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


Hopefully, the reader of these pages will find a lifetime of worthwhile writing. This site has been revised four times. It was first revised with the publication of Surfaces, A History University and California Press (May 1, 2013). Second, it was revised with the publication of The Book of Twos: The Power of Contrasts, Polarities and Contradictions (CrossingsPress /Ellis Press). Third it was revised in March, 2016, it is revised in light of my first books, Buoyancies: A Ballast Master’s Log (Crossings Press and Spoon River Poetry Press, 2014), My Three Sicilies: Stories, Poems, and Histories (New York: Bordighera Press, March, 2016).

It is now revised in light of Diagnostics: Poetics of Time (Bordighera, 2017) and my first full work of fiction Buffalo Man: Life of a Boy Giant on the Minnesota River (Sept. 1, 2018).

Buffalo Man

In simplest terms Buffalo Man is a mixed work of fiction and history. It is serious fun. It is about a giant child’s growing body and awakening mind. In the spirit of Rabelais and Swift, Buffalo Man is the story of a Gargantuan child, aptly nicknamed “Gar”— who was born out of the sky in 1848. He lands in the pasture of a Métis trading post along the Minnesota River. The following chapters record Gar’s upbringing, baptism, adventures, and education as a physical phenomenon and a dawning prodigy. Episodic, comic, ironic, scatological, and mystical, Buffalo Man tells of the 1850s childhood of this Paul Bunyan of the river, living among the Métis, Natives, French- Canadians, New Englanders, and other European settlers along the Minnesota River during territorial times. A zany mix of myths, storytelling, singing, dancing, games, and jokes, Buffalo Man introduces the reader to Minnesota’s last giant in a world that has no more room for giants.

Everyday Life

By Joseph A. Amato

The Book of Twos 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 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.

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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

Buffalo Man

By Joseph A. Amato

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

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.

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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

By Joseph A. Amato

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


By Joseph A. Amato

“Joe Amato writes that he ‘would make poetry and prayer the gathering of the living and the dead, and he does so with these attentive and often-graceful poems. Emotions from joy to grief, childhood memories, family, love, and, courage in the face of difficult diagnoses give these poems meditative strength and personal relevance. We can turn to them for prayer and understanding when we face time’s ever puzzling twists and tough turns.” — Dana Yost, author and poet

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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  • © 2016 Joseph A. Amato. All rights reserved.
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