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Sons of Italy® Book Club

The Sons of Italy® Book Club is dedicated to the fiction and non-fiction works of Italian American writers who focus on Italian American issues, themes and history.

Preference is given to books published by the major publishing houses (Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin Books, etc.) because such titles are widely available through bookstores nationally and on

Three to four titles are chose each quarter for a total of 12 to 16 titles a year. The selections are posted here and published in Italian America® magazine.

We encourage all our chapters around the country to choose one or more of the books each quarter and devote part of their monthly meeting time to discuss it.

How to Order:

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Winter 2017 Selections

THE POPE OF PHYSICS: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age

By Gino Segré and Bettina Hoerlin

The Pope of Physics

One of the most influential physicists the world has ever known, Enrico Fermi was born in Rome in 1901 to parents (a railroad worker and a teacher) who urged education. However, it was his father’s co-worker, an engineer for the railroad, who began lending Fermi math books at a young age. As Fermi displayed an innate precociousness, he quickly moved on to highly advanced material—teaching himself physics at a time when physics was not highly regarded in Italy. By age twenty-five, he’d become Italy’s first elite physicist.

The Pope of Physics traces Fermi’s life, an existence immersed in science and discovery, through a pivotal time in history with the rise of Fascism and World War II. While Fermi tried to distance himself from politics, it was the one separation that was impossible as Mussolini’s repressive regime drove him—and his Italian Jewish wife, Laura—to the United States in 1938. Three years later, the United States commenced its Manhattan Project, and though Robert Oppenheimer was placed at the helm, it was Fermi who was indispensable.

Authors Segré and Hoerlin will take you from Fermi’s rise in Italy—and his Nobel Prize in 1938—to the leading role he played in development of the first primitive nuclear reactor (built in a squash court at the University of Chicago) and the detonation of the first atomic bomb in the deserts of New Mexico.  

While The Pope of Physics may test your limitations with science, it will bring to light the role Fermi plays in history, a role that—with the discovery of fission and the introduction of the nuclear age—forever altered the world in which we live.  


While Fermi and his fellow physicists were driven by the threat of Germany building the first atomic bomb, German physicists were stumped and as a result, thought atomic energy was not possible.

DOLCE VITA CONFIDENTIAL: Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi, and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome

By Shawn Levy

Dolce Vita Confidential

The story of how Italy—and Rome, in particular—was dubbed “the sweet life,” Dolce Vita Confidential brings to life the glamour that sprung from the rubble of World War II. In its initial steps toward rebuilding, Italy developed strong ties with the United States that would prove crucial to the rise of 1950s Rome.

Recovery efforts saw the emergence of three industries whose influence would be felt in America: auto, fashion, and film. The auto industry exploded with the growth of Fiat, Ferrari, and the Vespa, while Italian fashion grew to be so chic that it even eclipsed that of Paris. But it was the comeback of Cinecittá—a 73-building, 145-acre movie city outside of Rome built in 1937—that brought the sweet life to Italy when it pierced the walls of Hollywood.

Dolce Vita Confidential takes you on a ride into the makings of Roman Holiday, the film that put Rome back on the map (and popularized the Vespa). It continues with the emergence of Sophia Loren, who was the first to win an Oscar while playing a foreign language role, and the development of the paparazzi, who populated the sidewalks when Via Veneto became the hot spot for celebrities to frequent. You’ll make your way to famed Director Frederico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, a film that created much controversy and gained such immediate popularity that its tickets were being resold at a premium.

This journey reaches its culmination with the making of Ben-Hur, Cinecittá’s most heralded film that won a record eleven Oscars, a total that has never been surpassed. And once Dolce Vita Confidential gets you there, it’ll feel as if you rode a Vespa through the streets of Italy when everything was sweet and life was good.


Paul Newman was originally offered the title character in Ben-Hur, and had he accepted the part, Charlton Heston (who ended up playing the title character) would have been cast as his nemesis.