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Five Books to Include in Your Umberto Eco Collection

By Leah Dobrinska. Nov 11, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco is a renowned author, philosopher, and academic who has made contributions across genres, from fiction and non-fiction to children’s literature, literary criticism, academic essays, and journalistic prose. Whatever style Eco pursues, his works are robust: filled with dense and layered information and compelling plot points.

Eco’s genius has been inspired in part by his own collection of books. He uses his personal library, filled with over 50,000 titles and housed in two locations, as a personal reference center when composing works of his own. While many are familiar with Eco's classic novel, The Name of the Rose, some of his other writing is less well known. These titles also deserve recognition, and a glimpse at them may be enough to expand your own reading list. Below are some of our favorites - less commonly recognized, but striking and important reads nonetheless.



This novel’s title character is described by Eco as a “little rascal.” He is a liar and an adventurer who comes from the peasant class. With a band of lively cohorts, he journeys to mysterious lands only to wind up in Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. The book is Baudolino’s account of his adventures (filled with many exaggerations), as told to a famous Byzantine historian. Baudolino marks Umberto Eco’s return to medieval writing, an area where he first found success with The Name of the Rose two decades earlier. See more.


Apocalittici e Integrati

Apocalittici e Integrati, or Apocalypse Postponed, is a collection of Eco’s essays in which he focuses on Italian popular culture in the latter half of the twentieth century. Topics include the role of mass media and the limits of communication, highbrow vs. lowbrow style, how intellectuals are situated in relation to mass culture, and the future of literacy, among others. Eco uses his semiotic approach to dissect many pop culture works including the “Peanuts” comic strip. The whole of this work is arguably original and fascinating. See more.


The Bomb and the General

In this children’s story, Eco tells the tale of a malicious general who compiles a group of atoms to detonate in bombs. The atoms, personified with real feelings and opinions, decide that they do not want to be used for destruction. Instead, they run away from the general and when the general drops the bombs, they don’t explode. While Eco’s adult works contain numerous layers and are open to many interpretations, the moral of this children’s tale is decidedly straight-forward. See more. 


Confessions of a Young Novelist

Confessions of a Young Novelist is a collection of Eco’s four Richard Ellmann Lectures given at Harvard University. His thoughts, as expressed in these lectures, give readers a unique perspective on his creative process as an author. He argues that nonfiction writing should be woven much like a tale of fiction, and fiction writing should be well-researched and meticulously prepared, much like nonfiction. Eco, as always, is witty and insightful, making the text of his lectures a pleasure to read.  See more.


The Limits of Interpretation

This compilation of essays details Eco’s belief that complete subjectivity isn’t correct when it comes to interpretations - while a large number of interpretations of a certain work or idea may be possible, there cannot be an infinite number. Many critics compliment Eco on his ability to weave theory in a way that makes it accessible. This rings especially true here, where according to George J. Leonard of the San Francisco Review of Books, “Eco's essays read like letters from a friend, trying to share something he loves with someone he likes.” See more.

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Leah Dobrinska
Writer, editor, and lover of a good sentence, a happy ending, and the smell of books, both old and new. Enjoys reading children's lit to her daughters, home-improvement magazines with her husband, and Shakespeare by herself.


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