Joseph A. Amato is a speaker, scholar, and author of thirty books. He published in September 2023, two of four explorations of self, Self, One and Many and Body, Vessel and Sea of Self.

  • My Three Sicilies

  • Mounier & Maritain

  • Self, One and Many

  • Body, Vessel and Sea of Self

  • On Foot

  • Rethinking Home

  • The Trinity of Grace

    The Trinity of Grace

  • Victims & Values

    Victims and Values

  • Death Book

  • Bypass: A Memoir

  • Buffalo Man

  • Jacob's Well

  • Surfaces: A History

  • Dust: The History of the Small and Invisible


This site was first revised with the publication of Surfaces, A History University and California Press (May 1, 2013). It was revised again with the publication of The Book of Twos: The Power of Contrasts, Polarities and Contradictions (Crossings Press /Ellis Press, 2015). Third it was revised in 2016 in light of my first works of poetry, Buoyancies: A Ballast Master’s Log (Crossings Press and Spoon River Poetry Press, 2014),and My Three Sicilies: Stories, Poems, and Histories (New York: Bordighera Press, 2016).It was revised again with the publication of Diagnostics: Poetics of Time (Bordighera, 2017); a first full-length work of fiction, Buffalo Man: Life of a Boy Giant on the Minnesota River (Crossings Press, 2018) and two works of poetry, Tower of Aging (2020) and The Trinity of Grace (2020), and Self, One and Many (2023) and Body, Vessel and Sea of Self (2023).

Available Books!

If you are interested in the purchase of any book described here, please write publisher or amatojc@gmail. Also, copies of most are available at publishers and distributors of new and used books.

Self: One and Many

Self Self, One and Many is the first of Amato's three books on self. Starting in the prehistory, Self, One and Many traces the formation and development of the self in the Western world.

Self, One and Many

"This historical and personal journey into the development of the 'self' from the primitive to the modern era demonstrates how the self is both 'a many' and 'a one...' As Amato argues in his closing chapters. 'The very forces that made us individual in a rich and changing society did so at the cost of our inheritance and transcendence."

James V. Gambone

"In this compelling work, Joseph Amato undertakes to understand the evolution of the self--both its interior growth and the influence of ouside factor. He succeeds by taking the readers on a journey through Western history itself, stopping to study major thinkers such as Montaigne and Rousseau, important periods such as the Renaissance and Enlightenment, the arts and religion, and yet not overlooking the self of everday man."

Dana Yost

Body, Vessel and Sea of Self

Self In Body, Vessel and Sea of Self, Amato explores, with stories, histories, and poems, the elemental notion that bodies put us in place, time, and life, and give us meaning.

Body, Vessel and Sea of Self

"Like the fecundity of the cell in creating tissues, organs, structures, and bodies, Jospeh Amato's fecund imagination takes us on a contemplative journey of the human body as the vessel of our containment, our instrument of action, and a tether to our self-awareness and spirit."

William Hoffman

"Building on his magisterial account of the development of the modern self, Amato offers a series of vivid and engrossing reflections on the body -- on hands and feet, surfaces and touch, and the machines and tools that extend our bodies beyond themselves."

Jonathan Sozek

The Trinity of Grace

The Trinity of Grace "In this superb collection, Joseph Amato wonderfully blends writing about everyday people and events with a sacred yearning for the mystical and eternal gifts of grace."

Dana Yost

The Trinity of Grace

This book of poetry by Sicilian- American historian Joseph A. Amato is a gem. It is rich in wisdom and gratitude for the gift and grace of life. Known especially as an advocate for taking local history and the importance of place more seriously, Amato has also written with insight on a wide variety of topics.

Donald A. Yerxa

In this superb collection, Joseph Amato wonderfully blends writing about everyday people and events with a sacred yearning for the mystical and eternal gifts of grace.

Dana Yost

Buffalo Man

Buffalo Man Man is sprawling novel centered around the life and times of the mythic boy-giant Joseph Bisson. Blending the history of the Upper Midwest with magic realism and ribald peasant humor, it captures part of our past beyond the reach of modern narratives.”

John Radzilowski, Ph.D., University of Alaska Southeast

Buffalo Man

Buffalo Man is a story written for his grandchildren and inspired by the author's grandfather, a joker and teller of tales. We are fortunate to share these family stories, as when they are processed through a scholar like Joseph Amato, they become something far different, far deeper, with accurate historical background, and an insight uniquely his own, for the ages and to the benefit of all who enjoy a good story, well-told.

Scott L. Perrizo

There are many delightful and endearing aspects of this story - Gar's trek to visit a shrunken Paul Bunyan to hear first-hand life as a giant - and so many historical details that will clue the reader that this is no ordinary tale. In so many ways I value this story of Gar, "tall" and fanciful tale that it is, as it fleshes out a period of history, with the early settlers and traders of Minnesota, the Metís, and the Native Americans who were this area's first residents and still heirs to its longest history, all of whom we rarely encounter in today's world - it is indeed a period that should not be forgotten.

Scott L. Perrizo

Everyday Life

Everyday Life In Everyday Life: How the Ordinary Became Extraordinary, Amato traces how the once commonplace and repetitious lives of the great majority have become anything but that as they went in recent times from material and bodily necessities and habits and traditions to matters of individual ambition, sensibility, wish, and dreams. We have become creations of our ongoing politics, science, invention, transportation and communication; we have become subjects of design, abundance, profit, advertisement; yet creatures of individuality, sensibility, and intimacy psychology, and poetry.

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Everyday Life

This book combines impressively wide reading with a sense of how life was and is composed. Amato ranges widely through topics as varied as dirt and muck, walking, and the charm of spices, and through time periods from early agriculture to mechanization. The result is a thought-provoking introduction to change and continuity in daily life.

Peter Stearns, George Mason University

In Everyday Life, Amato reflects on the complex and changing textures of everyday life, beginning with societies of scarcity and relative lack of change and ending with Amato’s own American life of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A work of wide-ranging erudition, it nonetheless offers food for reflection to the everyday reader today, for it lays out how life—even in the very recent past—differed from life in present-day societies of abundance and of seemingly unstoppable change.

Allan Megill, University of Virginia

Amato makes a compelling case for exploring the complex history of everyday life. Drawing on an amazingly broad range of historical, cultural, anthropological, and literary sources, Amato pays keen attention to the interplay of place, landscape, and ‘things’ on human experience and imagination. Like his previous books, Everyday Life richly rewards the reader. It is a unique, reflective, and provocative essay that honors the richness of human life in all its variety.

Donald A. Yerxa, Professor emeritus of History at Eastern Nazarene College

For an hour interview of Amato on Everyday Life, see Al Zambone’s Historically Speaking, Podcast, Episode 74 “How the Ordinary Became Extraordinary,”

The Book of Twos

The Book of Twos In The Book of Twos, Joseph Amato explores how the concept of twos—contrasts, comparisons, polarities, dualities, and contradictions—has been fundamental to human thought from infant development to national identities, from poetic metaphors to scientific discoveries, from historical movements to religious faith, and from the divided self to philosophical systems. In his telling twos become who we are.

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Book of Twos

Defying neat classification, The Book of Twos is far from the standard monographic fare of today’s academy. It is a meditation on and celebration of the heterogeneity of things—a unique and provocative combination of keen observation, rich historical and philosophical insight, religious-based wisdom, and poetry. It is the product of one of the most creative thinkers I know.

Donald A. Yerxa, Professor of History and Editor of Fides et Historia

The Book of Twos combines an unusual breadth of subject matter with genuine originality—the weaving of disparate worlds into a coherent narrative, a narrative that is fertile terrain for our re-imagining as readers. You do that for me in all your books including notably in Dust: A History of the Small and Invisible. Yet “The Book of Twos” is much more a literary and philosophical exploration of cognition itself, of the basis of self-knowing through an expansive mental expedition of seeing, touching, feeling, reflecting, considering, interrogating, contrasting, expressing, etc. To be successful, such an expedition in humane letters requires the singular well-stocked and unfettered mind, a certain restlessness of inquiry, and a limpid expressiveness. Not many people, I suspect, could accomplish what you set out to do here and succeeded in doing.

William Hoffman, author of The Biologist Imagination, 2014

This book is in line with his previous successful books Dust, A History of the Small and Invisible, On Foot: A History of Walking, and Surfaces, a History. Like those books, The Book of Twos is extremely original and based on a rare and extraordinary understanding of a variety of subjects, including the historical, linguistic, material, philosophical, spiritual, metaphorical, and psychological.

Amato is an unparalleled master of bringing together the concrete and the abstract. Much of our thinking is done in opposing—and sometime uniting—dualities, and no one has investigated this important phenomenon as well Amato does here. His abstractions arise from the deep soil in which our thoughts and attitudes are rooted.

This book will be a classic for people who like to understand the world they think in.

Jeffrey B. Russell, Christian thinker, writer, and Professor of History, Emeritus

My Three Sicilies

My Three Sicilies The three Sicilies of Joseph Amato's unusual and finely crafted book can be counted, according to its table of contents, as those of fiction, poetry, and social and family history. Those who share Amato's roots will find much here to connect with, and all other readers will connect with the passion and the sheer humanity that illuminate the work.
- Micheal Palma.

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My Three Sicilies

My Three Sicilies is a declaration of love. Here past and future coexist, and here the poet explores this "unresolved duality" of life. Looking for his roots Joseph Amato encounters people, stories, myths, sites, villages, and cities on this island that appears as the true center of the earth.

Cateno Tempio, Sicilian writer and philosopher

For an extensive podcast review by Mark Spano, see

Surfaces: A History

Surfaces A historical, philosophical, and anthropological meditation on humans as self-reflecting, self-defining, and self-making creatures.

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With this wonderful history of the world as a collage of surfaces, Joe Amato sets the record straight. Surfaces define our relationship to the world -- they have their own poetry, aesthetics, science, glamour, and wonder.

Phillip Ball, author of Shapes: Nature's Patterns, A Tapestry in Three Parts

Highly original, deeply sensitive, and amazingly informed, Surfaces is one of the great books of the twenty-first century. It is eloquent and beautiful, based on solid thought and spelled out with imagination, emotion, refined speculation, and a rich yet simple language.

Jeffrey Burton Russell, University of California, Santa Barbara

Surfaces is utterly unique and almost defies categorization. Amato romps over vast landscapes of intellectual and artistic terrain, demonstrating intellectual breadth, insight, and creativity. This is an exciting book—bold, provocative, poetic—that invites contemplation and opens the reader’s mind to the depth and complexity of the human experience.

Donald A. Yerxa, senior editor, Historically Speaking

Joseph Amato displays superior scholarly range and imagination in this lively, flowing, and often inventive study of humans' relationship with their world. Surfaces offers us many intriguing and frequently surprising insights about a subject that we have never thought of in quite this way before. This is an enormously ambitious and thoughtprovoking book.

Allan Megill, author of Historical Knowledge, Historical Error: A Contemporary Guide to Practice

Joe Amato gives talks regionally and nationally.

Topics of his talks cover a wide range of subjects drawn from his research and teaching on place, rural life, and southwest Minnesota, as well as, his books on philosophy and history.

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Author of many books

His subjects include death, suffering, victims and values, and family, local, and everyday history, His recent writing has led him in the direction of poetry and fiction.

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Life long teacher, writer, speaker, and scholar.

Amato continues to write and carry on inquiries in history, anthropology, and religion.

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