Book Club is back! This time, we are following a slightly different format. Inspired by the Cookbook Groups hosted by Kitchen Arts & Letters, where each session revolves around an interesting theme (e.g., Flavors of New York, Off the Beaten Path, Food and Connection: Family and History), our Summer 2022 Book Club revolves around the theme “Italian Journeys.” As the theme suggests, this Book Club session is all about dipping our toes into the vast ocean of Anglophone travel literature on Italy. The genre of travel literature was popular with Renaissance and Early Modern readers. Like us, they found travel books delightful – and edifying.
My other minor innovation: at this point, I think we are all suffering from a bit of Zoom fatigue, so there won’t be a Zoom discussion component to this Book Club session. (Unless you guys really want to do it?) As you read, feel free to share your reading impressions and other thoughts with us in the comments. Don’t feel obligated to read all of the books on the list–unless you feel compelled to do it!
- Rachel Cusk, The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy.
- Mary Taylor Simeti, On Persephone’s Island.
- Mary McCarthy, Stones of Florence.
- Henry James, Italian Hours. (Also available in paperback.)
- Edith Wharton, Italian Villas and Their Gardens (with beautiful Maxfield Parrish illustrations).
- For a little bonus, read Wharton’s novella, False Dawn (or download as a PDF from Google Books), part of the Old New York series. The story is set in the 1840s, and is all about a young American whose millionaire father sends him to Europe to “form his own taste in art.” As you might expect, things don’t turn out quite the way the father expected.
About your Book Club host: Cynthia Houng is a writer, art historian, and occasional artist based in New York City. Learn more about her work. She is also one of the founding editors of Ars Longa. Follow her on Instagram.