Umberto Eco is Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna. His fiction plays brilliantly with language, the novel structure, symbols and signs; is stuffed with references and allusions to anything his amazing head can fit in; and takes forms such as the detective novel and the conspiracy theory novel, and turns them into literate gems. He also writes fun, witty and clever essays on modern culture, and is one of the most respected academic authorities on semiotics, interpretation, and aesthetics.

I especially like Misreadings, a series of short stories, including a funny reverse take on Nabokov's Lolita called Granita; his series of essays on the weirdness of the world in general, Travels in Hyperreality; and Art in the Middle Ages, which is an excellent read even if you hate medieval art.

Editor's note: Umberto Eco died, aged 84, on February 19, 2016 at his home in Milan, Italy.

An incomplete bibliography (bearing in mind he's Italian, and some of his work is not available in English):

Fiction
The Name of the Rose
Foucault's Pendulum
The Island of the Day Before
Baudolino (Sep 2001: published in Italian)

General Nonfiction
Misreadings
Apocalypse Postponed
Travels in Hyperreality
Postscript to The Name of the Rose
Travels with a Salmon
Kant and the Platypus

Language & Literary Criticism
The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas
Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages
The Aesthetics of Chaosmos: The Middle Ages of James Joyce
Limits of Interpretation
Interpretation and Overinterpretation
Six Walks in the Fictional Woods
The Search for the Perfect Language
Serendipities: Language & Lunacy
The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Pierce
Fictions Updated: Theories of Fictionality, Narratology, and Poetics
Talking of Joyce

Semiotics
The Open Work
A Theory of Semiotics
The Role of the Reader
Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language
A Semiotic Landscape
Carnival!
Semiotics: An Introductory Anthology
Frontiers in Semiotics
Meaning and Mental Representations
On the Medieval Theory of Signs

Children's books
The Bomb and the General
The Three Astronauts


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