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If you’re anything like me, you’re eager to read Walter Isaacson’s upcoming biography of Leonardo da Vinci. But it doesn’t come out until October 17th, so what are you going to do until then?

To tide you over, here’s a list of my favorite Leonardo da Vinci novels:

Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis

In this historical murder mystery, Leonardo teams up with Niccolo Machiavelli to hunt down a serial killer.  It’s a thrilling, well-researched read that brings Renaissance Italy alive. (Bonus: if you’re interested in the Borgia family, this one is especially for you).

I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis

Another murder mystery, this one is told from the point of view of Lisa del Giocondo (i.e., Mona Lisa), and it provides an interesting take on the creation of the world’s most famous portrait. Part romance novel, part thriller, this is a great read for those who like a page turner.

Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex

This spellbinding novel brings the time period and the fierce sisterly rivalry between Isabella and Beatrice d’Este to life. And it provides some great insights into the maestro‘s work and this fascinating time period in Italian history. Really enjoyed this one!

Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell

This one is about Leonardo da Vinci’s mother. We know precious little about the real woman from history, but this novel does a great job of imagining the woman who clearly lives inside Leonardo’s heart and mind.

Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M. Elliott

This historical novel about Ginevra de’Benci (you can see her portrait in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC) is beautifully written, especially for a younger audience. It has a strong female lead that is sure to inspire and — bonus! — it’s out in paperback this fall!

Da Vinci Deception by Thomas Swan

This mystery novel isn’t about Leonardo himself or the Renaissance, but about a modern-day art-forger attempting to fake a new page from Leonardo’s notebooks. I particularly enjoyed the description of the process of creating works of Renaissance art.

The Queen’s Gambit by Diane A.S. Stuckart

This is another murder mystery (what is it about Leonardo that inspires murder plots?) set during Leonardo’s years up in Milan serving Duke Sforza. It’s a great story with lots of plot twists and was a particularly fun version of “Leonardo as detective,” which seems to be a running theme.

The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli

This one is also meant for kids (ages 6-10) and is, once again, told from the POV of “Monna Elisabetta,” with a definite romance plot. It’s a great introduction to Italian culture and the Renaissance era.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

I know, I know, it’s not REALLY about Leonardo da Vinci, but it is about some of his masterpieces and MIGHT just get you hooked on his art. Besides a Leonardo list without it just seems incomplete! I can’t imagine you haven’t read it yet, but if you haven’t — just give in and read it already.

Oil and Marble by Stephanie Storey

Leonardo v. Michelangelo. Mona Lisa v. David. Hey, The New York Times called it “tremendously entertaining,” and it’s now out in 6 languages, so it might be worth adding to your reading list. It’s out in paperback on June 5, 2018! (It would be disingenuous not to mention my own novel, wouldn’t it?)

Happy reading.

(For a breakdown of my recommended reads–which includes my nonfiction research–look here. This list is ONLY for historical fiction)


Did I miss one of your favorite Leonardo novels? Please tell me about it!