As the holiday season fast approaches, the American Academy in Rome has assembled a diverse array of books by or featuring our Fellows and Residents. Each publication makes for a fantastic holiday gift for a loved one, a friend, or yourself. Check out our selection of art books, novels, scholarly monographs, and volumes of poetry—all of which have come out for the first time, or as a new edition, this year. Prices are accurate at the time of posting this article.
The Academy has curated this list for editorial purposes only. We receive no commission whatsoever if books are purchased through any of the below links. Book descriptions are adapted in part from publishers’ synopses.
In Uncommon Wrath, the historian Josiah Osgood (2002 Fellow) tells the story of how a political rivalry between Julius Caesar and Marcus Cato precipitated the end of the Roman Republic. As the champions of two dominant but distinct visions for Rome, Caesar and Cato each represented qualities that had made the Republic strong, but their ideological differences were entrenched into enmity and mutual fear. Deeply researched and compellingly told, Uncommon Wrath is a groundbreaking biography of two men whose hatred for each other destroyed the world they loved. Basic Books, hardcover, 352 pages.
In The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Kertzer unveils new details about Pius XII’s actions (and lack of action) during the Second World War. Kertzer was among the first to be admitted to Pius’s recently unsealed archives and spoke on the topic at the Patricia H. LaBalme Friends of the Library Lecture at the Villa Aurelia last May. Random House, hardcover, 672 pages.
Rosetta S. Elkin’s Plant Life examines how afforestation reveals the often-concealed politics between humans and plants. Afforestation—the large-scale planting of trees in otherwise treeless environments—is not the simple answer to deforestation that it may seem to be, Elkin argues. The book, which was partly researched during her Rome Prize Fellowship, exposes the relationship between human and plant life, revealing that afforestation is not an ecological act. Rather, it is deliberately political and distressingly social. University of Minnesota Press, paperback, 264 pages.
The Fasces: A History of Ancient Rome’s Most Dangerous Political Symbol is the study of a symbol at the root of the ubiquitous word “fascism.” T. Corey Brennan offers the first global history of the nature, development, and competing meanings of this stark symbol, from antiquity to the present. In addition to being a Rome Prize Fellow, Brennan has served as president of the American Academy in Rome’s Society of Fellows, as ex officio Trustee (2008–9), as Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge of the Humanities (2009–12), and as chair of the Advisory Council on Classical Studies to the Academy (2019–22). Oxford University Press, hardcover, 304 pages.
In this book, researched during her 2021 Rome Prize Fellowship at AAR, Maggie L. Popkin offers an in-depth investigation of souvenirs, an understudied type of ancient Roman object that serves as a window into the experiences, imaginations, and aspirations of a broad range of people—not just the elite—who lived in the Roman world. Popkin’s book demonstrates the critical role that souvenirs played in shaping how Romans perceived and conceptualized their world, and their relationships to the empire that shaped it. Cambridge University Press, hardcover, 346 pages.
Giuliano da Sangallo (1443–1516) was one of the first architects to draw the ruins and artifacts of ancient Rome in a systematic way. In Giuliano da Sangallo and the Ruins of Rome, Cammy Brothers (1997 Fellow) shows how this man played a crucial role in the Renaissance recovery of antiquity, and how his work transformed the broken fragments of Rome’s past into the image of a city made whole. The book features an abundance of illustrations of the architect’s drawings. Princeton University Press, hardcover, 320 pages.
Are the Arts Essential? answers its title question with a resounding yes, in twenty-five richly illustrated essays. Among the book’s contributors are Mary Schmidt Campbell (Trustee Emerita), Deborah Willis (2019 Resident), Edward Hirsch (2019 Resident), Tania León (1998 Resident), and Mary Miss (1989 Resident, Trustee Emerita). These and other essayists powerfully make the case for the enduring importance and contemporary relevance of poetry, music, performing arts, visual arts, and other forms of creative expression. NYU Press, hardcover, 344 pages.
Against Redemption: Democracy, Memory, and Literature in Post-Fascist Italy
By Franco Baldasso (2019 Fellow)
From $33.25 (paperback) and $125.00 (hardcover) on Amazon and $40.25 (paperback) and $143.75 (hardcover) on Bookshop
During this centennial year of the March on Rome, Franco Baldasso’s book explains how a shared memory of Italian Fascism and its cultural heritage took shape and remains the most disputed question of modern Italy. Bridging academic and public discourse, Against Redemption focuses on the period from Mussolini’s downfall in July 1943 to the 1948 general elections, in which the Christian Democrats won against the Left. Baldasso worked on this book during his 2019 Rome Prize Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. Fordham University Press, hardcover or paperback, 320 pages.
Part of Yale University Press’s Ancient Lives series, Cleopatra: Her History, Her Myth is a feminist reinterpretation of the myths surrounding Cleopatra that casts new light on the famed Egyptian queen and her legacy. Francine Prose delves into ancient Greek and Roman literary sources, as well as modern representations of Cleopatra, to challenge past narratives driven by orientalism and misogyny and offer a new reading of her history through the lens of our current era. Yale University Press, hardcover, 208 pages.
Fiction and Poetry
English-speaking readers can rejoice at the first translation of Alessandro Manzoni’s famed novel The Betrothed (I Promessi sposi) in more than fifty years. Michael F. Moore’s remarkable new rendering of the historical novel, which is taught in practically every high school in Italy, will help to better introduce the nineteenth-century classic to a wider readership. The Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri, who contributed the preface to the new translation, called its publication “a landmark literary occasion.” Modern Library, hardcover, 704 pages.
Sarah Manguso is the author of eight books, yet Very Cold People is her debut novel. For the heroine Ruthie, the frozen town of Waitsfield, Massachusetts, is all she has ever known. As she grows older, Ruthie slowly learns how the town’s prim façade conceals a deeper, darker history, and how silence often masks a legacy of harm. Manguso, in her precise and haunting prose, has written a compact but virtuosic novel on growing up in the constraints of a small American town. Hogarth, hardcover, 208 pages.
White Noise, the classic novel by Don DeLillo that helped to establish literary postmodernism, is worth a read or reread as its Noah Bambauch–directed film adaptation hits the screens this month. The 1985 novel, set in the fictional college town of Blacksmith, combines a cutting prose style with an investigation into themes including fear of death, consumerism, media, and disaster. Penguin, paperback, 320 pages.
The Dug-Up Gun Museum by Matt Donovan confronts our country’s obsession with firearms to explore America’s political polarization and issues linked to violence, race, power, and privilege. Taking its title from an actual museum in Wyoming, this collection interrogates our country’s history of gun violence through dynamic, ironic, and mournful poems. In turns harrowing, elegiac, and ironic, and set in locations ranging from Cody to Chicago, and from Las Vegas to Sandy Hook, The Dug-Up Gun Museum probes America’s failures, bizarre infatuations, and innumerable tragedies linked to firearms. BOA Editions, paperback, 96 pages.
Still Life by the late Jay Hopler came out on June 7, 2022, only days before the poet’s death. This book is his creative response to facing a terminal cancer diagnosis, and its poems are heartbreaking—but not without dark humor, too. This work is a testament to courage, love, compassion, and the fierceness of the human heart. Still Life is a violently funny but playfully serious fulfillment of what Arseny Tarkovsky called the fundamental purpose of art: a way to prepare for death, be it far in the future or very near at hand. McSweeney’s, hardcover, 63 pages.
Art and Architecture
This new edition of I Paint What I Want to See comprises Philip Guston’s reflections on painting and drawing. Guston’s popularity has grown tremendously since his death in 1980, and as an “artist’s artist” he continues to influence leading contemporary practitioners today, from Glenn Ligon to Rirkrit Tiravanija. With the opening this year of the first retrospective of Guston’s work in nearly two decades, Philip Guston Now (currently at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), it is a fitting time to read his own incisive words on the role of the artist in society, and the joy of painting. The two times that Guston spent at the American Academy in Rome, in 1948–49 and 1970–71, both occurred at crucial junctures in his career. Penguin Classics, paperback, 112 pages.
This book is the first to collect the complete works to date of the New York–based artist Firelei Báez (2022 Fellow), fully illustrated with images of her immersive installations, sculptural commissions, paintings, and more than 150 works on paper. Major new texts from curators Mark Godfrey, Legacy Russell, Carla Acevedo-Yates, and Eva Respini, and an in-depth conversation with Thelma Golden, all explore the artist’s biography, symbolism, and the historical foundations of her works. Bringing together more than ten years of exhibitions and installations, Firelei Báez: to breathe full and free is a landmark presentation of the work of this exciting emerging artist. Gregory R. Miller, hardcover, 256 pages.
This book, coedited by Yto Barrada, began as a major research project in 2017 on Bettina Grossman, partly during Barrada’s AAR Residency. The result is a monograph containing an exceptional body of photographic, graphic, and cinematographic work by the artist. Grossman, a personality and unsung artist, lived in the famous Chelsea Hotel from 1968 until her death in 2021. Bettina won the 2020 Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award Arle. Atelier EXB, paperback, 300 pages.
Created in 1990 and originally published in book form in 2016, the Kitchen Table Series is possibly Carrie Mae Weems’s best-known body of work. This new edition, comprising twenty photographs and fourteen panels of text, tells the story of a woman from the singular view at her kitchen table. Weems has described the series as a look at “the battle around the family … monogamy … and between the sexes.” MW Editions, hardcover, 78 pages.
Verify in Field is an intriguing exploration of recent work by Höweler + Yoon, demonstrating how verification, uncertainty, and agency come into play with architectural design. Founded in 2001 and based in Boston, Höweler + Yoon Architecture gained early praise for ephemeral and interactive public projects. Today it is recognized for striking works that combine conceptual imagination and technological sophistication. Coauthor J. Meejin Yoon is half of this architectural duo. Park Books, paperback, 360 pages.
Published for a major midcareer retrospective of work by Theaster Gates (2020 Resident), which opened last month at the New Museum in New York, this book covers the full range of the artist’s activities over the past twenty years, capturing his expansive conception of art as a social sculptor, organizer, improviser, and preservationist. Gates’s work in social practice, interdisciplinary performance, archival investigation, and multifaceted object-making have made him one of the most compelling artists of the twenty-first century. Phaidon, hardcover, 240 pages.