Joseph A. Amato is a noted teacher, public speaker, scholar, and author of approximately twenty books.


Hopefully, the reader of these pages will find the work of a life of writing. Hopefully, the reader of these pages will find the work of a life of writing.

This site has been revised three times. First with the publication of Surfaces, A History University and California Press (May 1, 2013) ( Second, in the Spring of 2015 it was revised with the publication of The Book of Twos: The Power of Contrasts, Polarities and Contradictions (Ellis Press, This site has been revised twice. First with the publication of Surfaces, A History University and California Press (May 1, 2013) ( And now in the Spring of 2015 it is revised with the publication of The Book of Twos: The Power of Contrasts, Polarities and Contradictions (Ellis Press,

In Surfaces I trace the human relationship with surfaces from the deep history of human evolution, which unfolded across millennia up to the contemporary world. This deeply informed and original narrative, which joins history and anthropology and suggests new routes for epistemology and aesthetics, argues that surfaces are far more than superficial facades of inner worlds.

In The Books of Twos, I continue my reflections on how we take the world apart and put it together. I do this with an exploration how twos in the form of contrasts, comparisons, polarities, dualities and contradictions are fundamental to science and biology and the formation of individual, collective, and national identities. Ranging across anthropology, history, religion, art, philosophy, war, politics, and language, I devote significant attention to the role of oppositions, polarities, and contradictions in the thought of Montaigne, William James and Isaiah Berlin. I also examine here such other elemental thinkers as Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Dostoevsky, and Freud.

Now in March, 2016, it is revised in light of my first book of poetry, Buoyancies: A Ballast Master’s Log (Crossings Press and Spoon River Poetry Press, 2014) and particularly in light of my second book of poetry and non- fiction, My Three Sicilies: Stories, Poems, and Histories (Bordighera Press, March, 2016).

The Books of Twos

By Joseph A. Amato

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.

More Information  

Book of Twos Reviews

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

By Joseph A. Amato

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.

More Information  

My Three Sicilies Reviews

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

Surfaces: A History

By Joseph A. Amato

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

More Information  

Surfaces Reviews

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.

Details →

Author of many books

His subjects include death, suffering, victims and values, and family, local, and everyday history.

Details →

Life long teacher, writer, speaker, and scholar!

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

Details →

back to top