships and tense sibling rivalries. Fiona both fears and embraces her new destiny as she searches for the truth about the fateful summer her mother spent in Italy and the father she never knew.

Tony Lazzeri : Yankees legend and baseball pioneer by Lawrence Baldassaro

A biography of Tony Lazzeri, a key member of the Yankees’ legendary Murderers’ Row lineup between 1926 and 1937 and the first major baseball star of Italian descent.”

Tony’s Wife : A Novel by Adriana Trigiani

In 1932 Detroit, 16-year-old Saverio Armandonada tells his old man that factory life isn’t enough and that he wants to pursue a career in music. Six years later, he’s at Sea Isle City on the Jersey Shore when he meets Chi Chi Donatelli, an ambitious songwriter with a loud, supportive family. They drift in and out of each other’s lives for years until Chi Chi auditions to be the “girl singer” for the Paul Godfrey Orchestra, alongside Tony Arma, aka Saverio. 

The Volunteer: A Novel by  Salvatore Scibona

The epic story of a restless young man who is captured during the Vietnam War and pressed into service for a clandestine branch of the United States government.  An odyssey of loss and salvation ranging across four generations of fathers and sons, this is a triumph in the grandest traditions of American storytelling.

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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