Four Books That Book Lovers Should Read

You may have noticed that The Dallas Morning News is sponsoring a One Day University on Saturday, May 10, 2014.  You pick five classes out of ten possible choices.  This event has appeared in several regions in the country, including New York City.  Registration information is available by clicking here.

One of these classes is taught by Joseph Luzzi from Bard College.  Who is he?  Luzzi is a Ph.D. from Yale and has specialized in Italian studies and literature at Bard College since 2002.  At Bard, he serves as Co-Director of the college’s Joseph LuzziFirst-Year Seminar program, a full-semester “great books” course that covers major texts and intellectual traditions.   His book,  My Two Italies  (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is scheduled for release in July, 2014.  Here is a description of that book from

Two Italies CoverA poignant personal account from a child of Calabrian peasants whose lifelong study of Italy unveils the mysteries of this Bel Paese, “Beautiful Land,” where artistic genius and political corruption have gone hand and in hand from the time of Michelangelo to The Sopranos.  The child of Italian immigrants and an award-winning scholar of Italian literature, in My Two Italies, Joseph Luzzi straddles these two perspectives to link his family’s dramatic story to Italy’s north-south divide, its quest for a unifying language, and its passion for art, food, and family.  From his Calabrian father’s time as a military internee in Nazi Germany—where he had a love affair with a local Bavarian woman—to his adventures amid the Renaissance splendor of Florence, Luzzi creates a deeply personal portrait of Italy that leaps past facile clichés about Mafia madness and Tuscan sun therapy. He delves instead into why Italian Americans have such a complicated relationship with the “old country,” and how Italy produces some of the world’s most astonishing art while suffering from corruption, political fragmentation, and an enfeebled civil society.  With topics ranging from the pervasive force of Dante’s poetry to the meteoric rise of Silvio Berlusconi,  Luzzi presents the Italians in all their glory and squalor, relating the problems that plague Italy today to the country’s ancient roots. He shares how his “two Italies”—the earthy southern Italian world of his immigrant childhood and the refined “northern” Italian realm of his professional life—join and clash in unexpected ways that continue to enchant the many millions who are either connected to Italy by ancestry or bound to it by love.

His class at the one day university is entitled “Four Books Every Book Lover Should Read.”  I snooped a bit to see if I could discover what these titles are, and I found a previous presentation where he discussed six.  My educated guess is that the four he discusses in Dallas are from these six:

Dante’s Divine Comedy (1319)

Shakespeare’s Othello (1604)

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925)

Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927)

Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961)

Philip Roth’s American Pastoral (1997)

So, how many of these have you read?  And, do you agree with these six?  And, would you pick this class if you decide to attend?


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