The starting point for the craze (over the past ten or so years) for all things Tuscan has to be Frances Mayes' 1997 book  Under the Tuscan Sun. Mayes turned her life-changing event of buying, rennovating, and living in an abandoned Tuscan villa into a cottage industry of sorts, and published a slew of books that followed: In Tuscany, Bella Tuscany, and Bringing Tuscany Home. But it is that first book, Under the Tuscan Sun, that retains most of the beguiling charm of Tuscany and inspired legions of romantic-minded individuals to storm the Tuscan region.

However, if one goes back a little further, one discovers many literary gems that predate Mayes' takeover of the subject: British writer Matthew Spender's 1993 memoir is called Within Tuscany: Reflections on a Time and Place. Spender has lived with his family in Tuscany since 1967, and he provides valuable insight into the history of the region and its people. Elizabeth Romer's The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley was published even earlier, in 1989; as the title suggests, food is a voluptuous primary focus of the book, and it includes recipes. Kinta Beevor's A Tuscan Childhood is even more unique and revealing: the daughter of bohemian British artists, Beevor spent a large part of her youth living in an Italian castle in the Tuscan village of Aulla in the years between the world wars. It's a fascinating portrait of a beautiful area in what seems to be a very idyllic time period far removed from our own. War in Val D'Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 by Iris Origo is also an illuminating historical glimpse at a devastating time for not only Tuscany, but for Europe at large. Origo's diary is an account of her time living in a southern Tuscan village during World War II.

Tuscany in Mind is a collection of story, memoirs, letters, and poems about the history and seductive beauty of the region, compiled by Alice Leccese Powers and featuring contributions from an incredibly diverse (and famous) list of writers: everyone from Robert Browning, E.M. Forster, and Edith Wharton to Bruce Chatwin and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

For the serious traveler bent on discovering the most about Tuscany, City Secrets: Florence, Venice, and the Towns of Italy (edited by Robert Kahn) includes lengthy sections on the Tuscan region; it is best paired with a more comprehensive tour book, such as Authentic Tuscany from the Touring Club of Italy.