Michelangelo is one of history’s most talented and fascinating artists, so it’s no wonder there are so many books about him – we all want to know more about his life and art.
It can be challenging to sift through them all and decide which book about Michelangelo is perfect for you. Our family lives in Tuscany and we’ve done the work for you! The list below contains our picks for the best Michelangelo books in the following categories: novels, non-fiction books, coffee table books, kids books, and guidebooks.
Some of the books below focus only on Michelangelo, while others include him as a major part of the book.
We hope you enjoy reading these books about the Renaissance maestro, Michelangelo!
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Table of Contents
Novels about Michelangelo
The Agony & The Ecstasy, by Irving Stone
This is my favorite Michelangelo book to recommend to someone coming to Florence who’s interested in art.
It’s a best-selling, easy-to-read biographical novel that gives an excellent overview of Michelangelo’s life as an artist and human being during the Renaissance.
If you’ve got a long trip planned, you can read it while you’re here and walk the same streets you’re reading about. Otherwise, read it before your trip and make your visit to see his David statue and Michelangelo’s other art in Florence even more meaningful.
I go back and re-read it every few years because I enjoy it so much and I’ve also gifted it to friends and family.
The Giant: A Novel of Michelangelo’s David, by Laura Morelli
This historical novel is another great introduction to Michelangelo and his life story. It’s told from the point of view of one of his childhood friends, so it’s told with a unique perspective.
It’s an easy read, and like The Agony and The Ecstasy, an excellent choice for pre-trip inspiration or to read while staying in Tuscany.
Oil & Marble: A Novel About Leonardo & Michelangelo, by Stephanie Store
Store’s book examines the rivalry between two Renaissance masters – a young Michelangelo and middle-aged Leonardo da Vinci.
A well-researched historical novel, Store writes in a clear, entertaining way. And, by reading her book, we’ve learned new things about each of the artists and experienced the emotions they felt during both wonderful and difficult times in their lives.
Well worth a read for both an introduction to Michelangelo and for those who already know a bit of his background.
Non-Fiction Michelangelo Books
Michelangelo & The Pope’s Ceiling, by Ross King
If you’ve read and liked Ross King’s other two books about Renaissance artists (Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture and Leonardo and the Last Supper), you won’t be disappointed in his book about Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel.
I’ll admit, I picked this book up and put it down a few times – I just couldn’t get into it and thought it was fairly dry. But, I really wanted to learn about his work on the ceiling (before a trip to view it), so I continued with it and I’m so glad I did.
I think there are parts of the book that are too detailed and could be condensed, but I would still recommend it to anyone who is interested in knowing more of the background of Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo: His Epic Life, by Martin Gayford
Read this for epic stories about Michelangelo’s truly epic life. You’ll feel like you’re learning secrets about Michelangelo and why he was a master at his life’s work.
Gayford’s writing is entertaining and thrilling at times. It’s a book to read if you’re coming to Italy, but also is worth a read even if you’ll never make it over here.
There are a ton of photos that make what you’re reading more meaningful.
An excellent book and highly recommended if you want to learn more about Michelangelo and who he truly was.
Michelangelo & The Sistine Chapel, by Andrew Graham-Dixon
I’ll admit I didn’t read this one, because it seemed so similar to Ross King’s, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling. I wanted to include it because it’s been recommended to me by numerous folks who share similar favorite books.
Graham-Dixon writes not only about Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel, but also about his personal life and how it influenced his work.
Michelangelo: A Life In Six Masterpieces, by Miles J. Unger
Unger’s book on Michelangelo looks first at his upbringing and who he was as a person. Then he delves into six of Michelangelo’s greatest works, two of which are in Florence (the David statue, the Medici tombs). The other four works are in Rome (St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pietà, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Last Judgement).
Unger is very detailed, which is great, and I think his book is best for those who have already been introduced to Michelangelo and are looking for more in-depth information.
Michelangelo: The Complete Sculpture, Painting & Architecture, by William E. Wallace
I’ve listed this book in the non-fiction section, but it also fits well into the coffee table section. It’s a large, gorgeous book with high-quality photos.
It’s easy to sit and flip through it – for both adults and children. (But if you have kids that want to look at it, you might want to help them, as some pages are extremely thin and fragile).
The text that accompanies the photos is informative and interesting.
It’s not a book to sit down and read cover to cover – it’s best digested in small chunks.
Highly recommended if you’re looking for beautiful photos of Michelangelo’s works.
Michelangelo, by Gilles Néret
This book is shorter, and part of the well-known, high-quality Taschen series. If you’ve read and enjoyed other books in the series, you’ll like this one, as Taschen is quite consistent with the format.
The photos, like all photos in Taschen books, are quality prints, well-chosen, and are well-captioned.
The book follows the Taschen series format and gives a concise summary of Michelangelo’s life and works of art.
Michelangelo Books For Your Coffee Table
Michelangelo, by Lucinda Hawkins Collinge & Annabel Ricketts
Somewhat hard to find, this is a classic, large coffee table book that’s fun to peruse. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the writing (it’s a bit dry), but the photos are beautiful and are a jumping-off point to learning more about Michelangelo.
This would be my first choice for a coffee table book to gift to someone.
The Complete Work of Michelangelo, by Mario Salmi
This is another beautiful coffee table book that’s part of a series with Raphael and Leonardo. I hesitated to include it here because it’s tough to find. You may find used copies on Amazon, Ebay, or local used bookstores.
It’s well-made, and the muted cover (underneath the book jacket) looks nice on a coffee table or side table.
It thoroughly examines his art and life and I recommend it for someone who’s already familiar with Michelangelo and wants to continue learning about him.
Michelangelo Books For Children
Michelangelo for Kids: His Life & Ideas With 21 Activities, by Simonetta Carr
Kids love learning by doing (don’t we all?!), and this book by Simonetta Carr gets your children creating and using their hands as they learn about Michelangelo.
I have to admit, I think I like this book more than my kids do. We didn’t do all of the activities, but favorites included making a statue and creating different colors of paint just like Renaissance artists did for their paintings and frescoes.
The writing was too advanced for my then 3-year-old – he lost interest quickly. And my 6-year-old didn’t enjoy reading it on his own. So, I read aloud to them, choosing the sections that I thought would be most interesting to them.
I think it’s worth a purchase just for the accompanying activities, and it makes a great companion to other books in the ‘For Kids’ series (like Galileo Galilei and Leonardo da Vinci).
Stone Giant: Michelangelo’s David and How He Came To Be, by Jane Sutcliffe
This children’s book focuses on Michelangelo’s David statue and it’s great for children of all ages. The illustrations will keep little ones entertained and the text is simple enough that elementary school kids can read it.
If you’re planning on visiting Florence and seeing Michelangelo’s original David in the Accademia or one of the replicas outdoors, read this book with your children!
Who Was Michelangelo?, by Kirsten Anderson
This is part of the bestselling Who Was? series, a favorite in our household. We have loved every single book in this series, including Who Was Leonardo da Vinci? and Who Was Galileo?
The books in this series are targeted at 8 to 12-year-olds, but I have been reading them aloud to the boys beginning from when they’re about 4 years old.
Michelangelo in Guidebooks
I’ve yet to find a great guidebook that has a focus on Michelangelo. My favorite guidebooks that include him are in the Rick Steves series – Florence & Tuscany, Rome, and Italy.
Michelangelo on YouTube
Finally, it’s not a book, but I highly recommend checking out the YouTube Channel Great Art Explained.
The channel is run by James Payne, a curator and gallerist who explains paintings, sculptures and artworks in a clear, interesting way. I recommend it for both adults and children (my 7-year old eagerly awaits new episodes).
Mr. Payne has a video on Michelangelo’s David sculpture and hopefully, he’ll produce more on Michelangelo’s works:
We also enjoy DW’s (German Public Broadcasting) 2-part documentary, The Renaissance – The Age of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci and the Michelangelo’s Italy talk by Gene Openshaw (of Rick Steves).
Books about Michelangelo – FAQ
One could argue that Michelangelo’s most famous work is either the frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or the marble statue of David.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg, tells the story of two siblings who run away to stay in a New York art museum and end up being fascinated by a work of Michelangelo’s.
Charlton Heston starred as Michelangelo in the 1965 film, The Agony and The Ecstasy.